First trial of a U.S. Capitol riot defendant opens Monday in D.C.
Nearly 14 months after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the first trial of a defendant charged in connection with the deadly attack opens Monday in federal court.
Guy Reffitt, a Texas man who authorities say belongs to the self-styled Three Percenter militia movement, is charged with five counts, including obstruction, civil disorder and entering Capitol grounds with a firearm. He has pleaded not guilty.
The trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., is a milestone in the Capitol riot investigation, which officials say is one of the largest and most complex in American history. So far, almost 750 people have been charged and around 220 have pleaded guilty. Of those, more than 100 have already been sentenced.
The courthouse is just down the street from the Capitol, where on Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob punched its way through police lines and into the building as lawmakers were meeting inside to certify Joe Biden's election win.
The violent assault, which left more than 100 police officers injured, temporarily disrupted the certification of the Electoral College count.
Reffitt will be the first Jan. 6 defendant to take his case to trial. It is expected to begin Monday morning with jury selection and last around one week.
Prosecutors say Reffitt played a "significant and dangerous role" in insurrection
Prosecutors say Reffitt drove from his home in Wylie, Texas, to Washington, D.C., for Jan. 6 events and brought an AR-15 rifle and a Smith & Wesson pistol with him.
The government alleges in court papers that on Jan. 6, Reffitt played a "significant and dangerous role" by leading a group of rioters up the steps of the Capitol to challenge police guarding the complex. Reffitt only retreated, prosecutors say, after being hit with pepper spray.
Videos from the scene that day show a man authorities have identified as Reffitt on the steps of the Capitol using water to flush his eyes. He's seen wearing a helmet with a GoPro-style camera attached and a blue coat over a black tactical-style vest.
The Justice Department says that when Reffitt returned to Texas after Jan. 6, he warned his wife, son and daughter that "they would be traitors" if they reported him to the authorities.
"Traitors gets shot," he allegedly told them.
FBI agents interviewed Reffitt's wife, son and daughter. The government has said it expects to call both of Reffitt's children to testify. It also plans to call U.S. Capitol Police officers who engaged with Reffitt on the steps of the Capitol, as well as FBI agents and Secret Service agents.
Reffitt was arrested in January 2021 and has remained in government custody since then.
He faces four charges directly related to the events of Jan. 6: obstructing an official proceeding; unlawfully being on Capitol grounds with a firearm; transporting firearms during a civil disorder; and interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder.
He's also charged with obstruction of justice related to the threats he allegedly made toward his family after returning home.
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