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Jury Convicts U.S. Capitol Rioter in First Trial from 6 January Attack

A jury found Guy Wesley Reffitt, 49, guilty of five felony charges for his participation in the 6 January 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, marking the first jury trial conviction for the incident.

The 2021 riot—during which pro-Trump supporters overwhelmed Capitol police and local law enforcement officers to enter the Capitol building and  interrupt legislators’ efforts to certify the electoral vote for the 2020 U.S. presidential election—occurred more than one year ago.

Since then, U.S. federal investigators have charged more than 700 individuals for their alleged involvement in the riot. Reffit was the first of those charged to go to trial. Prior to the verdict’s announcement, more than 200 of those accused of involvement in the riot pled guilty to misdemeanor and/or felony charges.

Although he entered a plea of not guilty, Reffitt, from Wylie, Texas, was convicted of five criminal charges: transporting a firearm—specifically a rifle and a semi-automatic handgun—in furtherance of civil disorder; obstruction of an official proceeding; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly weapon; obstructing law enforcement officers during a civil disorder; and obstruction of justice, specifically hindering communication through physical force or threat of such force. The jury deliberated for less than four hours before returning with a guilty verdict on 8 March.

Reffitt’s wife, Nicole, spoke with reporters after the verdict was delivered, and said Reffitt would appeal the decision. She also claimed her husband was used as an example to try to force other rioters to agree to a plea deal.

“Many of the 700-plus defendants charged in connection with the Capitol riot have been closely watching the outcome of this trial as they weigh how to approach their own cases. It is widely believed that this guilty verdict will give prosecutors additional leverage in plea negotiations with other defendants,” NPR reported.

Prosecutors said that Reffitt traveled to Washington, D.C., with at least one fellow member of the Texas Three Percenters, a far-right militia. With evidence from Reffitt’s phone and a helmet-mounted camera he wore, plus witness testimony, the prosecution established that Reffitt breached the Capitol and confronted officers in the building. He encouraged other participants to storm the building, even after he was hit with pepper balls and non-lethal plastic rounds.

It was testimony from Reffitt’s son, Jackson, however, that “offered some of the strongest evidence in the trial,” according to CBS News.

Jackson said he became alarmed by his father’s spoken views even before the riot and submitted a tip to the FBI in December 2020.

After 6 January 2021, Jackson said Reffitt became increasingly paranoid and at one point warned Jackson and his younger sister that “If you turn me in, you’ll be traitors. And traitors get shot.” Jackson also surreptitiously made audio recordings of his father when he heard what Reffitt had done at the Capitol and that Reffitt promised there was more to come.

Other evidence included videos and recorded Zoom meetings with other Texas Three Percent members that Reffitt made, text messages, and testimony from a former militia member.

“Today’s guilty verdict in the first jury trial of a Jan. 6 defendant should serve as a reminder for others who committed crimes at the Capitol that day that these are serious charges and that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will do what it takes to hold them accountable,” said, Steven D'Antuono, the FBI’s Washington Field Office assistant director in charge, in a statement obtained by Politico.

Reffitt could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison. His sentencing trial is scheduled for 8 June. (United States of America v. Guy Wesley ReffittU.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 21-cr-32, 2022)