Updated: Mar 1
The first trial for one of the hundreds of Capitol riot prosecutions that starts this week in Washington, D.C., federal court could set the tone for many other cases, the Associated Press reports. A Texas man, Guy Wesley Reffitt, is charged with bringing a gun onto Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. He is also charged with interfering with police officers guarding the building and threatening his teenaged children if they reported him to authorities. A conviction could give prosecutors more leverage in plea talks with rioters facing the most serious charges. An acquittal could lead others to take their chances at trial.
The trial will provide the first courtroom look at evidence gathered by the Justice Department in one of the largest and most complex criminal investigations in history. “It’ll really be interesting to see how strong a case the government has and whether or not they’re relying on evidence that, when pushed and tested, stands up. It’s going to have a huge impact going forward,” said Gregg Sofer, a former federal prosecutor who served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas from October 2020 to February 2021. More than 750 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot. Over 200 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors carrying a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment. More than 100 riot defendants have been sentenced. And at least 90 others have trial dates this year. Reffitt is a member of a militia-style group called the “Texas Three Percenters,” according to prosecutors. On Jan. 6, 2021, Reffitt was armed with a handgun in a holster on his waist, carrying zip-tie handcuffs and wearing body armor and a helmet equipped with a video camera when he and others charged at police officers on the west side of the Capitol, according to prosecutors. The Justice Department says more than 235 rioters have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, injuring over 100 officers.