Guy Reffitt, the Texas Three Percenter who confronted Capitol police at the head of a mob on Jan. 6, was convicted by a jury Tuesday of five felony counts stemming from the riot.
After four days of testimony, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich handed jurors the case for deliberations shortly before 10 a.m. They returned just before 2 p.m. with their verdict: guilty on all counts.
The verdict was announced so quickly after jurors signaled they'd reached a consensus that Reffitt's wife, Nicole — who had been in court throughout the trial — wasn't in the room. Reffitt himself showed little reaction to the verdict.
Reffitt was arrested two weeks after the riot and indicted on two counts of obstruction, two counts of civil disorder and one count of entering and remaining a restricted grounds with a firearm. Each obstruction count carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
After hearing the jury's verdict, Friedrich denied a motion by Reffitt's attorney, William L. Welch III, to summarily acquit him. Prosecutors had, she said, shown sufficient evidence to prove their case. Friedrich set Reffitt's sentencing for 10 a.m. on June 8.
The case, the first from Jan. 6 to to go to trial, served as a stress test for the Justice Department’s use of a post-Enron obstruction statute. Reffitt was one of dozens of defendants who challenged it in court, arguing the law only applied to obstructing judicial proceedings and not the joint session of Congress. Friedrich and nine other judges on the D.C. District Court agreed with prosecutors, however, and let the charge stand.
In Reffitt's case, jurors convicted him on the obstruction charge even though he never made it into the U.S. Capitol Building and wasn't accused of conspiracy. That could signal an easier path for prosecutors seeking to convict more than 150 other obstruction defendants — many of whom are accused not only of entering the Capitol, but of assaulting police and pushing all the way into the Senate Chamber.
Following the verdict, Reffitt's wife Nicole promised an appeal and urged other Jan. 6 defendants not to take a plea deal.
"The verdict today is against all American people. You're going to be convicted on your First Amendment rights," Nicole said. "All Americans should be wary. This fight has just begun."
‘A Mob Needs a Leader’
Guy Reffitt was not simply an aggrieved supporter of former President Donald Trump, come to D.C. to vent his spleen, prosecutors told jurors – he was a militia extremist with a specific plan in mind.
"He told anyone within ear shot he planned to storm the Capitol that afternoon," assistant U.S. attorney Risa Berkower said. "He said it over and over again.”
Thanks to a helmet-mounted camera he wore on Jan. 6, jurors heard Reffitt say just that. He told other rallygoers at the Ellipse that he “came hot” and was “packing heat” and that Jan. 6 was “the last day of the war.” Jurors heard Reffitt attempting to recruit others to join him later at the Capitol.
“We’re taking the Capitol after this before the day is out,” he could be heard at one point on the video. “Dragging them out f***ing kicking and screaming.”
“I didn’t come here to play games. I’m taking the Capitol with everybody f***ing else,” he said a short time later. “We’re taking them out kicking and f***ing screaming. I just want to see [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi’s head hitting every step on the way out.”
Reffitt’s helmet-cam died just seconds after he reached the Capitol, but prosecutors were able to show his standoff with police from multiple angles thanks to surveillance footage and videos shot from the crowd. In them, Reffitt – in his body armor and bulky blue coat – can be seen climbing up on a banister of the Capitol steps and advancing on officers with a bullhorn. With each step, prosecutors said, the mob filled the space behind him. Reffitt was eventually subdued by multiple rounds of less-than-lethal munitions, but, he later told the leader of his Texas Three Percenters group, by that point his job had been accomplished.
“I’m not trying to be arrogant, but nobody was moving forward until I took that banister,” Reffitt said in a recorded Zoom vide. “I just kept yelling, ‘Go forward! Go forward! Take the House!”
A Son Takes the Stand
On Christmas Eve 2020, Jackson Reffitt said, he became so alarmed by his father’s increasingly incendiary rhetoric that he submitted a tip about him to the FBI. He took the stand for three hours last week to testify about the fallout from that decision.
Jackson, so soft-spoken at times he was barely audible, said his father had become distant and grew more and more involved with the Three Percenters after their family returned from living in Malaysia. He had taken to constantly wearing a handgun on his hip, and was regularly complementing it with a ballistic vest. By August 2020, his father was telling him “something big” was coming. When Reffitt told his son Congress had made “fatal mistakes,” Jackson pressed him on it. What was he going to do about it?
“Hold my beer and I’ll show you,” Reffitt replied.
Later, after January 6, Reffitt would send a screenshot of himself facing off with police. He included the text, “Me telling Patriots to hold my beer and watch this.”
Jackson said he didn’t hear back from the FBI about his tip until after the riot on Jan. 6. Before he met with the Texas agent assigned to the case, Special Agent Laird Hightower, his father returned home gushing about what a great time he’d had in D.C. He called it a “preface” for what was to come.
“January 6 was already so bad,” Jackson told jurors. “That that could just be the beginning, to hear my father say that, was scary. It was scary.”
Reffitt’s initially enthusiasm about his participation in the riot gave way to anxiety and paranoia, however, as he watched arrests start coming down. When officers questioned Russ Teer, the leader of Reffitt’s Three Percenters group, Reffitt told other members to “purge” communications. And in a conversation with Jackson and his younger sister Peyton, Reffitt warned them what would happen if they cooperated with police.
“He said, ‘If you turn me in, you’ll be traitors,’” Jackson said. “And traitors get shot.”
A Defense of Bluster
Prosecutors called 12 witnesses to make their case over four days of testimony. By contrast, Guy Reffitt's attorney, William L. Welch III, called none. He made the bulk of his case in his 15-minute closing argument Monday afternoon.
"I would like to speak to you about why my client is guilty of Count 3(a), and not the others," Welch said, referring to a lesser included charge in the entering and remaining count. "My client never put his hands on anyone else... Guy Reffitt never disarmed an officer, never tried to and did not help anyone else disarm an officer."
What Reffitt did on Jan. 6 and the days afterward — Welch said — amounted to little more than puffing up his chest. In cross-examinations, he implied Reffitt was anxious, drinking a lot and emasculated by his recent unemployment and had amped up a penchant for bragging and hyperbole to excessive levels.
"He was not going to say, 'I drove four days, drove two thousand miles, to be incapacitated in five minutes without doing anything," Welch said.
Welch also told jurors they should doubt the testimony of the government's two key witnesses because one, former Three Percenter Rocky Hardie, had an immunity agreement with the government and the other, Reffitt's son Jackson, had raised nearly $150,000 off the publicity from his case.
"This case has been a rush to judgment. Most of the case is based on bragging, a lot of hype," Welch said. "Be the grownups in the court. Separate the facts from the hype. Find Mr. Reffitt guilty of Count 3(a). Not the other charges."
Welch's decision not to call a single witness on his client's behalf may have hurt him, though, as jurors said they weighed the lack of defense testimony negatively.
An appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court was expected in the case. Friedrich set a March 25 deadline for Welch to file any such motion.
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