First Capitol Riot Trial: Guilty on All Counts

Guy Wesley Reffitt stormed the building with a holstered gun
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2022 1:23 AM CST
Updated Mar 8, 2022 1:08 PM CST
The First January 6 Trial Starts Today
Violent insurrectionists, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(Newser) Update: Guy Wesley Reffitt was found guilty Tuesday of all five counts against him related to the Capitol riot, reports NBC News. In the first federal trial stemming from the Jan. 6 violence, Reffitt was convicted of storming the Capitol with a holstered gun, among other things. He faces serious jail time when sentenced, and the AP sees the guilty verdict as a potential "bellwether" for future riot cases. Our earlier story from Feb. 27 follows:

The first trial of an alleged Capitol rioter begins Monday in Federal District Court in Washington, DC. Guy Wesley Reffitt, the man who was turned in by his own son despite allegedly threatening to kill his kids if they did so, is one of about 750 defendants charged in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, but more than 200 of them have pleaded guilty, and his is the first case so far to head to court. A rundown of the coverage surrounding the trial:

  • The charges: He is charged with five counts, including obstruction of Congress, a charge originally meant to criminalize activities like tampering with documents or witnesses—defense lawyers tried to have it dismissed, arguing it was being taken too far, but judges are allowing a jury to decide, for the first time, whether it can apply to cases like this, the New York Times reports. That charge, the most serious, carries a sentence of up to 20 years, WUSA 9 reports. He is charged with four other felonies: two different civil disorder counts, being on restricted ground with a firearm, and obstruction of justice.

  • His kids are key witnesses: Two of the 49-year-old's children will testify to the fact that he issued death threats should they turn him in, per WUSA 9. The obstruction of justice charge involves threats of physical force, which the 19- and 17-year-old kids will speak about, the station says, adding that recordings they made of him will be introduced as evidence. The 19-year-old is reportedly estranged from his family now.
  • Militia group: Another key witness will be an alleged fellow member of the Three Percenter militia group who authorities say traveled to DC from Texas with Reffitt; the witness was offered immunity in exchange for his testimony.
  • Setting the tone: As the Times explains in its look at the case, this trial will likely "set the tone" for dozens more that are scheduled to happen this year. "For the first time in a courtroom, [prosecutors] will present a broad portrait of the violent chaos that erupted that day and seek to persuade a jury that the pro-Trump mob that Mr. Reffitt is accused of joining struck at the heart of American democracy by disrupting the transition of presidential power."
  • How long will this take? Jury selection is Monday, with opening arguments and testimony likely starting by Tuesday afternoon. The trial could last a week or longer, depending how long jury deliberations take.
  • Juror bias? Defense lawyers have argued that DC jurors will be biased against Jan. 6 defendants, and as such, judges will be closely watching for signs of bias, the Washington Post reports. "Reffitt’s prospective jurors Monday will be the subjects of a kind of trial-within-a-trial, scrutinized by both parties and the wider public, with potential ramifications for Capitol breach defendants to come."
  • Jailhouse letter: Last week, Reffitt penned a defiant letter saying he's ready to "receive the bullet of freedom," WUSA 9 reports.
(Read more Capitol riot stories.)

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