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Defense contractor acquitted in a first for all Jan. 6 US Capitol storming charges

A crowd outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (Image from FBI affidavit/TNS)
April 08, 2022

A federal defense contractor facing misdemeanor charges over the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was found not guilty on Wednesday after a federal judge determined it was rational for the defendant to believe police were allowing the protesters to enter the Capitol building.

Matthew Martin, who testified that a police officer waved him inside the Capitol, was acquitted of all 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, Penn Live reported.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden said it was “not unreasonable” for Martin to think law enforcement was allowing him and other protesters to enter the building through the Rotunda doors, adding that Martin’s behavior on Jan. 6 was as “minimal and non-serious” as other protesters in the capital that day.

Martin said he saw “no violence” during the rowdy protest and had a largely “positive” experience, aside from being charged, according to NBC News.

“I enjoyed everything else. I enjoyed the rally,” Martin said. “It’s hard for me to say I regret coming to Washington, D.C.”

While federal prosecutors called Martin’s testimony “nonsense,” Judge McFadden said the defendant’s statements were “largely credible and cited footage of the event that shows at least two police officers letting people enter the Capitol.

McFadden said Martin seemed like a “silent observer of the actions of others.”

“It was a magical day in many ways,” Martin testified, adding, “I know some bad things happened.”

Nearly 800 people have been charged over the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol protest, with more than 220 pleading guilty to mostly misdemeanor charges. More than 140 of the defendants have been sentenced.

On Thursday, Shawn Witzemann, another man who was charged for his actions at the Capitol on Jan. 6, backed out of a plea deal with the federal government after Martin was acquitted, NBC News reported.

Witzemann’s attorney, Guy L. Womack, said the acquittal was the “proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back” that led his client to change his mind about the planned plea deal.

“He didn’t want to plead guilty to begin with, but he was afraid to trust the judicial system in D.C.,” Womack said, adding that “seeing that the judge did the right thing” impacted Witzemann’s decision.

Womack said his client was “acting as a journalist” at the protest, noting that he participates in a podcast called “The Armenian Council for Truth in Journalism.”