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First January 6 trial heads to jury deliberations in litmus test for DOJ’s Capitol riot prosecutions

By Hannah Rabinowitz and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) – Prosecutors doubled down on their portrayal of the legislator-hating, gun-toting, right-wing extremist Guy Reffitt as the person who showed rioters outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, how to push back against a police line.

On Tuesday morning, the Washington jurors will begin to discuss whether they believe the prosecution’s theory that Reffitt, on the steps of the Capitol, catalyzed the riot’s push into the Senate, causing the disruption of Congress, or whether they side with his defense lawyer’s attempt to disconnect Reffitt from the crowd’s more violent actions.

The case, the first for a January 6 defendant to go to trial, will mark a pivotal moment in the Justice Department’s historic investigation. Over six days, the Reffitt trial has surfaced painful memories from Capitol Police officers who responded to the attack and now are testifying; multiple angles of video of the riot from surveillance tapes and rioters’ own cameras; a civics lesson on Electoral College certification; a window into the right-wing group the Texas Three Percenters through one witness’s testimony and footage of a group videoconference; and the text-message dynamics of Reffitt’s family, in which his son grew alarmed with his political extremism and sent information to the FBI.

In their closing statements to the jury on Monday, prosecutors assembled images of the riot showing Reffitt in a blue jacket, standing on the massive exterior banister of the Capitol steps to its Upper West Terrace, far in front of the rest of the crowd. They then played video from multiple angles that captured Reffitt being hit with chemical irritants that forced him to sit and rub his eyes as he waved the mob toward the Senate. The prosecutors cut in images of then-Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the Senate.

“He was ecstatic. About what he did. About what the mob did,” prosecutor Risa Berkower said during her closing arguments before pointing to Reffitt sitting behind her.

Reffitt, she noted, had said of January 6 that he would rather be “tried by a jury of 12 than carried by six (pallbearers).”

“He was itching to be judged by you, the jury of 12. And now we’re here,” Berkower told the jury.

Prosecutors also returned to a video of Reffitt bragging, moment by moment, about a standoff with police to the Texas Three Percenters. He referred to a female police officer who fired a pepper ball at him as a “chick,” then described himself climbing onto the stairs as another police officer with a chemical irritant came “around the corner.”
Both police officers testified against him. They noted in court in recent days how Reffitt had been the first person they responded to before more rioters overwhelmed them.

“We took the United States Capitol,” Reffitt had texted friends and family, prosecutors said.

The Justice Department is arguing that Reffitt should be found guilty of five counts — wanting to obstruct the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election, transporting guns into DC, carrying a Smith & Wesson handgun onto the restricted grounds of the Capitol, interfering with Capitol Police protecting the Upper West Terrace and obstructing justice by threatening his son and daughter when he returned to Texas.

His son, Jackson Reffitt, had turned him in to the FBI and testified at the trial about how his father had said “traitors get shot” and told his daughter he would put a bullet through her phone. His younger daughter did not testify. On Monday, she sat in the courtroom — at times receiving blown kisses, smiles and an eyebrow raise from her father when her name was mentioned in court.

Defense lawyer Bill Welch argued to the jury that Reffitt was guilty of one lesser crime — trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds — but not of the other charges. He argued that witnesses like Jackson Reffitt, a member of the Three Percenters with whom Guy Reffitt had traveled to DC and even the FBI’s evidence-gathering and photo enhancement techniques couldn’t be trusted.

Earlier in the day, Welch had methodically questioned two Capitol Police officers about actions Reffitt hadn’t done, such as thrown things at police or entered the building, forcing the officers to answer “no” more than two dozen times. While Reffitt may have been one of the first to encounter the police line at the building, his lawyer argued, he was not the most violent or aggressive.

Reffitt’s own words over text or to his friends and family were more hyperbole than admissions, Welch claimed.
“Yes, Guy Reffitt brags,” a prosecutor countered before the jury left for the day. “And you know what he brags about? The truth.”


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