In a First, Defendant in Capitol Riot Acquitted

Judge finds defense plausible, though he suspects Matthew Martin was guilty of at least one count
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2022 5:47 PM CDT
In a First, Defendant in Capitol Riot Acquitted
Rioters loyal to President Trump storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

A defendant who testified that Jan. 6 was "a magical day" was found not guilty Wednesday of four misdemeanor charges in connection with the attack on the Capitol. It's the first full acquittal of the riot prosecutions, per Politico. Matthew Martin had argued that he thought police were allowing him into the building through an entrance near the Rotunda. After watching video, US District Judge Trevor McFadden said that explanation seemed plausible. And the prosecution's case didn't meet the reasonable doubt test, said McFadden, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

"People were streaming by and the officers made no attempt to stop the people," the judge said. The prosecution maintained in the two-day trial that the broken windows and sounding alarms should have been clues to Martin, but McFadden disagreed. The judge did say Martin "more likely than not" was guilty of at least one of the four misdemeanors but added that "close calls" go to the defendant. "If the cops weren't letting people in, I would not have gone in," Martin testified, per CNN. He described the gathering outside the Capitol as a "big block party," adding, "It was a magical day in many ways."

The verdict could alter the course of the prosecutions. Hundreds of defendants are charged with the same misdemeanors, and others have said they were allowed in by police or didn't realize they broke the law by entering the Capitol. Martin, who held a security clearance, took personal leave to go to Washington. He went to Trump's rally near the White House, then marched to the Capitol. "It was a magical day in many ways," Martin said. After the trial, he said that he hopes to get his job back as an engineer for a government contractor in Los Alamos, NM, per NBC News. (More Capitol riot stories.)

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