Texas militia member gets most serious Jan. 6 sentence yet: Just over 7 years

This page was created programmatically, to read the article in its original location you can go to the link bellow:
https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/01/jan-6-terrorism-sentencing-penalty-00048922
and if you want to remove this article from our site please contact us


It was federal prosecutors’ first request to draw tougher punishment for a Jan. 6 defendant by classifying his actions as domestic terrorism, but the judge concluded that it was not appropriate to apply the more severe sentencing guidelines permitted under federal law in terrorism-related cases.

Friedrich, an appointee of President Donald Trump, said that applying the sentencing enhancement to Reffitt would create an “unwarranted sentencing disparity” with other cases involving similar threats or conduct related to the Capitol riot.

“There are a lot of cases where defendants possessed weapons or committed very violent assaults,” Friedrich noted, highlighting that the most severe sentences handed down in Jan. 6 cases thus far were a little more than five years while prosecutors asked for a 15-year sentence against Reffitt. “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.”

Ultimately, Friedrich found that Reffitt’s case was more like the more serious Jan. 6 cases already sentenced than unlike them.

“I do think there are in many respects analogous cases that have been sentenced … in this district related to the Jan. 6 events themselves,” she said.

Friedrich made clear, though, that she considered his plans dangerous, and she rejected as “absurd” his rationale for them as a means of throwing off government oppression akin to that facing American colonists in the 18th century.

“These are frightening claims that border on delusional. … In a democracy the answer to those frustrations is not rebellion, and it’s really disturbing that he repeatedly persists with these views that are way outside the mainstream. These are just-flat — his claims are wrong,” she said. “What he and others who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 did is the antithesis of patriotism. … The officers at the Capitol were patriots. …Those are the patriots. Those who stormed the Capitol are not. Not only are they not patriots, they are a direct threat to our democracy and will be punished as such.”

Either side could appeal the sentence that was handed down on Monday.

Evidence and testimony at the trial for Reffitt earlier this year showed that the member of the Texas Three Percenters militia drove to Washington with an acquaintance the day before the riot, bringing two AR-15 rifles and a pistol along with him. The jury found that he had the pistol on his hip as he engaged in a tense standoff with police at the West Front of the Capitol. Reffitt was pelted with less-lethal weapons and tear gas as he tried to advance up the steps, waving the crowd forward, but he never entered the building himself.

After initially passing up his chance to address the court during a sentencing hearing that spanned six hours, Reffitt came to the lectern on Monday afternoon, seeking to rebut Friedrich’s stated concern that while he was in jail over the past year and a half he was still spouting rhetoric about a tyrannical government.

In retrospect, it was unclear whether Reffitt’s decision to address the court was a wise one. While the former oil field worker sought to be conciliatory, his remarks were disjointed and peppered with at least nine profanities.

“I did want to definitely make an apology, multiple apologies and accept my responsibility. … 2020 was a little too crazy. I was a little too stupid and I was not thinking clearly,” Reffitt said. “I want to apologize to my family, to the court, to legislators and their staff — everyone who was affected by my actions.”

“I don’t want to have anything to do with any groups, militia like, any kind of stupid shit like that,” the defendant added. “I’ll be lucky with my mouth if I get into a church group after this. … My mouth is biggest enemy. My enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Reffitt said that some inflammatory statements he made from jail were intended to raise money for his family.

“They’d be on the street if I didn’t say something that would garner money for them,” he added. “It was all hyperbole. It was never really meant to be serious.”

Friedrich sounded deeply skeptical about Reffitt’s suddenly wide-ranging apology, noting that a written statement he submitted before the sentencing hearing contained a much narrower apology and failed to disavow the anti-government rhetoric he openly espoused for years.

In theory, Reffitt could have received up to 60 years in prison on all the charges, but defendants are typically sentenced under federal guidelines to terms well below the maximum.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said Reffitt’s discussions before and after Jan. 6 made clear he was intent on carrying out his repeated threats to drag Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from the Capitol building by force. In discussions caught on video, Reffitt was recorded referring to his desire to listen to the lawmaker’s heads bouncing down the Capitol steps.

“He was planning to overtake our government. He wasn’t just trying to stop the certification,” Nestler said. “He wasn’t done. Jan. 6 was just a preface. … Mr Reffitt is in a class all by himself.”

However, Friedrich said prosecutors had urged much shorter sentences in cases involving people who were directly involved in actual violence against police.

“You’re making recommendations that are way different than you’re making in this case — way different,” the judge said.

Friedrich also said she worried that Reffitt not be unduly punished for deciding to go to trial, rather than enter into a plea bargain with prosecutors.

“His decision to exercise his constitutional right to go to trial should not result in a dramatically different sentence,” she said.

Nestler also noted that Reffitt was convicted of having a handgun on his hip while on the Capitol grounds, which Friedrich conceded was an important distinction from the other cases to reach sentencing thus far.

“Huge, huge … and does the firearm deserve three times the sentence if it was not brandished or used in any way?” the judge asked. She later called Reffitt’s decision to take what he said was a loaded handgun to the Capitol grounds “by far the most aggravating factor” in what he did.

Another unusual aspect of Reffitt’s case is that he was convicted of threatening to injure his two children if they discussed his actions on Jan. 6 with authorities. One of those children, Peyton Reffitt, spoke briefly during Monday’s hearing to urge leniency for her father. She suggested that Trump was more responsible for the events that day than her father was.

“My father’s name was not on all the flags that were there that day, that everyone was carrying that day,” Peyton Reffitt said. “He was not the leader.”

Several times during Monday’s hearing, Friedrich suggested that she thought Guy Reffitt suffered from delusions of grandeur and that his decision to go to trial earlier this year was part of his effort to posture as a leader of those fighting the certification of the election.

“He wants to be the big guy — the first to try to storm the Capitol, the first to go to trial,” the judge said. “Clearly, that’s what he wants.”

Reffitt’s lawyer Clinton Broden acknowledged that, at times, his client was at the forefront of the crowd on the West Front of the Capitol. However, the defense attorney argued that the angry crowd was determined to surge towards the building whether Reffitt waved them on or not.

“Those people would have come up the stairs regardless of Mr. Reffitt and I think we all know that,” said Broden, who had urged a sentence of no more than two years in prison.

Broden also warned that applying the terrorism enhancement in Reffitt’s case could lead to its being applied in other cases emanating from protests.

“We’re not just talking about Jan. 6 cases,” he said. “We’re talking about a lot of activities around this country. … This is the only case the only case where the government has asked for terrorism enhancement. It could affect any rioting case throughout the U.S. It could affect anybody who engages in a sit-in in some sort of congressional committee.”

The Justice Department initially sought the terrorism enhancement against two lawyers who pleaded guilty to the firebombing of an empty New York police van during racial justice protests in May 2020, potentially exposing them to up to 10 years in prison. However, earlier this year, prosecutors reversed course, agreeing to let the pair plead to a lesser charge and promising not to recommend more than two years in prison.


This page was created programmatically, to read the article in its original location you can go to the link bellow:
https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/01/jan-6-terrorism-sentencing-penalty-00048922
and if you want to remove this article from our site please contact us

Josh Gerstein

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

two × 2 =