First Capitol rioter to stand trial gets 7 years, longest sentence for a Jan. 6 defendant to date

A federal judge on Monday sentenced the first Capitol rioter convicted at trial to 87 months, or just over seven years in prison — the longest jail term to date for a defendant in the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation. Justice on the January 6 attack on Congress. .

Guy Wesley Reffitt, 49, of Wylie, Texas, was found guilty by a federal jury in March of five counts, including obstructing justice and entering and staying in a building or restricted area with a firearm.

Federal prosecutors at the US Department of Justice had asked that Reffitt be sentenced to 15 years in prison. Prosecutors had also – for the first time – asked a federal district court judge to apply a terrorism enhancement, which would effectively define under the law that a rioter’s actions constituted domestic terrorism.

“We believe what he was doing that day was domestic terrorism and we believe he is a domestic terrorist,” Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said Monday.

But Reffitt Judge Dabney Friedrich denied the request, saying there were several other defendants in the Jan. 6 attack where the DOJ chose not to pursue terrorism enhancement, despite their conduct seeming much more serious and threatening. than what Reffitt was found guilty of at trial.

Reffitt’s attorney, Clinton Broden, argued that the DOJ was unfairly seeking to make an example of Reffitt simply because he took his case to court.

“This is the only instance where the government has requested amelioration of terrorism, and this is the only instance where the accused has been tried,” Broden said. “I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

Reffitt is among more than 850 people who have been charged with the murderous breach of the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, which disrupted a joint session of Congress called to verify and count electoral votes related to the 2020 presidential election. . More than 200 defendants have already pleaded guilty to a variety of misdemeanor and felony charges, with some having been sentenced to years in federal prison.

Reffitt’s attorney, Clinton Broden, has asked that his client be given a maximum sentence of two years. He said he was shocked by the prosecution’s recommendation, since his client was not charged with entering the Capitol or assaulting police officers that day.

“It’s absolutely absurd,” Broden told The Associated Press in a phone interview last month. “I certainly don’t condone what Mr Reffitt has done. And I think everyone realizes the seriousness of the offences. But at the same time there has to be some proportionality here.”

Federal sentencing guidelines in Reffitt’s case called for a prison term ranging from nine years to 11 years and three months.

During the trial, prosecutors sought to cast Reffitt, a member of the Texas Three Percenters militia, as the leader of one of the first waves of the mob that burst into the Capitol from the west side of the building.

Videos played in court showed Reffitt climbing a stone ramp near where scaffolding had been set up before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, and Reffitt confronting US Capitol police officers who warned him to back off before firing less than lethal ammunition and pepper spray to halt his advance. Other videos shown in court showed Reffitt gesturing to the crowd behind him in what appeared to be an attempt to trick them up the stairs to several entrances leading to the building.

At one point during the trial, prosecutors released first-person footage that Reffitt recorded with a 360-degree camera mounted on his helmet as they stood in the crowd at the “Save America” ​​rally before the attack.

“We’re taking the Capitol before the end of the day,” Reffitt says in the video. “Everyone is in the same harmony on that… dragging them out kicking and screaming.”

“I didn’t come here to play games…I just want to see Pelosi’s head hit every goddamn stairway on my way out,” he later said. “I think we have the numbers to get there… without firing a single shot.”

The Justice Department case also relied on two key witnesses: Rocky Hardie, a former member of the Texas Three Percenters, who testified against Reffitt in exchange for co-op immunity, and Reffitt’s son Jackson. , 19, who submitted a tip online. to the FBI to first alert them to his father’s plans weeks before the riot, which ultimately led to Reffitt’s arrest on January 16, 2021.

During an interview with ABC News from prison last December, Reffitt said he “didn’t expect something like this to happen.”

“It’s been disastrous for me and my family, especially my daughters, my son — in fact, my entire family,” Reffitt told ABC News.

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