A federal judge on Monday handed down the heaviest sentence yet to a defendant who was at the Capital riot — seven years to a Texas man who never entered the building.
A Washington, D.C., jury convicted Guy Reffitt, 49, of five felonies in March, including carrying a gun on U.S. Capitol grounds and threatening his children against reporting him to law enforcement. Reffitt was also convicted of two counts of civil disorder, and one count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich declined a Department of Justice request to sentence Reffitt as a domestic terrorist, stating it would create an “unwarranted sentencing disparity,” according to Politico. Treating Reffitt’s crimes as terrorism would have substantially increased Reffitt’s potential sentence; prosecutors had asked for a 15-year term.
“There are a lot of cases where defendants possessed weapons or committed very violent assaults,” Friedrich said, noting that the longest January 6 riot-related sentence to date is just over five years. “The government is asking for a sentence that is three times as long as any other defendant and the defendant did not assault an officer.”
Reffitt, a member of the militia group Texas Three Percenters, traveled to Washington D.C. with another militia member to protest the results of the 2020 election. Both men traveled to the nation’s capital armed with handguns and rifles.
On January 6, Reffitt arrived at the U.S. Capitol wearing a pistol on his hip, body armor, and a helmet with a camera on his head. Reffitt made it as far as the steps outside the Capitol’s Senate wing, but he never entered the building. He used a bullhorn to urge other protesters to storm inside.
“I didn’t come here to play — I’m taking the Capitol,” his camera recorded him saying. “I just want to see Pelosi’s head hitting every stair on the way out.”
The judge did grant that Reffitt was “in a class of his own so far as I’m aware in terms of what he was doing there that day, and what he claimed what he was there to do,” she said, according to The Washington Post. Friedrich also said that the fact that Reffitt was armed was “huge,” but asked, “does the firearm deserve three times the sentence if it was not brandished or used in any way?”
Reffitt’s January 6 activities also caused a rift in his household.
His son testified against him during his March trial and supported prosecutors’ sentencing request with the caveat that Reffitt could receive rehabilitation and counseling in prison. The 19-year-old son, Jackson, told the jury at trial that his father threatened him and his sister about reporting the older man to the authorities.
“He said, ‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor,’” Jackson recounted. “‘And traitors get shot.’”
Reffitt’s teen daughter sided with her father at his sentencing hearing, writing a letter to the judge asking for leniency. She placed the blame for the riot on then-President Donald Trump.
“My father’s name wasn’t on the flags that everyone was carrying there that day … There was another man’s name,” Peyton Reffitt wrote to the court, according to the Post. “He was not the leader.”