By Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney Politico
A judge has issued the first outright acquittal of a defendant charged in the Capitol riot.
Following a two-day bench trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, New Mexico engineer Matthew Martin was acquitted Wednesday on four misdemeanor charges by U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden. Martin claimed that he thought the police had allowed him into an entrance near the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021.
McFadden said that, based on video of the scene, that assertion was at least “plausible” and that prosecutors failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“People were streaming by and the officers made no attempt to stop the people,” said the judge, an appointee of President Donald Trump.
Prosecutors argued that broken windows and blaring alarms should have alerted Martin that he did not have permission to enter, but McFadden said the sheer size of the crowd coupled with the conduct of the police undermined that evidence.
The ruling is a blow to the Justice Department and seems likely to elevate similar defenses from hundreds of other members of the mob who have claimed that they didn’t know they weren’t permitted inside the Capitol and believed that police officers had approved their presence.
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