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Cowboys for Trump founder ordered to remain in custody

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SANTA FE (AP) — A federal judge denied bail Monday to jailed Cowboys for Trump leader Couy Griffin as he awaits trial on a charge involving the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, describing Griffin as a flight risk who denies the legitimacy of the current U.S. government.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui said Griffin’s behavior and statements suggest he might obstruct justice based on his presence in a riotous crowd outside the U.S. Capitol and insistence that the election was not won by President Joe Biden.

Faruqui ordered Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico and founder of a horseback-riding group that backs former President Donald Trump, held without bail pending a preliminary hearing on the charge that Griffin knowingly entered the Capitol grounds with the intent to disrupt the government as Congress considered Electoral College results.

The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison and fines of $100,000.

Griffin has said he was swept by a crowd past barricades but never went inside the Capitol. At one point, he appeared on a balcony and attempted to lead the crowd in prayer.

A public defender told the court on Monday that Griffin was within his 1st Amendment right of free speech, did not have knowledge that he was entering a restricted area at the Capitol and has not shown disregard for the judiciary branch of government that would make him a flight risk.

Faruqui said the clear purpose of the riot was to stop Vice President Mike Pence and Congress from certifying the election, and that Griffin vowed to return to finish a job that was left undone.

Griffin, a commissioner in Otero County, was arrested on Jan. 17 in Washington — days after announcing during a public meeting in Alamogordo that he would return to Washington in opposition to Biden’s election and inauguration.

“These statement that he makes about blood running out of the capitol, threats to members of Congress, stating that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat, all of those things demonstrate to me history and characteristics that warrant and favor detention,” Faruqui said, paraphrasing statements made by Griffin before and after the Capitol siege.

The judge also pushed back on the idea that Griffin was an observer and not a participant in the siege.

“You were not some wallflower in an otherwise large event,” Faruqui told Griffin. “You were in the thick of things.”

A defense attorney said Griffin has been released into the general jail population after a prolonged stint in solitary confinement because he initially refused a coronavirus test.

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