WASHINGTON — A federal defense contractor with a top-secret security clearance who admitted he entered the Capitol during the attack on Jan. 6, 2021, was found not guilty Wednesday.
Matthew Martin was acquitted by U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden after a two-day bench trial. Martin chose to go to trial in the misdemeanor case before a judge rather than go before a Washington jury. Martin, the first Jan. 6 defendant to be fully acquitted at trial, told reporters after the not guilty finding that he hoped to get his job back.
Martin, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, held a security clearance and took personal leave from his job on Jan. 6. He was arrested in April 2021 and faced charges of 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.
McFadden, a 2017 Trump appointee and a former police officer in Fairfax County, Virginia, previously convicted Couy Griffin of the group Cowboys for Trump at a bench trial for illegally entering the grounds of the Capitol and acquitted him on a separate charge. Last month, a jury convicted Guy Reffitt of felony charges in the first Jan. 6 trial.
Martin testified at his bench trial that he didn’t see everything that was happening around him during the attack, even though the video he recorded (which was played by the government) shows broken windows and an alarm blaring when he enters the Capitol on the east side after rioters bust open the doors leading to the rotunda.
McFadden said that the first charge of entering and remaining in a restricted building was a “close call” but that there was reasonable doubt whether Martin knew he was entering a restricted building (although he said it was “more likely than not” that Martin knew he wasn’t supposed to go inside).
McFadden said it was “not unreasonable” for Martin to assume that outnumbered officers were allowing protesters to enter the Capitol. McFadden said the government didn’t show evidence of Martin crossing police lines that the mob had broken down before he arrived.
McFadden said Martin’s conduct was “as minimal and not serious” as any he has seen in a Jan. 6 case. He said he thought Martin was “largely credible” but believed he had “shaded his testimony on some points, minimizing his actions.”
On cross-examination Wednesday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Romano asked Martin whether he told an official at the airport that Jan. 6 was “like a big block party.” Martin said he made the comment in an “awkward” conversation with an airport official about the security procedures he needed to go through at the airport and was referring only to what happened at the Trump rally that preceded the Capitol riot, which he said had “a festive atmosphere.”
Martin tried to downplay what was happening around him when he went into the Capitol on Jan. 6, saying he didn’t specifically remember hearing an alarm blaring when he entered the building.
“I saw no violence,” Martin claimed, even though he recorded video of a tussle with police inside the rotunda and of another rioter trying to smash out a window. He said that he would stay away from the Capitol if he had to do Jan. 6 over again but that he had “positive” personal experiences aside from being charged.
“I enjoyed everything else. I enjoyed the rally,” Martin said. “It’s hard for me to say I regret coming to Washington, D.C.”
The FBI has made more than 775 arrests in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. More than 2,500 people are believed to have entered the Capitol that day, and hundreds of others assaulted officers outside the building. The FBI has hundreds of outstanding cases in the works, and the Justice Department has requested more prosecutorial resources.