Washington, DC – A defense contractor who claimed he entered the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021 at the invitation of the U.S. Capitol Police was acquitted on Wednesday after a two-day bench trial.
U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden found Matthew Martin of Santa Fe, New Mexico not guilty on April 6, NBC News reported.
Martin was arrested in April of 2021 and charged with 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.
The federal defense contractor holds a top-secret security clearance and had taken leave from his job to attend the rally in the nation’s capital, NBC News reported.
Martin is the first Capitol riot defendant to be fully acquitted of their charges.
He testified at his trial before McFadden that he didn’t see everything that was going on that day even though footage he had filmed showed broken windows in the Capitol building and an alarm blaring, the Washington Examiner reported.
“I saw no violence,” Martin told the judge.
He testified that he believed that he and other protesters had permission to be in the Capitol building because Capitol police let them in, Buzzfeed News reported.
Martin claimed he was “let in” by two Capitol police officers who were standing in the doorway and who made no attempt to stop him.
He testified that one of the officers had waived him in and his attorney showed video at trial that showed one of the officers making a hand gesture, although it was unclear who he was waving at or why, Buzzfeed News reported.
Prosecutors said Martin should have known better when he walked past “area closed” signs and saw the chaos unfolding in the Rotunda.
But McFadden said that based on the videos he’d seen, he couldn’t be certain whether an officer had let them into the building or not, the Washington Examiner reported.
The judge called Martin’s actions “minimal and non-serious” and said Martin had appeared to be a silent observer of the chaos unfolding in front of him, Buzzfeed News reported.
McFadden said Martin behaved like any member of the media who was inside the building filming the scene and didn’t involve himself in rioters’ clashes with police.
He called Martin’s charge of entering and remaining in a restricted building a “close call,” but said he had reasonable doubt as to whether Martin knew he was entering a restricted building although he said it “more likely than not” the he knew wasn’t supposed to enter, NBC News reported.
The judge called it “not unreasonable” for Martin to assume the outnumbered Capitol police were letting protesters into the building.
McFadden said he wasn’t convinced that Martin had been waived in by one of the officers but that he that based on the video he had seen he found the defendant’s account of the events to be “largely credible,” Buzzfeed News reported.
He also said prosecutors hadn’t proven that Martin crossed any police lines that hadn’t already been breached by the mob before he arrived, NBC News reported.
More than 200 defendants have pleaded guilty so far to misdemeanors in connection with the Capitol riot, Buzzfeed News reported.
A number of the pending cases involve protesters who claimed they were allowed into the building by Capitol police or that no officers tried to stop them.
While other judges are not bound by McFadden’s ruling, the not guilty verdict has opened the door for other defendants who claimed Capitol police held doors open and welcomed them into the building on Jan. 6, 2021, Buzzfeed News reported.