September 6, 2022

Couy Griffin removed from Otero County Commission, barred from holding any future office

Couy Griffin at a Trump rally on Jan. 6, 2021, before the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

A Santa Fe state district court judge ordered on Tuesday that Couy Griffin be removed from office and disqualified from holding any other public office in the future because of his role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In his ruling, First Judicial District Court Judge Francis Mathew wrote that Griffin “shall be removed from his position as an Otero County Commissioner effective immediately.” Mathew also wrote that Griffin is “constitutionally disqualified” from holding any office in the future. 

The decision is in response to a civil suit filed by a group of citizens against Griffin that argued the leader of Cowboys for Trump violated the U.S. Constitution by taking part in the effort last year to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election. Griffin, representing himself, argued during a bench trial last month that he could not be removed from office because Otero County voters elected him to office and further rejected a petition to remove him from office. But Mathew wrote that Griffin himself tried to overturn the people’s will on January 6, 2021.  

“The irony of Mr. Griffin’s argument that this court should refrain from applying the law and consider the will of the people in District Two of Otero County who retained him as a county commissioner against a recall effort as he attempts to defend his participation in an insurrection by a mob whose goal, by his own admission, was to set aside the results of a free, fair and lawful election by a majority of the people of the entire country (the will of the people) has not escaped this Court,” Mathew wrote. 

Griffin has long maintained that his presence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 was that of moral support and was protected by his right to free speech. But Mathew wrote that 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.”

“[Griffin’s] protestations and his characterizations of his actions and the events of January 6, 2021 are not credible and amounted to nothing more than attempting to put lipstick on a pig.”

Mathew cited evidence and witness testimony from the plaintiffs that Griffin used inflammatory language and spent days encouraging supporters to show up at the Capitol to show that Griffin and Cowboys for Trump “played a key role” in mobilizing “efforts ahead of the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.” Mathew went on to write that eyewitness testimony “confirms that Griffin’s attention seeking behavior energized the mob when violence had already been going on for hours.”

In now widespread footage of the January 6 insurrection, Griffin can be seen climbing a barricade that was turned on its side to gain access to a restricted area of the Capitol. Griffin has publicly downplayed the fact that he used the barricade to climb a Capitol wall, but Mathew wrote that Griffin’s statements leading up to that day remove ignorance as an excuse.  

“The Court does not find credible Mr. Griffin’s claim that he thought a security barricade the mob used as a makeshift ladder to climb over a wall was, in his words, ‘steps,’” Mathew wrote. “Nor does the Court find credible Mr. Griffin’s attempts to characterize violent and inflammatory statements he made in January 2021 — in which he repeatedly referred to an impending ‘war’ in Washington D.C. on January 6 that ‘we cannot lose’ — as referring only to peaceful political activity.”

Griffin was cleared of a federal charge of disorderly conduct but was found guilty of a federal misdemeanor for entering an unauthorized area. 

Not only did Mathew order Griffin to be removed from office, but he also ruled that Griffin became ineligible for office on January 6, 2021, which could raise more legal questions about votes Griffin cast as a commissioner for nearly two years. 

Neither Griffin, nor Otero County Commission Chair Vickie Marquardt answered requests for comments, but according to the Albuquerque Journal, Griffin expressed disbelief that a “liberal, Democrat judge” could remove him from office. Mathew, a Democrat, was appointed by Republican former Gov. Susana Martinez. The Otero County attorney confirmed with NM Political Report that if Griffin shows up to the county commission meeting scheduled for Thursday, or any other future meetings, he will not be recognized as a county commissioner.