Los Angeles Times
Prosecutors seeking 15-year sentence for armed Capitol rioter
Federal prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison sentence for a Texas man who was convicted of storming the U.S. Capitol with a holstered handgun, calling him a militia member who took a central role in the proTrump mob’s attack, according to a court filing Friday.
If a judge accepts the Justice Department’s recommendation, Guy Wesley Reffitt’s prison sentence would be nearly three times the length of the longest sentence among more than 200 defendants who have been sentenced for crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in the nation’s Capitol.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich is scheduled to sentence Reffitt on Aug. 1. The judge isn’t bound by any of the recommendations or the sentencing guidelines calculated by the court’s probation department, which call for a sentence ranging from nine years to 11 years and three months.
Defense attorney Clinton Broden, who is asking for Reffitt to be sentenced to no more than two years in prison, said he was shocked by prosecutors’ recommendation. He noted that Reffitt wasn’t accused of entering the Capitol or assaulting any police officers that day.
“It’s absolutely absurd,” he said during a telephone interview Friday. “I certainly don’t condone what Mr. Reffitt did. And I think everybody realizes the seriousness of the offenses. But at the same point, there has to be some proportionality here.”
Prosecutors argue that an “upward departure for terrorism” is warranted in Reffitt’s case, which would lead to a significantly longer sentence if the judge agrees to apply it. They say the trial evidence showed that Reffitt planned for weeks ahead of January to travel to Washington, “with the specific intent of attacking the Capitol and taking over Congress.”
“Reffitt did not intend to simply obstruct Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote. Rather, Reffitt intended to physically remove the legislators from the building (using his firearm and flexicuffs, and the power of the crowd) and actually ‘take over’ Congress,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Jeffrey Nestler wrote.
Reffitt, the first Capitol riot defendant to be tried, was convicted by a jury in March of all five counts in his indictment. Jurors found him guilty of obstructing Congress’ joint session to certify the electoral college vote, of interfering with police officers who were guarding the Capitol and of threatening his two teenage children if they reported him to law enforcement.
During the trial’s closing arguments, U.S. Atty. Risa Berkower told jurors that Reffitt proudly “lit the fire” that allowed others in a mob to overwhelm Capitol police officers near the Senate doors.
Jurors saw videos that captured the confrontation between a few Capitol police officers and a mob of people, including Reffitt, who approached them on the west side of the Capitol.
Reffitt was armed with a Smith & Wesson pistol in a holster on his waist, carrying zip-tie handcuffs and wearing body armor and a helmet equipped with a video camera when he advanced on police, according to prosecutors. He retreated after an officer pepper-sprayed him in the face, but he waved on other rioters who ultimately breached the building, prosecutors said.
Reffitt drove to Washington with Rocky Hardie, who said he and Reffitt were members of the Texas Three Percenters militia group. Hardie testified that both of them were armed with holstered handguns when they attended then-President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before the riot. Hardie said Reffitt talked about dragging lawmakers out of the Capitol and replacing them with people who would “follow the Constitution.”
Reffitt’s 19-year-old son, Jackson, testified that his father threatened him and his sister, then 16, after he drove home from Washington. Reffitt told his children they would be traitors if they reported him to authorities and said “traitors get shot,” Jackson Reffitt recalled.
Today, Guy Reffitt is “done with politics,” his lawyer said in a court filing Friday.