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, the Associated Press reports. 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. Jurors deliberated about three hours. The verdict could be a bellwether for many other Capitol riot cases and give Justice Department prosecutors more leverage in plea negotiations, discouraging other defendants from gambling on trials of their own. Reffitt, 49, of Wylie, Tx., didn’t testify.
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.” During the trial’s closing arguments, federal prosecutor Risa Berkower told jurors that Reffitt drove to Washington, D.C., intending to stop Congress from certifying President Biden's victory. Reffitt proudly “lit the fire” that allowed others in a mob to overwhelm Capitol police officers near the Senate doors, the prosecutor said. Reffitt 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. He will be sentenced June 8. Other rioters have pleaded guilty; the longest sentence so far is five years and three months for Robert Palmer, a Florida man who pleaded guilty to attacking police officers at the Capitol.