- Guy Reffitt and his teenage daughter, Peyton, addressed the court at his sentencing Monday.
- Prosecutors fell short arguing that Reffitt’s conduct should be considered domestic terrorism.
- The Justice Department had recommended that Reffitt receive a 15-year prison term.
Guy Reffitt, the first Capitol rioter found guilty at trial, was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in prison — the longest term behind bars ordered to date in a case stemming from the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Judge Dabney Friedrich handed down the sentence five months after a jury convicted Reffitt on all five charges he faced following the Capitol siege, including obstruction of an official proceeding and threatening his own children to prevent them from reporting him to law enforcement. The sentence punctuated an unusually long hearing that stretched on for nearly six hours, with prosecutors and Friedrich highlighting Reffitt’s apparent lack of contrition and statements in which he described himself as a “martyr” and “patriot.”
“In a democracy, the answer to those frustrations is not rebellion, and it’s really disturbing that he repeatedly persists with these views that are way outside the mainstream. These are just-flat — his claims are wrong,” Friedrich said.
“What he and others who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 did is the antithesis of patriotism,” she added. “The officers at the Capitol were patriots. …Those are the patriots. Those who stormed the Capitol are not. Not only are they not patriots, they are a direct threat to our democracy and will be punished as such.”
Reffit initially declined to address Friedrich, but he reversed course after a lunch break to express remorse for his role in the violence of January 6.
“I do think everyone deserves to hear my apology,” Reffitt said. “It’s very clear I have an issue with just rambling and saying stupid shit.”
Ahead of Monday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors recommended that Reffitt receive a 15-year sentence, a prison term tripling the longest ones ordered to date out of the more than 800 prosecutions connected to the Capitol attack. Two other Capitol rioters — Mark Ponder and Robert Palmer — previously received sentences of more than five years in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting police on January 6.
In Reffitt’s case, prosecutors urged Friedrich to classify Reffitt’s conduct as domestic terrorism and apply more severe sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors stressed that Reffitt brought police-style flexicuffs and a firearm to the Capitol, where he “sought not just to stop Congress, but also to physically attack, remove, and replace the legislators who were serving in Congress.
“He was planning to overtake our government. He wasn’t just trying to stop the certification,” said prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler. “He wasn’t done. January 6 was just a preface.”
“Mr. Reffitt,” he added, “is in a class all by himself.”
But Friedrich declined to apply the terrorism enhancement Monday, saying it would cause an “unwarranted sentencing disparity” with other cases involving attacks on police and threats of violence on January 6.
At his trial in March, prosecutors showed video footage of Reffitt wearing tactical gear as he ascended a stairway outside the Capitol, with a pro-Trump mob trailing behind him. Prosecutors described Reffitt, a onetime member of the far-right Three Percenters group, as the “tip of this mob’s spear” and painted him as a pivotal on-the-ground leader who “lit the fire” on January 6.
“Mr. Reffitt was intending to violently overthrow Congress, and physically drag members of Congress out of the Capitol,” Nestler said Monday.
Reffitt’s trial featured dramatic testimony from his teenage son, Jackson Reffitt, who recounted reporting his father to law enforcement on Christmas Eve in 2020 after growing alarmed about his incendiary rhetoric and plans to do “something big.” Jackson Reffitt also testified that he secretly recorded his father after January 6 as he exuberantly recounted his confrontation with the police on the stairs leading up to the Capitol.
But Guy Reffitt grew distressed as federal agents began to track down and arrest alleged participants in the January 6 attack, his son said in court. In a key portion of his testimony, Jackson Reffitt detailed a conversation in which his father told him and his younger sister that they would be traitors if they turned him into law enforcement — and that “traitors get shot.”
On Monday, prosecutor Risa Berkower read a letter aloud in court from Jackson Reffitt, in which he expressed hope that his father would be able to “use all the safety nets” available in the federal prison system, including mental health care. Prison, he wrote, should not be used to “destroy a person but to rehabilitate someone.”
Reffitt’s teenage daughter Peyton Reffitt later told Friedrich that her father’s mental health has “always been a real issue.” In emotional remarks, she appeared to place the blame for the violence of January 6 on former President Donald Trump.
“My father’s name wasn’t on the flags that everyone was carrying that day,” she said. “It was another man’s name.”
Referring to her father, Peyton Reffitt said, “He wasn’t the leader.”
As she issued her sentence Monday, Friedrich described Reffitt as a “talented, intelligent man who has a great deal to offer your family and the country.”
“And, yes, your family suffered emotionally and financially because of the bad choices you’ve made. But you still have the opportunity to make them proud make your country proud,” Friedrich told Reffitt, who appeared in court Monday wearing eyeglass, a white mask, and an orange prison jumpsuit.
“You can speak to those who have held the views that you have held — I hope in the past — in a way that other people can’t,” she added. “And you can actually play a role, you can be a real leader — not the kind of leadership you demonstrated or tried to demonstrate on January 6, but a real leader in trying to turn things around and become part of the solution in this county .”