WASHINGTON (CN) — Jury selection began on Monday in the first trial for a Capitol rioter who has spurned the plea deals favored by defendants in similar cases.
Guy Reffitt of Bonham, Texas, is accused of charging at police officers with a gun holstered on his waist during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Prosecutors say he also threatened his children if they turned him in to authorities.
Potential jurors faced questions Monday regarding what they know about Reffitt and the Capitol riot, as well as whether they had any opinions about it. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee who is presiding over the trial, said she thinks they will need a pool of 38 to empanel the jury. There are 24 qualifying jurors, attorneys disclosed this afternoon, and opening arguments are slated to start Tuesday.
Reffitt has pleaded not guilty to five charges: obstruction of an official proceeding, being unlawfully present on Capitol grounds while armed with a firearm, transporting firearms during a civil disorder, interfering with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder and obstruction of justice.
The outcome of his trial, the first of several scheduled in coming months, may signal how future Capitol riot cases will play out — a conviction could encourage more plea deals, while an acquittal could do the opposite.
Prosecutors say Reffitt is a member of a Three Percenters-style militia extremist group who drove to Washington, D.C., for Jan. 6 demonstrations with an AR-15 rifle and a Smith & Wesson pistol with him.
Photos and videos appear to show Reffitt with a handgun holster containing a silver object on his hip as he led rioters up the stairs of the Capitol to confront a line of police guarding the building.
"This action caused the police line guarding the building to retreat closer to the building itself; soon after this, law enforcement was overwhelmed, and rioters flooded the building," prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Reffitt backed off only after being sprayed in the eyes with a chemical irritant, prosecutors said.
Court documents contain various screenshots of video footage from Reuters and Fox News that appear to show Reffitt flushing his eyes out with water during the riot. He was wearing a blue jacket over what appears to be a tactical-style vest as well as a black helmet with a video camera attached to it, and he was said to have also been carrying zip ties.
Within days of returning home from the riot, prosecutors say Reffitt warned his teenage son and daughter against turning him into the authorities.
“If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot,” he allegedly said.
Reffitt has been incarcerated for more than a year after being arrested at his home in Wylie, Texas, on Jan. 19, 2021. When FBI agents searched his home, they found a handgun in a holster on a nightstand in his bedroom.
Reffitt’s daughter, son and a fellow militia group member who traveled with him between Jan. 4 and Jan. 8, 2021, are listed as government witnesses and may be called to testify during the trial. Maryland attorney William Welch is representing the defendant.
More than 750 people have been charged so far in connection with the riot, and at least 200 have pleaded guilty to mostly misdemeanor charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment.
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