A judge in New Mexico declared Tuesday that the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was an “insurrection” as he ruled that Otero County Commissioner and “Cowboys for Trump” founder Couy Griffin must be removed from office for participating in the attack.
Griffin is barred for life from holding any federal or state office — including his current role as county commissioner, from which he will be ousted “effective immediately,” Judge Francis Mathew ruled.
Griffin became “constitutionally disqualified” from those positions as of Jan. 6, 2021, the judge concluded.
On that day, a violent mob of former President Donald Trump‘s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing lawmakers to flee their chambers and disrupting the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. Griffin was convicted in March on a misdemeanor charge of breaching restricted Capitol grounds.
The riot and the planning and incitement that led up to it “constituted an ‘insurrection'” under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, Mathew wrote in the ruling in New Mexico’s 1st Judicial District Court.
The ruling marked the first time that any court found that the Capitol riot met the definition of an insurrection, according to the nonprofit government watchdog group CREW, which represented the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit to disqualify Griffin.
“This decision makes clear that any current or former public officials who took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution and then participated in the January 6th insurrection can and will be removed and barred from government service for their actions,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said in a press release.
Griffin told CNN later Tuesday that he had been ordered to clean out his desk.
“I’m shocked, just shocked,” Griffin told CNN. “I really did not feel like the state was going to move on me in such a way. I don’t know where I go from here.”
Mathew’s ruling also marks the first time since 1869 that a court has disqualified a public official under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, according to CREW.
That section, known as the Disqualification Clause, bars any person from holding civil or military office at the federal or state level of the United States if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Griffin did not enter the Capitol building itself or commit violence during the Jan. 6 riot, but he nevertheless engaged in it and his actions “aided the insurrection,” Mathew ruled.
“By joining the mob and trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds, Mr. Griffin contributed to delaying Congress’ election-certification proceedings,” the judge wrote. Griffin’s presence “contributed to law enforcement being overwhelmed,” and he also “incited, encouraged, and helped normalize the violence” during the riot, Mathew ruled.
In addition, the judge dismissed as “meritless” the arguments put forward by Griffin, who represented himself in the case.
Griffin’s attempts to “sanitize his actions are without merit and contrary to the evidence produced by the Plaintiffs, bearing in mind that he produced no evidence himself in his own defense,” Mathew wrote.
His arguments in court were “not credible and amounted to nothing more than attempting to put lipstick on a pig,” the judge added.
Griffin was arrested less than two weeks after the Capitol riot. He was convicted in March and sentenced on June 17 to two weeks’ time served in jail, along with a $3,000 fine and community service.
Griffin, a Republican and a vocal supporter of Trump, has echoed the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election results were compromised by widespread fraud.
He and the two other GOP members who make up the Otero County Commission refused to certify its most recent primary election results, reportedly citing conspiracy theories about Dominion voting machines. The commission eventually voted 2 to 1 to certify the primary results, with Griffin voting “no.”
In 2019, Griffin created Cowboys for Trump, a group that put on pro-Trump horseback-riding parades.
Bookbinder called Tuesday’s ruling “a historic win for accountability for the January 6th insurrection and the efforts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power in the United States.”
“Protecting American democracy means ensuring those who violate their oaths to the Constitution are held responsible,” he said.
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