On Wednesday, a federal judge acquitted a January 6 defendant on all charges after ruling that the New Mexico man “reasonably believed” he was allowed to enter the Capitol building during the protest against the 2020 election results after being let in by United States Capitol Police officers.
Judge Trevor McFadden “issued the verdict from the bench after hearing testimony without a jury in the case against Matthew Martin,” The Washington Post reported.
Martin was the first January 6 defendant to testify in his defense trial and argued that Capitol Police allowed him to enter the facility. According to the Post, Martin “said he ‘went with the flow’ as he approached the Capitol and testified that he saw a police officer wave him into the building.”
He was in the Capitol building for roughly 10 minutes on that day.
The Post reported:
Martin was charged with four misdemeanor counts: entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
Buzzfeed provided more details behind McFadden’s verdict:
Announcing his decision from the bench, US District Judge Trevor McFadden said that although prosecutors argued there were numerous instances when Martin would have been aware that he wasn’t allowed on Capitol grounds or inside the building — as he walked past fences with signs saying “AREA CLOSED” and recorded video of a broken window, blaring alarms, police in riot gear, and people who appeared to have encountered tear gas — those were outweighed by Martin’s “plausible” belief that he had permission because officers didn’t try to stop him from entering.
McFadden said that Martin’s conduct was as “minimal and non-serious”as the judge could imagine for someone who went into the Capitol on Jan. 6. He said that Martin seemed to be a “silent observer” of the scene and didn’t try to crowd the police, protest, or wave the “Trump” flag that he was carrying. Martin appeared “quiet” and “orderly” as he walked inside the building, filmed video inside the Rotunda similar to how the media would behave, and didn’t appear to interfere with officers as he filmed a clash with rioters later in the afternoon on a north terrace of the building.
According to The Post, “More than 770 people have been charged with riot-related federal crimes. Over 240 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and over 140 of them have been sentenced.”
As noted by Buzzfeed, the verdict “represented an early test of efforts by some Jan. 6 defendants to argue that police allowed them to enter the Capitol, or that they believed they had permission because no officer told them to stop.”