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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Convicted Capitol rioter says first-of-its-kind trial was unfair

In a sea of guilty pleas, Guy Reffitt was the first of hundreds of people charged after last year’s insurrection to go trial.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The first Capitol rioter to go to trial is asking for a new trial less than two weeks after a jury unanimously convicted him of all five charges against him.

Guy Reffitt, 49, of Bonham, Texas, was a member of the Texas Three Percenters who charged at police, with a gun holstered on his waist, during the attempt to overthrow the U.S. government on Jan. 6, 2021. Although he did not enter the Capitol building, prosecutors made the case at trial that Reffitt “showed the mob the way” inside. In an attempt to cover up his tracks after returning home, Reffitt threatened his children against turning him into authorities.

Reffitt was found guilty of 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. 

His lawyer moved Monday for acquittal and a new trial, making arguments similar to those made during the trial, including casting doubt on testimony from government witnesses like Reffitt’s son Jackson.

“Jackson Reffitt’s story has changed from he did not believe his dad would ever hurt him, to he took the threats seriously, and then to he’s pretty sure about what his dad said,” the filing states.

Defense attorney William Welch goes on to say that Reffitt’s son has been “hyping his story on CNN, ‘Good Morning America’ and on his GoFundMe page has made Jackson Reffitt over $158,000.00.”

Welch also tried to poke holes in testimony from Rockie Hardie, a former militia member who told jurors that he and Reffitt came to Washington, D.C., with two rifles and two handguns during the week of Jan. 6.

“Only after the government gave Rocky Hardie immunity, did he claim that he and the defendant brought firearms to Washington,” the filing states.

Arguing that Hardie had “trouble remembering” details while on the stand, Reffitt’s attorney said neither Hardie nor the three U.S. Capitol Police officers who testified against his client could recall seeing a gun holstered on Reffitt’s hip on Jan. 6.

Indeed, Welch continues, a U.S. Secret Service agent who was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6 is the only government witness who “claimed he could see a particular holster” in photos of Reffitt entered into evidence. These exhibits meanwhile had “no safeguards to prevent altering and editing,” Welch says.

Downplaying Reffitt’s conduct, Welch also points out that Reffit did not assault anyone or damage any property.

“As soon as Mr. Reffitt was pepper sprayed, that was the end of it, and he sat down on the banister railing,” the filing states.

Reffitt’s trial ran for a week and ended with his conviction on March 8. The highly anticipated verdict is expected to encourage more pleas from other Capitol rioters who have held out on striking deals with prosecutors.

Nicole Reffitt, the defendant’s wife, has urged other Capitol riot defendants not to take plea deals. After the trial, she told reporters outside the courthouse that the government was “making a point” with her husband to “intimidate” other defendants.

“The verdict today is actually — is against all American people,” she said on March 8. “The fight has just begun.”

Reffitt has been incarcerated for more than a year after being arrested at his home in Wylie, Texas, on Jan. 19, 2021. 

He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8 by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee. The judge has not yet set a deadline for the government to respond to Reffitt’s motions filed on Monday.

The two obstruction counts carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison. Being unlawfully on Capitol grounds while armed carries a maximum of 10 years, and the civil disorder counts each carry up to five years.

Reffitt is among more than 775 people who have been charged so far in connection with the Capitol attack.

Follow @EmilyZantowNews
Categories / National, Politics, Trials

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