Matthew Martin, a New Mexico man who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 was found not guilty on Wednesday after a federal judge ruled that he “reasonably believed” that police officers let him into the US Capitol, according to BuzzFeed News.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden said Martin’s “plausible” belief that he had permission to enter the Capitol grounds and the building, because officers didn’t try to stop him, outweigh prosecutors’ argument that he would have been aware that he wasn’t allowed inside because 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.
McFadden, a Trump appointee, said Martin’s conduct was “minimal and non-serious” and described him as a “silent observer,” as he didn’t try to crowd the police, protest, or wave the “Trump” flag that he was carrying. Inside the building, McFadden described Martin as being “quiet” and “orderly.”
Martin faced four charges relating to the riot: illegally being in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted area, disorderly conduct in the Capitol, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol.
Martin testified in his own bench trial on Wednesday. He told the judge that “if the cops weren’t letting people in, I would not have gone in.” Martin described Jan. 6 as “magical” and said outside of the Capitol was like a “big block party.”
At least one video played during the trial appeared to show an officer moving his arm in a waving motion. It wasn’t clear who the officer was gesturing to or why.
Martin acknowledged that some “bad things” had happened and said that he didn’t regret coming to Washington, although he might have stayed away from the Capitol, according to BuzzFeed.
Several rioters have alleged that they were allowed into the Capitol by police officers or they believed they could go inside because officers did not stop them. Martin’s acquittal may embolden more Jan. 6 defendants to make similar claims at trial.