WASHINGTON — Guy Reffitt, the Texas Three Percenter convicted of being at the front of a pro-Trump mob that overwhelmed police on Jan. 6, was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in prison.
In March, a jury convicted Reffitt, 49, of five felony counts — finding he’d made plans with another militia member to bring weapons and body armor with them to the U.S. Capitol Building to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. At trial, prosecutors played video showing Reffitt facing off with outnumbered U.S. Capitol Police officers as they deployed multiple rounds of pepper spray and less-than-lethal rounds in an attempt to subdue him. Even after they stopped his momentum, prosecutors said, Reffitt continued waving on the other rioters he'd emboldened as they stormed past police and made the first breach into the Capitol.
On Monday, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich that Reffitt’s goal on Jan. 6 was bigger than just stopping Congress from counting votes.
“He didn’t just want President Trump to remain in office,” assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Nestler said Monday. “He wanted to physically and literally remove members of Congress from power. We believe he is a domestic terrorist.”
Prosecutors asked Friedrich to impose a terrorism enhancement – the first in any Capitol riot case to date. Though Reffitt was not convicted of a crime of terrorism, In his sentencing memo, Nestler said sentencing guidelines allowed for the upward departure in cases like his — and argued for 15 years in prison.
“The evidence at trial showed that Reffitt extensively planned for weeks ahead of January 6 to come to the District of Columbia with the specific intent of attacking the Capitol and taking over Congress,” Nestler wrote. “He recruited Rocky Hardie to join him in December 2020, discussed with Hardie the need to bring multiple firearms, made travel arrangements for the two of them, and outfitted himself with weapons, body armor, and zip ties. This level of planning is consistent with application of the terrorism enhancement.”
Reffitt's attorney, F. Clinton Broden, said in his memo and in court Monday the Justice Department was trying to impose a "trial penalty" on Reffitt for not taking a plea deal.
“This is the only case where the government as asked for the terrorism enhancement, and this is the only case where the defendant has gone to trial,” Broden said. “I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure that out.”
Friedrich ultimately denied the government's request over concerns about sentencing disparities, noting the DOJ had not asked for such a serious enhancement in other cases where defendants had assaulted police and threatened lawmakers. She pointed specifically to the cases of Mark Ponder, a D.C. man who repeatedly assaulted officers with a metal pole, and Nicholas Languerand, a former U.S. Army private and QAnon adherent who attacked police with multiple objects. Ponder was sentenced last week to 63 months in prison — tying him with Robert Scott Palmer for the longest Jan. 6 sentence to date. Languerand was sentenced in January to 44 months.
However, Friedrich also didn’t go along with the defense’s argument that Reffitt deserve a major downward departure to just 24 months in prison – 19 of which he had already served in the D.C. Jail.
Friedrich said statements Reffitt had made justifying his actions – as recently as a letter he submitted in advance of the hearing Monday – were “frightening claims that border on delusional.” And, she said, it was clear to her Reffitt still thought what he and other rioters did on Jan. 6 was right.
“He hasn’t walked back his statements about being a martyr,” she said. “He hasn’t walked back his statements about being a patriot. And so, as here he sits, I have to consider: what is this man going to do when he’s released from prison?”
Friedrich told Reffitt she agreed with his son, Jackson, about the need for mental health treatment to be part of his sentence. Jackson testified at trial that his father had threatened to shoot him and his sister, Peyton, if they talked to the FBI (which Jackson ultimately did). On Monday, assistant U.S. attorney Risa Berkower read a short note Jackson submitted to the judge.
“My father has slowly lost himself to countless things over the years," Jackson wrote, saying his father had "fallen into a horrible community to find a place in this life."
Ahead of his sentencing hearing, Peyton wrote a letter on her father's behalf as well, saying she never felt threatened by him and calling him a "beam of light to all of us." On Monday, she spoke briefly on his behalf, suggesting — as she had more directly in her letter — that her father had been taken advantage of by former President Donald Trump.
"My father's name wasn't on the flags that everyone was carrying that day," Peyton said. "It was another man's name. He wasn't the leader."
Broden told Friedrich before a lunch break Monday afternoon that Reffitt did not intend to speak on his own behalf. But upon returning from the break, Broden said Reffitt had changed his mind.
Friedrich had ended the first part of the hearing noting Reffitt had never expressed remorse for his actions. Reffitt began there in an unusual and profanity-laden stream of consciousness by apologizing, for the first time, to the officers who he confronted on Jan. 6.
"I want to make multiple apologies," he said. "I was, to put it colorfully, a f***ing idiot."
Reffitt explained that many of the incendiary statements he'd made since his arrest — among them a defiant jailhouse letter in February in which he said he was ready to "receive the bullet of freedom" — were intended to keep donations coming in to help him support his family, saying they "would be on the streets if he didn't say something to garner money for them." As of Monday, a campaign created by Reffitt's wife on the right-wing crowdfunding site GiveSendGo had raised nearly $99,000 in donations.
Friedrich said she was skeptical, and asked how she could believe Reffitt's last-minute apologies were "heartfelt." She also pressed him to state clearly that what he'd done on Jan. 6 was wrong.
"You were convicted on every count in the indictment," Friedrich said. "Do you believe now you violated the law?"
"Yes, Your Honor," Reffitt said. "I f***ed up."
After hearing from Reffitt, Friedrich announced her sentence: 87 months in prison to be followed by 36 months of supervised release. The sentence fell at the low end of the 87-108 months Reffitt faced.
The sentence means Reffitt will serve the longest prison term handed down to date in connection with the riot.
Before ending the hearing, Friedrich urged Reffitt to use his intelligence and charisma to help others in prison and to take advantage of every program available to him. At Broden's request, Friedrich also agreed to recommend Reffitt be placed in the Bureau of Prison's Residential Drug Abuse Program — a nine-month intensive program of cognitive behavioral therapy and substance abuse treatment.
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