D.C. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden today delivered a major blow to the Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of January 6 protesters. Following a bench trial this week for Matthew Martin, a New Mexico man charged with the most common misdemeanors related to the Capitol protest, McFadden found Martin not guilty on all counts. It is the first acquittal in a January 6 case; nearly 800 Americans have been arrested and charged, mostly on petty offenses, for their involvement in the four-hour disturbance that day.
Martin was arrested a year ago on four counts: entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, violent entry, and parading in the Capitol building. Prosecutors confirmed he was in the building for roughly 10 minutes.
He pleaded not guilty and opted for a bench trial before McFadden, a Trump appointee. Taking the stand in his own defense, Martin said he was “waved” into the building by Capitol police. According to BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman, who is covering the in-person trials in Washington, an official for the U.S. Capitol Police testified that police “were so vastly outnumbered and couldn’t stop people [and] all they could do was observe [and] try to make sure no one got hurt.”
Calling Martin’s conduct “minimal and non-serious,” McFadden found it “plausible” that Martin was allowed into the building and did not realize the grounds were off-limits to the public.
McFadden’s ruling could impact pending cases and plea offers since a government witness confirmed for the first time under oath that police stood by as people entered the Capitol. The next trial for a January 6 defendant facing the same charges is scheduled for April 13 when Russell Dean Alford will appear before Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee.