POLITICS

Trump Supporter's Delusions About A Stolen Election Make Him More Dangerous: Judge

Couy Griffin's belief in conspiracy theories hurt his case to be released ahead of his trial linked to the Capitol insurrection.

A federal magistrate judge ordered a defendant charged in connection with the Capitol insurrection to be held until trial, in part by finding that the man’s delusional beliefs about a stolen U.S. election make him unlikely to recognize the government’s authority.

Federal Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui ordered on Monday that Couy Griffin ― a New Mexico commissioner and founder of an organization called “Cowboys for Trump” ― be held until trial.

Faruqui found that Griffin’s lack of belief in the United States government “as it sits today,” along with his rhetoric endorsing violence against Democrats, indicated that there was no way to release him and still assure the safety of the American public and his future appearances in court.

Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol during an insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol during an insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Many defendants charged in connection with the U.S. Capitol insurrection will undoubtedly argue, whether at trial or during sentencing, that they were sucked into a false conspiracy about mass voter fraud. Monday’s detention hearing showed how a defendant’s belief in such delusional conspiracies ― combined with rhetoric endorsing violence ― can harm their chances at securing pretrial release. 

The federal government argued for Griffin’s pretrial detention in part by pointing to his statements endorsing violence against Democrats. 

“The defendant has taken ‘nothing off the table’ in pursuit of his aims to ensure ‘Biden will never be president.’ The defendant’s inflammatory conduct, repeated threats, delusional worldview, and access to firearms makes him a danger to the community,” the government argued in a court filing. “In order to protect the community and assure his appearance at future court proceedings, the defendant should be held without bond pending trial.”

Faruqui agreed with the government’s arguments, finding that the nature of Griffin’s offense was tied to the “horrific” attempt to “stop the lawful administration of the democratic process.”

“This is an offense that, at bottom, was an attempt to stop democracy from moving forward because people were unhappy about the results of the election,” Faruqui said. 

Faruqui noted how widespread the delusional belief that President Joe Biden benefited from a stolen election had become, and suggested that, in normal circumstances, a defendant who spouted rambling, nonsensical beliefs after being charged with unlawfully occupying protected areas like the White House would receive a mental health evaluation.

“He makes statements about the election being stolen by Chinese entities. I don’t know what that means,” Faruqui said. He then referenced other cases in which defendants with mental health issues hopped a White House fence.

“I know that on my White House Ellipse cases, when someone makes statements like this that are demonstrably false and are in no way accurate, what happens is that we consider whether the person requires a mental health evaluation,” Faruqui said. 

 “It’s no different than people not believing facts or science,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is a prevailing, apparently, idea ― although false.”

Couy Griffin, who was later charged in connection with the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol, rides his horse on 5th
Couy Griffin, who was later charged in connection with the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol, rides his horse on 5th Avenue on May 1, 2020, in New York City.

Faruqui said he worried that Griffin wouldn’t obey his authority if he were released because of his belief in nonsensical conspiracy theories. 

“I don’t believe that he will believe that those orders are to be respected or followed,” Faruqui said. “I don’t think that the defendant will follow my conditions if he believes I am part of this machine of the democratic process, or for whatever reason, I don’t know, I can’t fathom what it is because these are not logical thoughts based in fact.”

While Griffin had not specifically expressed his lack of faith or distrust in the judicial branch, Faruqui said that it’s impossible to belief that Griffin’s belief about a mass conspiracy to steal the election would not extend to the judicial branch, which over and over and over again, rejected Trump’s attempts to overthrow the results of the 2020 election based on nonsense conspiracy theories.

“I think a logical inference is that when someone tries to participate in what the government describes as an insurrection, that he does not believe in the legitimacy of a government,” Faruqui said. “It’s hard to believe how parts of the government can be quarantined from that ... how the defendant cannot just believe that we, the courts, are just part and parcel of a problem that does not exist― for the record, again ― but in his mind does.”