Central Texas vineyard owner pleads guilty to misdemeanor counts in Capitol insurrection
Christopher Grider going to bench trial on remaining charges
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - UPDATE: Christopher Grider, 40, owner of Kissing Tree Vineyards in Bruceville-Eddy, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts in the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and is going to bench trial on the remaining charges.
Grider pleaded guilty to count 4, entering and remaining in a restricted building or ground; and count 9, parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. He is facing six months to a year in jail for each of the counts he pleaded guilty to.
The central Texas businessman will go to trial to fight the remaining charges of civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, remaining in a restricted building or grounds, engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds or building.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: A Central Texas vineyard owner who claims he merely got swept up by fellow Trump supporters during last year’s U.S. Capitol insurrection and had no intention of harming anyone or the historic symbol of democracy is set to stand trial Monday in Washington, D.C.
Christopher Grider, 40, owner of Kissing Tree Vineyards in Bruceville-Eddy, is charged by government prosecutors with three felonies and six misdemeanor counts for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot following a rally for then-President Donald J. Trump.
Grider has waived his right to a jury and has asked for what is known as a bench trial, with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the District of Columbia presiding. Officials expect the trial to last no more than three days.
“We believe the judge can be fair and impartial while also being better equipped to understand the complex application of the law to the facts,” Grider’s attorney, Brent Mayr, of Houston, said Friday. “Both judges and juries are finally recognizing that federal prosecutors are overcharging defendants for their actions on Jan. 6 and acquitting them of some of those charges. We hope Judge Kollar-Kotelly will do the same.”
Grider has rejected plea offers from prosecutors on at least two occasions, saying he is unwilling to plead guilty to felonies that he and his lawyer are convinced “are not legally or factually sustainable.” If convicted of all the charges, he faces a maximum federal prison sentence of 39½ years.
Mayr declined comment when asked about Grider’s demeanor on the eve of trial, but reiterated that Grider is sorry for his actions.
“Chris absolutely regrets what he did that day and wants the judge to recognize that,” Mayr said. “At the same time, he wants the judge and everyone to recognize that he did not go there to stop the (election) certification proceedings.”
Grider can been seen in photographs and capitol security camera footage entering the capitol through an open door and rushing upstairs with others to an area outside a lobby adjacent to where members of Congress were meeting at the time. He was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap and cloaked in a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
A number of videos, including images from Grider’s own phone, indicate that Grider was among the first to arrive outside the lobby door and was within several feet of fellow protestor Ashli Babbit when she was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer.
Video shows Grider holding a black hard hat and pushing and kicking the door to the Speaker’s Lobby. Another man is punching the glass window when Grider hands him the hard hat, appears to indicate to him that the helmet is sturdy, and then the man uses the hard hat to continue trying to break the glass.
After the riot, Grider conducted an interview with KWTX in which he described his shock at witnessing Babbitt getting shot while she tried to climb through the same window.
“At that point, we were all panicked,” Grider told KWTX. “We couldn’t leave because there were thousands of people behind us pushing us forward.”
He said he and a friend went to Washington to show support for Trump.
“The president asked people to come and show their support,” he said. “I feel like it’s the least that we can do. It’s kind of why I came from Central Texas all the way to DC.”
Mayr has said that Grider served in the National Guard and in the Air Force. He also has worked as a teacher and a security guard. He surrendered to federal authorities in Austin in January 2021 and remained in custody for a month before former U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson granted his request to be released on bond with an ankle monitor. Brown Jackson is now an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
A superseding indictment against Grider charges him with felony civil disorder, while Count 2, also a felony, charges him with obstruction of an official proceeding. Count 3, a felony, charges him with destruction of government property, while Count 4 charges him with entering and remaining in a restricted building or ground.
Count 5 charges Grider with remaining in a restricted building or grounds; Count 6 charges engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds; Count 7 with disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; Count 8 with act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds or building; and Count 9 with parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
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