MADISON, Wis. (CN) — A write-in Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election sued Thursday to keep former president Donald Trump off of next year’s ballot for the sympathies he has shown to those convicted of crimes in connection with the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
John Anthony Castro, a candidate out of Mansfield, Texas, claimed in a pro se complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court that Trump violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by providing “aid or comfort” to an insurrection and those who participated in it, making him “constitutionally ineligible to pursue or hold any public office in the United States.”
Castro’s status as a write-in candidate in the race for the presidency creates a cause of action allowing him to challenge whether Trump is allowed to run for public office because of potential injuries Castro could face “in the form of a diminution of votes and/or fundraising."
“Plaintiff will suffer a concrete injury if the constitutionally ineligible defendant Donald John Trump is permitted to appear on the ballot,” Castro said in the filing. “If the judiciary permits defendant Donald John Trump to appear on the ballot, this will siphon off millions of votes to a constitutionally ineligible candidate in violation of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Castro goes on to note that the section of the 14th Amendment cited was enacted in the post-Civil War Reconstruction-era “to ensure that non-insurrectionists did not have to politically compete with the more popular pro-insurrectionist politicians in the south,” making Castro the exact type of person the amendment was designed to protect.
Trump’s actions alongside those who participated in the Capitol riot — taking place after Trump gave a speech at the Ellipse megaphoning his false assertions of being cheated out of reelection to thousands of supporters and rallying them to save the country and “fight like hell” — go against his previous oath of office by taking the side of a domestic enemy of the United States, according to Castro.
Among other things, radicalizing and assembling the mob that attacked the Capitol and refusing to denounce their violence for more than three hours “were part of the overall January 6 insurrection in which Donald J. Trump was directly and irrefutably involved,” Castro says in the complaint.
As examples of Trump’s expressions of support and sympathy to members of violent paramilitary organizations and others involved with the Capitol riot, Castro cites Trump’s statements on live TV saying “we love you, you’re very special” to the Jan. 6 rioters on the day of the riot and his later statements intimating that, if reelected president, he would pardon those convicted of crimes in connection with the riot.
Castro specifically cites in his complaint Trump’s connection with and “aid or comfort” provided to former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy in May alongside three of the far-right organization’s lieutenants.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission is listed as the lead defendant in the lawsuit, which seeks an injunction blocking Trump’s ballot access documentation, including nomination papers. The commission could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.
Reached by phone Thursday evening, Castro — a Texan with law degrees from the University of New Mexico and Georgetown University but who is not currently a practicing attorney — explained that he also spent this week filing similar lawsuits against Trump in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona — all key states for the 2024 election.
Explaining that “Trump will exploit undefined areas,” Castro said he has been working on this type of litigation since February 2022 when he unsuccessfully sued the Federal Election Commission to stop Trump’s candidacy. His goal with the state-level actions he’s filed is to prevent states’ chief elections officers from accepting Trump’s nomination papers, as does his suit in Wisconsin.
Castro also said he has sued Trump in Florida but U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon — a Trump appointee with the U.S. District Court for Southern Florida who is presiding over the former president’s classified documents case — ruled that he lacked standing. That case is on appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Castro said, and he is also waiting for a ruling on a certiorari petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in similar litigation.
Castro’s lawsuit arrived the same day Joseph Biggs, another Proud Boy who participated in the Capitol riot, was sentenced to 17 years in prison by Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly of the U.S. District Court in Washington.Follow @cnsjkelly
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