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First Capitol rioter to go on trial gets 7-year sentence

Guy Reffitt's son sent a tip to the FBI about his father just days before the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The first Capitol riot defendant to go to trial was sentenced on Monday to more than 7 years in prison, the most severe punishment yet for the over 850 people charged in connection with former President Donald Trump’s rally-turned-riot last year. 

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced Guy Reffitt to 87 months in prison after a jury unanimously convicted him in March of five felonies, including carrying a firearm on restricted grounds and obstructing an official proceeding during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. 

During Reffitt’s dayslong trial, witnesses testified that he brought a gun and zip ties to the Capitol and led a mob toward the building, then later threatened his children against turning him in to the authorities. During the trial, Reffitt’s 18-year-old son, Jackson Reffitt, testified that he does not regret defying his father’s wishes and turning him into the FBI in the days leading up to Jan. 6. 

Although the Trump-appointed judge veered downward from the 15-year sentence sought by the government, District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves said the verdict and sentence hold Reffitt "accountable for his violent, unconscionable conduct.” 

“Guy Reffitt came to the Capitol on Jan. 6 armed and determined to instigate violence,” Graves said in a statement. “In his own words, his goal was to take the Capitol ‘before the day is over.’” 

He added that the 49-year-old member of the Texas Three Percenters militia "contributed to the many assaults on law enforcement officers that day, putting countless more people – including legislators - at risk.” 

Ahead of Monday’s sentencing hearing, a U.S. Capitol Police officer penned a victim impact statement. Meanwhile, family members and friends sent letters to the judge in support of Reffitt, describing him as “a depressed man who believed he was unable to adequately provide for his family (his life’s mission), and a man who felt cast aside and marginalized.” 

Reffitt’s teenage daughter, Peyton Reffitt, told the judge her father’s need “to be doing something purposeful” and the fact he “can’t stand seeing in justice in the world or in the lives of his loved ones” is what led him to put “his faith into a leader with the attributes of President Trump.” 

“I could really see how my fathers [sic.] ego and personality fell to his knees when President Trump spoke, you could tell he listened to Trump's words as if he was really truly speaking to him … Constantly feeding polarizing racial thought,” she wrote. 

Peyton, 16, said she wished her father “had his guard up against these verbal booby traps into which he has been led.” 

Like her brother, Peyton was set to testify against her father during the trial in March, but the government scrapped the plan without explanation.  

Reffitt was convicted by the jury of all five charges against him, including entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a firearm; obstruction of justice; two counts of civil disorder and one count each of obstruction of an official proceeding. He asked the judge for a two-year prison sentence.

In the months leading up to the sentencing hearing, the judge allowed Reffitt to replace his New York-based trial attorney, William Welch, with Texas-based attorney, F. Clinton Broden. She also denied Reffitt’s motions for acquittal and a new trial. 

On Monday, the judge also ordered Reffitt to pay $2,000 restitution and serve three years’ supervised release after his prison term. 

His attorney did not immediately respond to an email request for comment sent Monday. 

The Justice Department has arrested more than 855 people for charges in connection with the Capitol riot. As of July 6, about 264 people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, 65 have pleaded guilty to felonies, and at least 99 people have been sentenced to incarceration.     

At least 140 police officers were reportedly assaulted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, including about 60 officers from the Metropolitan Police Department and about 80 from the U.S. Capitol Police. 

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