By Michael Kunzelman | Related Press
WASHINGTON — The Justice Office introduced a single of the largest and most advanced prison investigations in its background following a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in excess of a 12 months back. Now it’s time for a jury to hear some of the government’s evidence about the unparalleled assault on American democracy.
The 1st trial for 1 of the hundreds of Capitol riot prosecutions commences this week, with jury collection starting Monday in the circumstance versus Guy Wesley Reffitt. The Texas person is billed with bringing a gun onto Capitol grounds, interfering with law enforcement officers guarding the developing, and threatening his teenage small children if they reported him to authorities. Jurors could hear attorneys’ opening statements as before long as Tuesday.
Reffitt’s demo could be a bellwether for numerous other Capitol riot cases. A conviction would give prosecutors a lot more leverage in plea talks with rioters facing the most really serious charges. An acquittal may perhaps direct others to wait around for their possess day in court.
Reffitt “truly is the canary in the coal mine,” claimed Gregg Sofer, a former federal prosecutor who served as U.S. lawyer for the Western District of Texas from October 2020 to February 2021.
“It’ll seriously be appealing to see how sturdy a circumstance the govt has and no matter if or not they’re relying on evidence that, when pushed and analyzed, stands up. It’s likely to have a huge influence going forward,” added Sofer, now a husband or wife at the legislation agency Husch Blackwell.
Reffitt is a member of a militia-fashion group named the “Texas A few Percenters,” in accordance to prosecutors. The 3 Percenters militia movement refers to the myth that only 3% of Us residents fought in the Groundbreaking War in opposition to the British.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Reffitt was armed with a handgun in a holster on his waistline, carrying zip-tie handcuffs and donning body armor and a helmet geared up with a movie digital camera when he and other individuals charged at police officers on the west aspect of the Capitol, according to prosecutors.
“This motion triggered the law enforcement line guarding the creating to retreat closer to the building itself quickly immediately after this, regulation enforcement was overwhelmed, and rioters flooded the developing,” prosecutors wrote in a court docket filing.
Reffitt retreated only immediately after an officer pepper sprayed him in the deal with, prosecutors stated.
Prosecutors consider Reffitt took at the very least two firearms with him to Washington: an AR-15 rifle and a Smith & Wesson pistol. When FBI agents searched Reffitt’s household in Wylie, Texas, they located a handgun in a holster on a nightstand in the defendant’s bedroom. Prosecutors say photographs and movie of Reffitt all through the riot demonstrate a handgun holster on his proper hip, with what appears to be a silver object inside the holster.
On the early morning of Jan. 6, Reffitt reported he prepared to “do the recon and then arrive back again for weapons hot” and despatched messages about assembly at a “rendezvous place,” according to prosecutors.
“These messages, together with the weapons that Reffitt carried and the equipment he wore, make very clear that the defendant did not come to D.C. with the intention to have interaction in peaceful action,” prosecutors wrote.
The siege resulted in the deaths of 5 individuals, like a police officer. The Justice Division states far more than 235 rioters have been billed with assaulting or impeding legislation enforcement, injuring around 100 officers. Rioters brought about above $1 million in problems to the Capitol.
The Justice Division says its investigation has generated an unparalleled volume of evidence, with hundreds of thousands of files and hundreds of several hours of movies to share with defense lawyers. Shared files overall more than nine terabytes of data and would choose around 100 days to perspective, the section suggests.
Extra than 750 people have been charged with federal crimes associated to the riot. Above 200 of them have pleaded guilty, primarily to misdemeanors carrying a optimum sentence of 6 months’ imprisonment. More than 100 riot defendants have been sentenced. And at minimum 90 others have trial dates this yr.
Philadelphia-based mostly protection attorney Justin Danilewitz, who was a federal prosecutor in New Jersey from 2012 to 2017, explained a conviction in Reffitt’s circumstance could direct to a flurry of responsible pleas by other riot defendants.
“And that can profit defendants on situation since it’s improved than the different if the different is a conviction subsequent a trial,” Danilewitz additional.
An acquittal could encourage other defendants to “dig in their heels” and either push for a much better plea offer you from prosecutors or gamble a trial of their own, he said.
Defense lawyer William Welch has reported there is no evidence that Reffitt harmed home, employed drive or bodily harmed anyone. In a Could 2021 court submitting, Welch said none of the video clips or photographs demonstrates a gun in Reffitt’s possession at the Capitol.
“In reality, neither of the police officers interviewed by the government claimed nearly anything about a firearm,” he wrote.
Reffitt has been jailed considering that his arrest in Texas fewer than a 7 days immediately after the riot. He faces five counts: obstruction of an formal proceeding, staying unlawfully current on Capitol grounds when armed with a firearm, transporting firearms throughout a civil condition, interfering with legislation enforcement officers during a civil condition, and obstruction of justice.
The obstructing justice demand stems from threats that he allegedly manufactured versus his son, then 18, and daughter, then 16, just after returning household from Washington. Reffitt told his youngsters to “choose a aspect or die” and mentioned they would be traitors if they described him to legislation enforcement, prosecutors mentioned.
“He predicted foreseeable future political violence in statements both of those to his household and to fellow militia members, bragged to fellow militia associates about his involvement in the riot, recruited other rioters into the militia, and ordered bear spray and riot shields to his household to get ready for additional violence,” prosecutors wrote.
Messages recovered from Reffitt’s cellphone indicate he prepared to joined an armed insurrection on Jan. 6 and intended to occupy the Capitol, prosecutors mentioned.
“We experienced countless numbers of weapons and fired no rounds however confirmed figures. The future time we will not be so cordial,” he wrote, in accordance to prosecutors.
Presiding about Reffitt’s trial is U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, who was nominated by President Donald Trump in 2017. Friedrich currently has sentenced nine rioters who pleaded guilty.
Freidrich independently questioned much more than 30 prospective jurors on Monday, asking them how intently they have followed news coverage of the Capitol riot. Some explained they experienced formed robust, adverse viewpoints about the gatherings of Jan. 6 but could attempt to be reasonable and impartial.
The decide disqualified a number of associates of the jury pool who stated they would have problem environment aside their views or feelings about the riot. A single of them, a person who life around the Capitol, reported the riot felt like “an attack on my property in some perception.”
“It was a very scary time,” he instructed the judge.
Jury choice is scheduled to resume Tuesday. The decide claimed she hopes to empanel a jury to listen to opening statements later in the working day.
Prosecutors hope to contact about a dozen witnesses, which includes a few Capitol law enforcement officers who interacted with Reffitt and an officer who was in demand of the U.S. Capitol Law enforcement command center.
Jurors will see movies that captured Reffitt’s confrontation with police. Prosecutors also have audio recordings of Reffitt chatting about the riot inside his household just after returning home.
“We manufactured a point. That was a historic working day,” Reffitt stated throughout a single of the recorded discussions, according to prosecutors. “And guess what? I’m not carried out however. I bought a ton more to do. That is the starting.”
Reffitt’s son, daughter and a fellow Texas Three Percenter group member also are detailed as federal government witnesses. The group member traveled with Reffitt to Washington and again to Texas between Jan. 4 and Jan. 8, 2021.
“During the travel (to Washington), Reffitt talked about ‘dragging people men and women out of the Capitol by their ankles’ and setting up a new govt,” prosecutors wrote.
A court submitting that refers to the other militia member by the initials “R.H.” says the person will tell jurors he was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
Welch has reported Reffitt labored as a rig manager and as a specialist in the petroleum industry right before COVID-19 constraints correctly shut down his organization.