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Capitol rioter’s jury narrowed by insurrection views, proximity to police

Opening statements in the case of Capitol rioter Guy Reffitt are set for Wednesday morning.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Nine men and seven women, several of them Black and Asian, were selected Tuesday for the jury that will weigh the charges against the first Capitol riot defendant to go to trial.

Guy Reffitt of Bonham, Texas, is accused of charging at police officers with a gun holstered on his waist during the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Prosecutors say he also threatened his children if they turned him in to authorities.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee who is presiding over the trial, said at the beginning of the week that the case is “unique” because all of the potential jurors likely know about the Capitol riot. What’s critical, she said, is whether the juror had such a strong opinion about the riot that it would impact their ability to determine whether to convict Reffitt.

After two days of jury selection, the panel chosen includes five white men, four white women, three Black men, two Black women, one Asian man and one Asian woman. The pool is made up of 12 jurors and four alternates.

Prospective jurors were asked if they live or work near the Capitol and whether they have strong opinions on Reffitt, the riot or firearms that would impact their ability to remain impartial.

Several people were dismissed for stating that their personal views on the Capitol riot would sway their judgment.

A man who works for the Architect of the Capitol and works closely with U.S. Capitol Police told the court that seeing the damage to the buildings in the aftermath of the riot “was pretty hard.” He was dismissed from the pool. 

Meanwhile, another man who also works for the Architect of the Capitol, but claims he is leaving his job soon, was chosen to serve on the jury.

Federal employees, attorneys and retirees were among the 85 potential jurors in the pool. A handful of people over the age of 70 decided to opt out, as permitted by the court.

Most prospects said they did not recognize Reffitt, who would sometimes pull down his mask and smile when asked if jurors knew him. 

One man said he had recently read about Reffitt in the news, including learning that he is from Texas and that he is charged with possessing a weapon at the riot.

Reffitt’s attorney, William Welch, moved to strike the man because of how much he knows about the case, while prosecutors argued he only had general knowledge of it. Friedrich sided with the defense and the man was dismissed.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Reffitt was wearing a blue shirt with a gray suit jacket, jeans and beige boots with brown glasses. He took notes at times, and his wife, Nicole Reffitt, was in the audience.

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.

Prosecutors say he 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. He reportedly backed off only after being sprayed in the eyes with a chemical irritant.

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.

The government is planning to call his teenage children as witnesses, along with a U.S. Capitol Police officer, two U.S. Secret Service agents, and a fellow militia member who traveled with Reffitt between Jan. 4, 2021, and Jan. 8, 2021.

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

Opening statements are slated to begin on Wednesday morning. Prosecutors told Friedrich that they are planning to open by showing the jury oral and written statements made by Reffitt to his family and a fellow militia member.

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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