Federal prosecutors’ first request to impose a tougher sentence on a Jan. 6 defendant by classifying his actions as domestic terrorism fell short on Monday when a federal judge refused to file an application. the stricter punishment guidelines allowed under federal law in such cases.
U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich said that applying the sentencing to Guy Reffitt, 49, would create an “unjustified sentencing disparity” with other cases with similar threats or conduct related to the Capitol riots.
“There are many cases where defendants possessed weapons or committed very violent assaults,” Friedrich noted, highlighting that the harshest sentences handed down so far on Jan. 6 were just over five years, while prosecutors faced 15 years in prison. against Reffitt. “The government is demanding a sentence three times as long as any other defendant and the defendant has not assaulted an officer.”
Reffitt, a member of the Texas Three Percenters militia, became the first defendant to appear before a jury on Jan. 6 and was convicted of all five felony charges he faced. Evidence and testimony at the trial showed that he drove to Washington with an acquaintance the day before the riots, carrying two AR-15 rifles and a handgun. The jury found he had the gun to his hip when he got into a tense confrontation with police on the western front of the Capitol. Reffitt was pelted with less lethal weapons and tear gas as he tried to climb the stairs and wave the crowd forward, but he never entered the building himself.
Because the hearing stretched until the fourth hour on Monday, Friedrich was yet to announce a verdict in the case. In theory, Reffitt could face up to 60 years, but defendants are typically sentenced to terms well below the maximum under federal guidelines.
US Assistant Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said Reffitt’s talks before and after Jan. 6 made it clear that he intended to carry out his repeated threats to drag Speaker. Nancy Pelosic and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell by force from the Capitol. In discussions captured on video, Reffitt was included, alluding to his desire to listen to the heads of lawmakers bouncing on the steps of the Capitol.
“He intended to catch up with our government. He wasn’t just trying to block certification,” Nestler said. “He wasn’t ready yet. January 6 was just a foreword. … Mr. Reffitt is all alone in a class.’
However, Friedrich said prosecutors had pushed for much shorter sentences in cases involving people directly involved in actual violence against the police.
“You’re making recommendations that are very different from what you’re making in this case — very different,” said the judge, an appointee of President Donald Trump.
Friedrich also said she was concerned that Reffitt would not be unnecessarily punished for the decision to appear in court, rather than enter into a plea deal with prosecutors.
“His decision to exercise his constitutional right to appear in court should not result in a drastically different sentence,” she said.
Nestler also noted that Reffitt had been convicted of carrying a gun on his hip while on the Capitol grounds, which Friedrich admitted was an important distinction from the other cases in arriving at a conviction thus far. .
“Huge, huge…and does the firearm deserve three times the penalty if it wasn’t brandished or used in any way?” the judge asked.
Another unusual aspect of Reffitt’s case is that he was convicted of threatening to injure his two children if they discussed his actions with authorities on Jan. 6. One of those children, Peyton Reffitt, spoke briefly at Monday’s hearing to press for leniency for her father. She suggested that Trump was more responsible for the events that day than her father.
“My father’s name was not on all the flags that were there that day and that everyone had that day,” said Peyton. “He was not the leader.”
During Monday’s hearing, Friedrich suggested she believed Reffitt was suffering from megalomania and that his decision to appear in court earlier this year was part of his effort to position himself as a leader of those fighting against the certification of the elections.
“He wants to be the big man — the first to try to storm the Capitol, the first to stand trial,” the judge said. “That’s clearly what he wants.”
Reffitt’s attorney Clinton Broden acknowledged that his client sometimes led the crowd on the western front of the Capitol. However, the defense attorney argued that the angry mob was determined to storm the building whether Reffitt waved them off or not.
“Those people would have come up the stairs regardless of Mr. Reffitt and I think we all know that,” Broden said.