Breaking News
More () »

DOJ seeks terrorism enhancement, 15 years in prison for Guy Reffitt

Prosecutors argue the first Capitol riot defendant to be convicted at trial should serve more than a decade behind bars for leading the mob on Jan. 6.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Friday that Guy Reffitt, the Texas Three Percenter who became the first Capitol riot defendant to go to trial, deserves a terrorism enhancement and 15 years in prison for instigating the mob that first breached the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6.

Reffitt was convicted by a jury in March of five felony counts in connection with the riot. Over four days of testimony, prosecutors showed how Reffitt – wearing body armor and carrying a handgun concealed under a large coat – made himself the leader of a group of rioters who eventually overwhelmed police and made the first breach of the Capitol. Reffitt himself was overcome by the multiple rounds of less-than-lethal munitions used against him and did not enter the building.

Reffitt, who has retained new counsel and is expected to appeal his conviction, is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 1. On Friday, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich to end that hearing by ordering Reffitt to serve the longest sentence in any Jan. 6 case to date: 15 years in prison.

According to the government’s sentencing memo, a pretrial report estimated Reffitt’s recommended sentencing guideline at 9 to 11.25 years. Prosecutors argue the range should be even higher, 11.25 to 14 years, and that Reffitt’s conduct warrants an even further upward departure.

An amendment included in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 allowed anyone convicted of a federal crime of terrorism, not just “international” terrorism, to receive an upward departure in their sentence. And though Reffitt was not convicted of a crime of terrorism, prosecutors say the sentencing guidelines allow for the upward departure in cases like his.

“Where, as here, a defendant’s conviction was not for, or was not ‘intended to promote,’ an enumerated ‘federal crime of terrorism,’ an upward departure is warranted… if ‘the offense was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct,’” assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Nestler wrote.

Although prosecutors have argued other defendants committed crimes of terrorism in memos requesting them to be held in pretrial detention – most notably Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, who prosecutors was the first rioter to smash a window at the Capitol – Reffitt is the first defendant where the DOJ has sought a terrorism enhancement at sentencing. The longest sentence handed down in a Jan. 6 case to date was given to Robert Palmer, who was sentenced to 63 months in prison for throwing a fire extinguisher and wooden plank at police.

In his memo, Nestler argued Reffitt deserved a sentence nearly three times Palmer’s.

“The evidence at trial showed that Reffitt extensively planned for weeks ahead of January 6 to come to the District of Columbia with the specific intent of attacking the Capitol and taking over Congress,” Nestler wrote. “He recruited Rocky Hardie to join him in December 2020, discussed with Hardie the need to bring multiple firearms, made travel arrangements for the two of them, and outfitted himself with weapons, body armor, and zip ties. This level of planning is consistent with application of the terrorism enhancement.”

Nestler said other conduct by Reffitt also warranted a lengthy sentence, including an illegal silencer found in his home which he initially told FBI agents was a “fuel filter” and two instances in which Reffitt allegedly held a loaded gun to his wife’s head.

Sign up for the Capitol Breach Newsletter. Don't miss an update about arrests, charges or investigations into the assault on the Capitol.

Reffitt was represented at trial by Maryland-based attorney William Welch, but dropped Welch following his conviction. Reffitt is now represented by attorney F. Clinton Broden, who’s based out of his home state of Texas.

In his own memo Friday, Broden argued for a significantly lower sentence of 24 months. By Aug. 1, Reffitt will have already served approximately 19 months in jail – time for which he will receive day-for-day credit.

Broden argues Reffitt should be distinguished from other rioters who received lengthy sentences because he never entered the Capitol, never assaulted police and never removed the handgun from his holster (Reffitt never conceded at trial that he was, in fact, carrying a handgun on Jan. 6). Broden also downplayed the testimony of Guy Reffitt’s son, Jackson, who took the witness stand and told jurors his father had threatened to shoot him and his younger sister, Peyton.

“While Mr. Reffitt’s paranoid statements to two of his children are not to be condoned, he never gave any indication he would actually harm his children” Broden wrote. “Indeed, his wife has stated that, while she was understandably ‘disturbed’ by her husband’s ‘extreme’ statements to his children, she did not believe that he would ever act on those statements.”

Broden’s memo was accompanied by multiple letters to Friedrich, including letters from his wife and both daughters. In hers, Reffitt’s wife, Jodi Nicole Reffitt, said she and her children “need Guy home to fully heal.”

Peyton, who was initially set to be called by the government as a witness, wrote a lengthy letter to Friedrich describing her father as “a beam of light to all of us” and saying she never felt unsafe when her father said he would “put a bullet” through her phone.

“I never felt threatened, my father doesn’t threaten me,” she wrote. “I rather get annoyed about his dramatic way of speech that often uses outdated references and recitations.”

Reffitt himself wrote a letter included in Broden’s submission. In it, he described the impact his arrest has had on his family, saying he, his wife and daughters have all had to receive mental health treatment because of the fear and stress. His former career as an oilfield worker is gone, he wrote, and his plans to start a security company are as well.

“I simply ask for a chance to prove myself again,” Reffitt’s letter ends.

We're tracking all of the arrests, charges and investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Sign up for our Capitol Breach Newsletter here so that you never miss an update.

Before You Leave, Check This Out