Federal prosecutors are searching for 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 group member who took a central role within the pro-Trump mob’s attack, in accordance with a court filing Friday.
If a judge accepts the Justice Department’s suggestion, Guy Wesley Reffitt’s prison sentence could be nearly thrice the length of the longest sentence amongst greater than 200 defendants who’ve been sentenced for crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot within the nation’s capital.
The longest sentence to date is five years and three months for Robert Palmer, a Florida man who pleaded guilty to attacking law enforcement officials on the Capitol.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich is scheduled to sentence Reffitt on Aug. 1. The judge isn’t sure by any of the recommendations or the sentencing guidelines calculated by the court’s probation department, which call for a sentence starting from nine years to 11 years and three months.
Defense attorney Clinton Broden, who’s asking for Reffitt to be sentenced to not more than two years in prison, said he was shocked by prosecutors’ suggestion. He noted that Reffitt wasn’t accused of entering the Capitol or assaulting any law enforcement officials that day.
“It’s absolutely absurd,” he said during a telephone interview Friday. “I definitely don’t condone what Mr. Reffitt did. And I believe everybody realizes the seriousness of the offenses. But at the identical point, there must be some proportionality here.”
Prosecutors argue that an “upward departure for terrorism” is warranted in Reffitt’s case, which might result in significantly longer sentence if the judge agrees to use it. They are saying the trial evidence showed that Reffitt planned for weeks ahead of January to travel to Washington, D.C., “with the precise intent of attacking the Capitol and taking on Congress.”
“Reffitt didn’t intend to easily obstruct Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote. Moderately, Reffitt intended to physically remove the legislators from the constructing (using his firearm and flexicuffs, and the ability of the group) and truly ‘take over’ Congress,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler wrote.
Reffitt, the primary 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 law enforcement officials who were guarding the Capitol and of threatening his two teenage children in the event that they reported him to law enforcement.
Prosecutors say Reffitt was a frontrunner of a Texas militia group. He told other militia group members that he planned to tug House Speaker Nancy Pelosi out of the Capitol constructing by her ankles, “together with her head hitting every step on the way in which down,” Nestler wrote.
Reffitt, a resident of Wylie, Texas, didn’t testify at his trial.
Through the trial’s closing arguments, U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower told jurors that Reffitt proudly “lit the fireplace” that allowed others in a mob to overwhelm Capitol law enforcement officials near the Senate doors.
Jurors saw videos that captured the confrontation between just a few Capitol law enforcement officials and a mob of individuals, 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, in accordance with prosecutors. He retreated after an officer pepper sprayed him within the face, but he waved on other rioters who ultimately breached the constructing, prosecutors said.
Reffitt drove to Washington, D.C., with Rocky Hardie, who said he and Reffitt were members of the Texas Three Percenters militia group. The Three Percenters militia movement refers back to the myth that only 3% of Americans fought within the Revolutionary War against the British.
Hardie testified that each of them were armed with holstered handguns after they attended then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before the riot. Hardie said Reffitt talked about dragging lawmakers out of the Capitol and replacing them with individuals who would “follow the Structure.” Hardie also said Reffitt gave him two pairs of zip-tie cuffs in case they needed to detain anybody.
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 might be traitors in the event that they reported him to authorities and said “traitors get shot,” Jackson Reffitt recalled.
Reffitt is “done with politics,” his lawyer said in a court filing Friday.
“His only goal now’s to place his family back together while recognizing that as much as he spent the past 20 years providing for them, he’s the one who has driven them apart,” Broden wrote.
Greater than 840 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot. Over 330 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and over 200 of them have been sentenced. Greater than 100 others have trial dates.