When the first trial stemming from the Capitol attack opens on Monday, it will set the stage for prosecutors to do more than just bring details about how the defendant, Guy Wesley Reffitt, managed to enter the building with a pistol in his hip.
For the first time in the courtroom, they will present a broad portrait of the violent chaos that broke out that day and seek to convince the jury that the pro-Trump crowd with which Mr. participation has hit the heart of American democracy. interrupt the presidential transition.
The trial, which will take place in Federal District Court in Washington and begin Monday morning with the jury’s choice, may not be the flashiest or most significant of dozens of riots. in the Capitol is scheduled to go to trial this year.
But since it’s the first time it’s been to the courtroom, it will most likely resonate with followers and see it as some kind of evidence for the charges prosecutors have made against them. hundreds of defendants. (More than 200 people have pleaded guilty in cases related to the Capitol attack.)
At the heart of Mr. Reffitt’s case is the allegation that the defendant, an oil industry worker with ties to a Texas militia, obstructed the work of Congress. January 6, 2021when a joint session of the House and Senate met to certify the results of the 2020 election, prosecutors said he wore body armor and a helmet with a video camera attached, and placed himself himself at the “front of the pack” attacked the Capitol.
The charge of obstruction – one of five charges against him – has been used in place of other charges such as solicitation or insurrection during many Capitol riots to describe the disruption that occurs when crowds force legislators had to flee.
Passed in 2002 as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law that seeks to minimize corporate detriment, the obstruction clause was originally intended to prohibit activities such as shredding or forgery witnesses in congressional interrogations.
Several defense attorneys – among them Mr. Reffitt – have tried to dismiss the charge, arguing that prosecutors have taken it beyond its scope and are trying to criminalize conduct that is too similar to that of a criminal. objections are generally protected by the First Amendment.
But 10 federal judges – including Dabney L. Friedrich, who is overseeing Mr. Reffitt’s case – disagreed and allowed the allegation to be used. The Reffitt trial will be the first time a jury has decided whether the charge is relevant to the crime, although in an unusual move, Judge Friedrich has said she will evaluate before going to jury jury if the government cannot prove its case. .
In addition to such technical issues, the trial will offer an overview of violence at the Capitol.
For example, prosecutors have said they intend to prove their claim that “a civil disturbance” occurred that day by showing the jury “the evolution of the riot.” through the synthesis of video surveillance from both outside and inside the building. The jury is also expected to see parts of a 31-minute video Mr. Reffitt recorded during the riot, as well as a clip of Vice President Mike Pence sprinting down the stairs after the attackers. break into the building.
Three Capitol Police officers are prepared to testify about their direct efforts to prevent Mr. Reffitt – and others – from disrupting past security by firing tear gas and pepper spray into crowds. winter. According to prosecutors, one of those officers, Shauni Kerkhoff, will be the first witness at the trial.
Mr. Reffitt’s attorney, William L. Welch III, has not said much about the defense he intends to bring, but his client has publicly denied the allegation that he was involved in anything. properly at the Capitol. In a letter obtained by ProPublica last springReffitt wrote of the attack, “There was no uprising, no conspiracy, no malicious plan, and no reason to think otherwise.”
On Thursday, a message purportedly written by Mr. Reffitt was posted on the “J6 Patriot News” channel on Telegram, discussing the “beginning of the 1/6 Political Prisoner Trial”.
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“I am prepared to look down the barrel of tyranny to receive the bullet of freedom,” the message read.
The incident is one of several pieces of evidence about the US militia movement. Prosecutors said Reffitt was a member of the Texas Three Percenters, one of several state branches of a larger organization focused on gun rights and anti-government activism.
While the Three Percenters may not be as prominent as other far-right groups like the Proud Boys or the Oath-Keepers, several purported members of the movement have been accused of involvement in the Capitol attack, include at least four from Southern California.
To prove Mr. Reffitt’s militia ties, prosecutors will refer to the witness as a Three Percenter witness who plans to testify under an immunity agreement with the government. They say the witness – now known only by his initials RH – intends to tell the jury about deals he made with Mr. Reffitt to travel to Washington and firearms and combat equipment. techniques, including an assault rifle, which Mr. Reffitt was carrying. trip.
Two members of Mr Reffitt’s family – his son and daughter – are also expected to take a stand against him.
Prosecutors say the son, who was 18 at the time of the attack, would tell the jury that he and his sister, then 16, spoke to their father when he returned from Washington after the riot and that Mr. Reffitt had threatened to shoot them if they had come to the FBI about him.
In an earlier trial, the daughter testified that Mr. Reffitt threatened to put a bullet in her cell phone if she posted information about him on social media.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/27/us/politics/jan-6-trial-guy-wesley-reffitt.html The first trial on January 6 will open, allowing prosecutors to take the case widely