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Capitol rioter confronted with own words at start of first trial on insurrection

In the Jan. 6 attempt to overthrow America's government, Guy Reffitt was “the tip of this mob’s spear,” prosecutors charged Wednesday in opening arguments.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Laying out the case against the first Capitol rioter to go on trial for last year's deadly insurgency, prosecutors quoted liberally in their opening argument Wednesday from the Texas man's own violent rhetoric.

“A mob needs leaders, and this man, Guy Wesley Reffitt, of Wylie, Texas, drove all the way from home in Texas to step up and fulfill that role,” U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler told the jury this morning in a statement.

Nestler said Reffitt is a member of a militia group called the Texas Three Percenters, who came to the Capitol armed and intent not only on stopping Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election but on dragging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi out of the Capitol with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to boot.

“I don’t care if Pelosi’s head is hitting every stair as I drag her by her ankles — she is coming out," Reffitt told family and fellow militia members — one of many threats from the defendant that Nestler read aloud in his statement.

Nestler also noted how the jury will hear testimony from Reffitt’s own son, Jackson, who sent a tip to the FBI a few days before the riot about what his father said he planned to do at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

During the riot, Reffitt climbed on a banister outside the Capitol building and used a megaphone to “make demands” of the police, Nestler continued, telling them to stand down and step aside so the mob could enter the building.

“Every time he stepped forward, the crowd stepped forward behind him,” Nestler said. “The defendant was the tip of this mob’s spear.”

Police shot projectiles at Reffitt, who was wearing a vest with heavy ceramic plates and a helmet with camera on top. But Nestler told the jury that he pushed forward “undeterred” and retreated only when he was hit with pepper spray.

After the riot, Reffitt used the secretive messaging app Telegram to announce to members of the Texas Three Percenters: “My job was done then, I had to fall back and get my sight back.”

In contrast to the roughly 30-minute statement from the government, Reffitt’s defense attorney William Welch spoke for less than five minutes. 

Welch described the government’s case against Reffitt as based on a lot of “media and hype.”

He pointed out that Reffitt did not physically enter the Capitol building and that the entire incident lasted approximately five minutes.

“Guy does brag; he exaggerates; he rants,” Welch said. "He uses a lot of hyperbole and that upsets people."

Reffitt has pleaded not guilty to the five charges against him: 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.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, is presiding over the trial. The jury was selected on Tuesday.

Reffitt is among more than 750 people who have been charged so far in connection with the Capitol attack. 

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