Riot, Insurrection or Coup; Guilty on All Counts

It’s time to Break It Down!

No matter what you consider the events of January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol, a riot, an insurrection, a coup, or as Donald Trump once said, “A very beautiful time with extremely loving and friendly people,” yesterday anyway, the verdict was guilty on all five counts for Guy Reffitt in the case of the US Capitol attack. Reffitt, a Texas Three Percenter and Trump supporter was charged with wanting to obstruct the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election, transporting guns into DC, carrying a Smith & Wesson handgun onto the restricted grounds of the Capitol, interfering with Capitol Police protecting the Upper West Terrace and obstructing justice by threatening his son and daughter when he returned to Texas. A Washington DC, in the first federal trial related to the riot, composed of six men and six women, took less than four hours to deliberate yesterday.

The max sentence for obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice, the most severe of the charges, is 20 years in prison. Reffitt’s sentencing is scheduled for June 8. The trial, which lasted a week, included painful reflections on the attack on Capitol Police, a civics lesson on Congress, and a family drama highlighting a son testifying against his father.

Mr. Reffitt’s case was the first of the January 6 cases to go to trial and tested the Justice Department’s ability to tie an individual’s actions to the broader Capitol Hill attack. Mr. Reffitt has been in jail since he was arrested in January 2021. His case catapulted to national attention when his son, Jackson Reffitt, did a national TV interview about turning in his dad to the FBI after disagreeing with him about his Trump support and Three Percenter involvement.

The conviction could have lingering ramifications on the more than 500 Capitol riot defendants whose cases are still pending. It is conceivable the verdict could persuade some waiting defendants to accept plea deals rather than face a jury. It may also lead to appeals of the criminal law used in a number of the January 6 prosecutions.

Nicole Reffitt, Guy’s wife, told reporters, after her husband’s convictions, “This fight is just begun.” And encouraged other January 6 defendants to follow her husband’s lead and go to trial, not taking deals from the government. She added, “They want us to take a plea. They are just making a point out of Guy, and that is to intimidate other members of the January 6ers. We will fight together.” She also criticized the Justice Department for what she called the “disgusting ploy” of using testimony from her children, including her underage daughter, against their father.

Reffitt’s defense lawyer called no witnesses and instead argued that he was an exaggerator, who took credit for bringing a gun to the Capitol and resisting police when he was a bit player in the scrum. In retrospect, it’s fair to say that wasn’t particularly smart.

Prosecutors played not only on witnesses’ emotional memories of the attacks, but also relied upon Reffitt’s own admissions in text messages and recordings.

Last Thursday, as his father cried across the courtroom, Jackson Reffitt testified that Guy Reffitt “snowballed into a far-right extremist” following the 2016 election of Trump. Guy Reffitt joined the Texas Three Percenters, Jackson said, and became increasingly hostile toward political figures, railing about then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he thought were breaking the law. 

Jackson Reffitt also told the jury about his father’s comments after the riot, that should Jackson or his younger sister turn their father in, they would be traitors, and “traitors get shot.” Also, probably not smart, but definitely scary.

Three Capitol Police officers testified about battling Reffitt outside the Capitol. They all noted that Reffitt led the mob forward, taunting police officers that they “couldn’t stop all of us.” Even once officers had knocked Reffitt back with chemical spray on the Upper West Terrace, rioters behind him were disassembling scaffolding and cutting white tarp nearby, following Reffitt’s lead, prosecutors argued. The crowd — which included alleged members of the Proud Boys right-wing group and the infamous QAnon Shaman Jacob Chansley, who wore face paint and horns — was ultimately able to break the police line at that part of the Capitol’s exterior, opening the path for some rioters to break windows to enter the Senate side of the building. 

Text messages and recordings, taken by his son, from after January 6 showed Reffitt recounting how police sprayed him with chemicals and how members of Congress “scurried like rats and hid” while the mob breached the building. 

“I had every constitutional right to carry a weapon and take over Congress as we tried to do,” Reffitt said to his family in one recording. 

Reffitt later said, “I’m not done yet.” 

One of the officers who faced off against Reffitt, Sgt. Matthew Flood, told the jury he left the west side of the Capitol to help evacuate lawmakers still trapped on the Senate floor. By that point, rioters had cut off all but one escape route — which they were able to use to rush lawmakers to safety.

“They were calling us traitors, saying that we were in their way, to get out of their way. They were saying that they supported us, and we were betraying them,” Capitol Police officer Shauni Kerkhoff said. “It made me feel angry because it’s our job to stand in the way.” “Riot, Insurrection or Coup: Guilty on All Counts!”

I’m done; holla back!

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