SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A prominent figure in New Mexico politics surrounding the events of the 2020 presidential election, Otero County Commission Couy Griffin has been removed from office based on a decision from a New Mexico district court judge. The decision also bars Griffin from holding public office again.
“I was disappointed and shocked,” said Griffin. The plaintiff’s attorneys are calling the decision historic.
“Both because it’s the first time in over 150 years that a judge has disqualified a public official for engaging in an insurrection. And, it’s also the first time a judge has ruled that January 6th was an insurrection,” said Christopher Dodd, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
Based in Santa Fe, First Judicial Court Judge Francis J. Mathew made the ruling in a civil case Monday, filed by three New Mexico residents. The case was filed in March 2022 by one Los Alamos resident and two Santa Fe residents after the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
In the ruling, Judge Mathew wrote that Griffin aided in the insurrection even though he did not personally engage in violenece, and that he contributed to delaying the certification of the election by trespassing on Capitol grounds. The judge also wrote that evidence shows Griffin normalizing violence and aligning himself with other insurrectionists, encouraging others to join the ‘war’ and ‘battle’ in the streets of Washington.
“That kind of rhetoric really promoted violence occurring on January 6th and I think that was an important consideration for the court in reaching its decision,” said Dodd. After a failed recall attempt in his county already, Griffin argues this lawsuit never should’ve gone to trial.
“Love me or hate me, I am the will of the people of Otero County and I still had three and a half months left in my term but judge Francis Mathew took away the will of the people in Otero county,” said Griffin.
Griffin, who’s been an Otero County Commissioner since 2018, was arrested by federal authorities in January 2021, shortly after the events of January 6. In a federal trial, a judge later convicted Griffin of illegally entering Capitol grounds, but acquitted the commissioner of engaging in disorderly conduct during the riot that disrupted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.
Griffin was given no additional jail time for his sentence in the federal case. He served 14 days in jail after his arrest in 2021.
The state lawsuit was filed on March 21, 2022, just one day before a judgement was made in Griffin’s federal trial. A one-term county commissioner in southeast New Mexico, Griffin is not running for re-election in November 2022. However, Judge Mathew’s ruling in latest ruling in the New Mexico civil trial may ensure that Griffin can never hold public office again.
“This decision means a lot. It means and tells public officials that they have to comply with the constitution and the laws of the United States,” said Dodd. Griffin plans on appealing the decision. After representing himself during trial, he plans on getting counsel this time.
“It’s far from over,” he said. “It makes no sense and I believe judge Francis Mathew was more driven by politics than by the latter of the law.”
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Griffin has maintained that he never entered the U.S. Capitol. He also claims he never took part in any violence and was only convicted of misdemeanor trespass, and didn’t know he couldn’t stand where he did. However, the citizens who brought the lawsuit seeking to remove him from office felt differently.
KRQE reached out to the Otero County Manager to see who fills Griffin’s spot on the commission, the county manager said she would have an answer by Wednesday. There is a county commission meeting on Thursday.
This is a developing news story. KRQE News 13’s Annalisa Pardo will have full updates on any new developments on KRQE News 13 at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.