The case against two Central Valley men accused of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol continues in federal court.
Benjamin Martin was arrested last September by federal authorities and faces six charges for his role in the attacks. The charges range from trespassing to obstructing law enforcement.
Martin, 43 of Madera, was arraigned in the Fresno federal courthouse. His case was transferred to a Washington, D.C., court, where he has had two hearings. The docket indicates that Martin appeared in the Washington court through teleconferencing.
Ricky Willden, 39, of Oakhurst faces eight counts, including three counts of assault or engaging in violent acts.
A self-proclaimed member of the far-right Proud Boys, Willden was arrested by federal agents on June 30 of last year.
Martin Accused of Entering Capitol
In charging documents, the federal government accused Martin of holding open a door to the U.S. Capitol during the protest that escalated to a riot. Demonstrators opposed the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
Martin is also accused of taunting law enforcement and illegally being in the Capitol building at the time.
In interviews last year with GV Wire, Martin says he was caught up in the mob and just trying to act as a peacemaker. The U.S. Department of Justice used GV Wire’s information in its charging document.
A one-time real estate agent, Martin has actively voiced his political opinions for the last several years. He hosts shows on his social media accounts.
In 2020, Martin led rallies at Fresno retailers, protesting against masking policies. Martin was detained at one point, but not formally arrested. He has also had documented public shouting matches with Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias.
Martin is on probation for a 2018 domestic violence case. And, he has an active restraining order from his estranged sister.
His real estate license was restricted by the state Department of Real Estate in 2020.
Martin declined to comment for this story.
Next Court Date in February
Martin’s last court date, Dec. 15, 2021, was for a status conference. The next court date is Feb. 18 in front of Judge Rudolph Contreras for another status update.
Martin remains free on his own recognizance, subject to home detention and GPS monitoring. His travel is also restricted. Martin must notify the court if he is leaving the Central Valley, and is ordered to say away from Washington, except for court appearances. He is also not allowed to possess a firearm or unlawfully possess drugs.
He must also comply with state criminal protective orders based on his domestic violence and restraining order cases.
Federal agents said they found guns during a raid on Martin’s residence at the time of his arrest. Martin is not allowed to possess guns as part of his prior criminal protective order. However, federal authorities have not added gun charges to Martin’s indictment.
After his arrest, Willden was released on his own recognizance with conditions. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. A description of Willden’s alleged activities in Washington is not part of the court docket.
Conditions of Willden’s release forbid him from being in Washington, D.C., except for court proceedings and from associating with the Proud Boys. He also has a 10 p.m. curfew.
His case returns to a Washington courtroom on Feb. 17. It is not clear if he is appearing in person or teleconferencing.
71 Convictions in Riot Cases
So far, 71 people have been sentenced for riot-related crimes. They include a company CEO, an architect, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, a gym owner, a former Houston police officer, and a University of Kentucky student. Many rioters have said they lost jobs and friends after their mob of Donald Trump loyalists disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Fifty-six of the 71 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. Most of them were sentenced to home confinement or jail terms measured in weeks or months, according to an Associated Press tally of every sentencing.
But rioters who assaulted police officers have gotten years behind bars.
(Associated Press contributed to this article.)