Speed Reads

capitol riot aftermath

1st acquittal of a Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant is reshaping other cases

Shawn Witzemann, a New Mexico man facing four misdemeanor charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, has decided not to go through with a planned plea deal with the government, after another Jan. 6 defendant was acquitted by a federal judge on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden said it was "not unreasonable" for the defendant, Matthew Martin, to believe that law enforcement officials were letting some protesters inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, and ruled prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly entered a restricted area. This was the first acquittal of a Capitol riot defendant.

Witzemann's attorney, Guy L. Womack, told NBC News on Thursday that Martin's case was the "proverbial straw that broke the camel's back," and his client is no longer planning to plead guilty, wanting to instead go through with a trial. Witzemann has been charged with knowingly entering restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

He has claimed he was acting as a journalist when he entered the Capitol during the attack.

Witzemann will go before Judge Thomas F. Hogan, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan who has publicly commented on the seriousness of the Capitol attack, NBC News reports, calling it "an insurrection" and "probably the worst thing that's happened to our democratic way of life in our history except for the War of 1812."