WASHINGTON — A Donald Trump fan from Texas who tried to storm the U.S. Capitol while armed with a gun was sentenced to more than 7 years in prison on Monday after a judge denied the Justice Department’s request for a “terrorism enhancement” that would have resulted in a lengthier prison sentence.
Guy Reffitt was the first Jan. 6 defendant to go to trial. Reffitt’s own son actually tipped off the FBI a couple of weeks before Jan. 6 but didn’t hear back until after the attack. The government had an enormous amount of evidence against Reffitt, including his friend’s testimony that Reffitt was carrying zip ties and that the duo had made a decision to carry guns because they’d rather be “tried by a jury of 12 than carried by six.”
Reffitt was convicted on five counts in March, including transport of a firearm in support of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding, although he did not make it inside the Capitol or use physical violence because he was eventually incapacitated after charging the police line.
Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, sentenced Reffitt to 87 months in prison, three years of probation, $2,000 in restitution, and mandatory mental health treatment.
“Under no legitimate definition of the term patriot does Mr. Reffitt’s behavior on and around January 6 fit the term,” Friedrich said.
What Reffitt and others did that day was the “antithesis” of patriotism, Friedrich said.
In court Monday, Reffitt described himself as “a f—ing idiot” and was “not thinking clearly” when he tried to storm the U.S. Capitol.
“I clearly f—ed up,” Reffitt said.
“I did want to definitely make an apology, multiple apologies really, and accept my responsibility because I do hate what I did,” he said.
Reffitt, who was a member of the Texas III%ers, told the judge that he no longer want to associate with militia groups or “or any stupid s— like that.”
Friedrich, a Trump appointee and a former member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, said that giving Reffitt a sentencing enhancement for carrying a gun during the commission of a crime and for committing a crime of domestic terrorism would create a sentencing disparity with other Jan. 6 defendants.
“There are a lot of cases where defendants committed very violent assaults and even possessed weapons … that did not receive this departure,” Freidrich said.
Prosecutors had argued that the upward departure for terrorism was warranted because Reffitt was “planning to overtake our government.”
“He wasn’t done,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said. “Jan. 6 was the preface.”
“We do believe that what he was doing that day was terrorism, we do believe he is a domestic terrorist,” Nestler continued.
Reffitt wore a camera on his body that recorded his violent rhetoric during the Trump rally that preceded the riot.
“I’m taking the Capitol with everybody f—ing else,” Guy Reffitt said in his own recording, as “Tiny Dancer” played at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally. “We’re all going to drag them motherf—ers out kicking and screaming, I don’t give a s—. I just want to see Pelosi’s head hit every f—ing stair on the way out, and Mitch McConnell too, f— ‘em all… It’s time to take our country back… I think we have the numbers to make it happen.”
He also recorded a Zoom meeting on his computer where he talked extensively about his actions on Jan. 6.
Nestler had argued Monday that Reffitt “is in a class all by himself,” but Freidrich said she was “not so sure I agree with the government on that” given how many other Jan. 6 defendants said similar things.
“This defendant has some frightening claims that border on delusional, and they are extraordinarily concerning for the court,” Freidrich said. “But other defendants did too. That’s the point I’m trying to make.”
Under Friedrich’s rulings, without the sentencing enhancements, Reffitt’s sentence guidelines were 87 to 108 months in federal prison.
Prosecutors argued during his trial in March that Reffitt “lit the match“ on the west side of the Capitol on Jan. 6, leading the mob up towards the Capitol building where rioters broke in.
“He was ecstatic about what he did, about what the mob did,” a federal prosecutor told jurors. “Back home in Texas, he thought he has gotten away with it.”
Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said Monday’s sentence held Reffitt accountable for “his violent, unconscionable conduct” and said Reffitt’s behavior “contributed to the many assaults on law enforcement officers that day, putting countless more people — including legislators — at risk.”
Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said Reffitt showed “wanton disregard” for the peaceful transition of power.
“The FBI and our law enforcement partners continue to be steadfast in our commitment to ensure that all individuals who committed crimes on Jan. 6 are held to account for their actions,” D’Antuono said.
In court on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower read a brief letter from Reffitt’s son Jackson Reffitt, who testified against his father. He wanted mental health treatment to be part of his father’s sentence.
“My father has lost himself to countless things,” Jackson Reffitt wrote. “The prison system should be used not to destroy a person, but to rehabilitate one.”
Former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Shauni Kerkhoff also delivered a victim impact statement, asking for the maximum sentence for Reffitt because of his lack of remorse, his pride in his actions and the turmoil he caused.
“His actions weren’t acts of patriotism, they were acts of domestic terrorism,” Kerkhoff said.
Peyton Reffitt, one of Guy Reffitt’s daughters, said her father was not a threat and that his mental health was “a real issue.” She had a hard time making it through some of her statement because she was overcome with emotion, and her father was visibly crying.
Reffitt’s daughter had previously written a letter to the judge that it was “enormously embarrassing” that her father — like a lot of “middle-aged white men” — was sucked in by Trump and that her dad “fell to his knees when President Trump spoke.”
“President Trump deceived my father and many other normal citizens with families to believe that this past election was fraudulent,” the 18-year-old wrote in her letter.
She argued Monday that her father did not play a leadership role on Jan. 6.
“My father’s name wasn’t on all the flags that were there that day, that everyone was carrying,” she said in court. “It was another man’s name.”