Speed Reads

Dead Canary

1st trial of Jan. 6 defendant ends with conviction on all counts, in a key victory for prosecutors

A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Guy Reffitt, a Texas oil and gas rig manager and consultant, on all five counts tied to his involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, handing federal prosecutors a key victory in the first Jan. 6 cases put before a jury. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, set sentencing for June 8. Reffitt, 49, faces up to 20 years in prison, but will likely get much less time.

Prosecutors did not accuse Reffitt of entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but provided evidence he spurred the crowd to battle past police officers and break into the Senate wing, with the intent to stop Congress from certifying President Biden's victory. Reffitt, a recruiter for the Texas Three Percenters militia group, wore a holstered handgun, body armor, a helmet, and zip-tie handcuffs when he led a group to confront police. According to police testimony and recordings he made, Reffitt turned back after being incapacitated with tear gas, but took credit for the breach. 

This was the first Jan. 6 trial where police officers testified. Other key witnesses included fellow Texas Three Percenter Rocky Hardie and Reffitt's 19-year-old son, Jackson. Jackson Reffitt told jurors his father warned him and his 16-year-old sister that "if you turn me in, you're a traitor, and traitors get shot." He was "terrified" by the threat, he testified, but still met with an FBI agent and turned over images and recordings he had secretly made of his father boasting about his role in the siege. 

The jury found Reffitt guilty of five felonies — obstruction of an official proceeding, interfering with police in a riot, transporting a firearm for that purpose, armed trespassing, and witness tampering. His attorney, William Welch, argued Reffitt should face only trespassing charges because, despite his bragging and threats, he did not enter the Capitol, commit any actual violence, or damage property.

Reffitt's trial was "the canary in the coal mine" for Jan. 6 defendants who declined plea deals, former federal prosecutor Gregg Sofer told The Associated Press. "If you're a defendant awaiting trial at this point, the canary just died." Of the 750 people charged with federal crimes tied to Jan. 6, AP adds, more than 220 have pleaded guilty while about 90 others have trial dates.