A Texas man was convicted of storming the U.S. Capitol with a holstered handgun, a milestone victory for federal prosecutors in the first trial among hundreds of cases arising from last year’s riot, reported The Associated Press.
A jury also convicted Guy Wesley Reffitt of
obstructing Congress’ joint session to certify the Electoral College vote on
Jan. 6, 2021, of interfering with police officers who were guarding the Capitol
and of threatening his two teenage children if they reported him to law
enforcement after the attack. Jurors deliberated about three hours and
convicted him on all counts.
The verdict could be a bellwether for many other
Capitol riot cases. It could give Justice Department prosecutors more leverage
in plea negotiations and discourage other defendants from gambling on trials of
Gregg Sofer, a former federal prosecutor who served
as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas from October 2020 to
February 2021, said before Reffitt’s trial started that it would be “the canary
in the coal mine.”
“If you’re a defendant awaiting trial at this point,
the canary just died,” said Sofer, now a partner at the law firm Husch
Blackwell. “I do think it is likely to affect people’s perceptions about the
likelihood of their success.”
Reffitt, 49, of Wylie, Texas, didn’t testify at his
trial, which started last Wednesday. He showed little visible reaction to the
verdict, but his face was covered by a mask.
Outside court, his wife Nicole said the verdict was
“against all American people. If you’re going to be convicted on your First
Amendment rights, all Americans should be wary. This fight has just begun.”
She said her husband was being used as an example by
the government. “You are all in danger,” she said.
In a statement after the verdict, U.S. Attorney
Matthew Graves in Washington thanked the jury “for upholding the rule of law
and for its diligent service in this case.”
During the trial’s closing arguments on Monday,
Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower told jurors that Reffitt drove to
Washington, D.C., intending to stop Congress from certifying President Joe
Biden’s electoral victory. Reffitt proudly “lit the fire” that allowed others
in a mob to overwhelm Capitol police officers near the Senate doors, the
was not accused of entering the Capitol building. Defense attorney
William Welch said there is no evidence that Reffitt damaged property, used
force or physically harmed anybody.
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