WASHINGTON — As they were driving to D.C., Rocky Hardie told a jury Friday, he and fellow Texas Three Percenter Guy Reffitt asked themselves: “How far do you let things go before you take action to protect your country?”
Hardie was called to testify against Reffitt on Friday under an agreement with the Justice Department for his testimony. Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower said the deal does not preclude the possibility of him being prosecuted for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Hardie said he joined the Texas Three Percenters after watching YouTube videos about the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. He told jurors he asked them when he joined if they were racist or white nationalist and they said no, that they were about respecting the Constitution and “the government, as long as it upholds the Constitution.” It was through the militia group and its Telegram chat that Hardie, the militia’s communications officer, met Reffitt, its intelligence officer.
“A lot of people in life, they talk but don’t do,” Hardie said. “He seemed like a person who would do.”
MORE GUY REFFITT TRIAL COVERAGE
Hardie wound up joining Reffitt for the 20-plus hour drive from Texas to D.C. for Jan. 6. They talked about how “the country was pretty much going down the tubes” and how they thought House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “pretty much evil incarnate.” The men each brought body armor, an AR-15 and a handgun – even though they knew it was illegal to carry the firearms in D.C.
“Better to be tried by 12 than carried by six,” Hardie said they told each other.
Reffitt showed no reaction during Hardie’s testimony, but took copious notes. Hardie, in glasses and thinning hair, told jurors Reffitt had an idea about what he wanted to do in D.C.
“We talked about the need for corrupt people to be removed and replaced by people who were not corrupt,” Hardie said, adding Reffitt told him legislators “need to be dragged out and replaced by people who are patriotic to the country.”
Importantly for the government’s case, Hardie said Reffitt was wearing a handgun in a holster on his hip when they went to the rally on Jan. 6. He said Reffitt helped duct tape an armored plate to his chest and handed him zip ties before they left. The zip ties, Reffitt told him, were in case they needed to “detain” someone.
Hardie’s testimony reinforced much of what jurors heard in the first two days of the trial. He said Reffitt talked repeatedly about wanting to go inside the Capitol and remove legislators – in particular Pelosi – and that he was “proud” of what he’d done. Reffitt told him about his encounter with U.S. Capitol Police Officer Shauni Kerkhoff, who testified on Wednesday, and said he would have gone further if she and two other officers hadn’t managed to repel him with multiple rounds of pepperballs and O.C. spray.
“He said, ‘I wanted to go on, but it was up to other people,’” Hardie said.
Hardie also confirmed he received a message shown to jurors earlier from Reffitt encouraging other Three Percenters to “purge all communications” after the riot.
With the exception of Hardie’s observations while with Reffitt in D.C. on Jan. 6, much of his testimony served to reinforce other evidence jurors had already seen. During cross-examination, defense attorney William Welch attempted to suggest his motives for doing so were self-serving.
Welch asked Hardie if he was himself under investigation when he agreed in May to give speak to the FBI on condition his testimony wouldn’t be used against him. And he pointed out that, on Friday, Hardie had testified in court to, at the very least, unlawfully carrying a handgun in D.C. and entering a restricted area of Capitol grounds with that gun.
“You have not been charged for your conduct on Jan. 6, is that correct?” Welch asked.
“That’s correct,” Hardie said.
Welch also asked Hardie if Reffitt – as he said in his opening statement Wednesday – was prone to bragging and hyperbole?
“You would agree things he says are embellished?” Welch asked. “You would agree things are dramatized?”
“Yes,” Hardie said.
The government’s case against Reffitt was expected to rest Monday. Remaining to testify were the FBI agents who handled his case, two more U.S. Capitol Police officers who encountered him on Jan. 6 and Peyton Reffitt, his younger daughter. Reffitt’s son Jackson told jurors on Thursday his father had threatened to shoot him and his sister if they turned him in after the riot.
Welch told U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich he didn't plan on calling any witnesses on Reffitt's behalf. Jurors were expected to get the case for deliberations by Tuesday afternoon.
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