First Capitol rioter to face trial gets 7 years

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A federal judge Monday (01) sentenced Guy Wesley Reffitt, the first defendant to go on trial in the US Justice Department’s sprawling criminal inquiry into the 6 January attack, to more than seven years in prison, the longest sentence to date in a case stemming from the Capitol riot.

After a six-hour hearing, Judge Dabney Friedrich handed down a sentence at the low end of the guideline range. She noted that was still significantly longer than any given so far to any of the more than 800 people arrested in connection with the riot, many of whom have struck plea bargains.

Prosecutors had asked that Reffitt be given 15 years after adding a sentencing enhancement used in cases of domestic terrorism.

But Friedrich rejected those terms, sentencing him to seven years and three months in prison with three years of probation, and ordering him to pay $2,000 in restitution and receive mental health treatment.

A jury found Reffitt guilty on five felony charges in March, including obstructing Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election, carrying a .40-caliber pistol during the riot, and two counts of civil disorder. Unlike others who breached the building, Reffitt did not go inside.

The sentencing capped a trial that was seen as an important test for the Justice Department, which is only beginning the marathon process of trying what could be scores of rioters. In particular, prosecutors and defense lawyers had been watching to see how the obstruction charge, a rarely used count central to many of the cases yet to reach trial, would hold up in court.

But Friedrich described Reffitt’s case as unusual on account of threats of violence he made against his children when he discovered he might be swept up in the federal investigation following the riot. In March, Reffitt’s son, Jackson Reffitt, took the stand to testify that his father had become radicalised in the months leading up to the attack, and had threatened both him and his sister in an attempt to dissuade them from speaking to authorities, telling them that “traitors get shot.”

Before Monday, the longest sentence in a case related to the attack on the Capitol was just more than five years, given last year to a man who had pleaded guilty to assaulting an officer with a fire extinguisher. But because Reffitt did not plead guilty like hundreds of others arrested in connection with the attack and went to trial, Friedrich said, the sentencing guidelines for his case were two years more than if he had reached a plea deal.

The sentence comes as a parallel investigation being carried out by the House Jan. 6 committee has been gaining momentum. As courts slowly process the hundreds of cases related to the riot, speculation has grown as to how the Justice Department will respond to the committee’s findings about former President Donald Trump and those in his inner circle who helped instigate it, and whether the committee will formally recommend criminal charges. (Courtesy: Foreign Media)