A Texas man was sentenced today to 87 months in prison for his role in the attempted coup d’etat at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, while a Tennessee man and an Ohio woman each pleaded guilty to felony charges in connection with the insurrection aimed at keeping President Donald Trump in power after he lost the election.
Guy Wesley Reffitt, 49, of Wylie, Texas, was the first to stand trial among the hundreds of defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the Capitol.
Reffitt was a recruiter for the Texas Three Percenters who was found guilty of coming armed to the riot, threatening his children, and leading the terrorist mob that broke in to the U.S. Capitol.
A jury found Reffitt guilty of five charges, including two counts of civil disorder, and one count each of carrying a firearm in a restricted building, obstruction of an official proceeding, and obstruction of justice after his teenage son turned him in to the FBI.
The jury found that Reffitt traveled to D.C. from his home in Wylie, Tex., with an AR-style rifle and semiautomatic .40-caliber handgun and repeatedly stated his intention to come armed with a handgun and plastic handcuffs to drag lawmakers out of the building.
After the riot, Reffitt warned his son and 16-year-old daughter that “if you turn me in, you’re a traitor, and traitors get shot,” his son testified at the trial.
Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Department of Justice had asked that Reffitt be sentenced to 15 years in prison — for the first time — asked a federal district court judge to apply a terrorism enhancement, which would effectively define under law that a rioter’s actions amounted to domestic terrorism.
The rioters’ actions disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to ascertain Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory in the electoral college.
Ronnie Presley, 43, of Bethpage, Tennessee, Presley was arrested in Nashville on March 5, 2021. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
The Tennessee man pleaded guilty Thursday, July 28, 2022 to a felony charge for his actions and he faces up to five years in prison and potential financial penalties.
Christine Priola, 50, of Willoughby, Ohio, pleaded guilty Tuesday, July 26, 2022 to a felony charge for which she faces up to 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties.
Priola was arrested in Ohio on Jan. 14, 2021. She is to be sentenced on Oct. 28, 2022.
“Guy Reffitt came to the Capitol on Jan. 6 armed and determined to instigate violence,” said Matthew M. Graves, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “In his own words, his goal was to take the Capitol ‘before the day is over.’ He and others contributed to the many assaults on law enforcement officers that day, putting countless more people – including legislators – at risk.”
Graves said the jury’s verdict and his sentence hold Reffitt “accountable for his violent, unconscionable conduct.”
The “sentence reflects the seriousness of the crimes committed by Mr. Reffitt, and underscores the wanton disregard he had for one of the pillars of our democracy—the peaceful transition of power,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners continue to be steadfast in our commitment to ensure that all individuals who committed crimes on January 6 are held to account for their actions.”
According to the government’s evidence, Reffitt was a member of the Texas Three Percenters, a militia organization.
He sent messages recruiting others in the group to join him in traveling to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.
Among other things, he told the group, “we will strike the match in D.C. on the 6th.” Another militia member joined Reffitt, and the two left Texas on Jan. 4 for a trip of more than 1,000 miles in Reffitt’s car. Both men brought along handguns and AR-style rifles.
On the morning of Jan. 6, both men went to a rally on the Ellipse before heading to the Capitol. They were wearing body armor and carrying handguns, flexi-cuffs, and radios for communication.
Reffitt also had a megaphone as well as a helmet with a camera mounted on the top for recording purposes. His mission, according to the evidence, was to stop Congress from acting.
He was specifically targeting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He told members of his militia group and those gathered around him at the Ellipse that he planned to physically drag Speaker Pelosi out of the Capitol Building by her ankles.
Reffitt repeatedly made statements recorded by his helmet camera while at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, including one in which he declared, “We’re taking the Capitol before the day is over.”
By approximately 1:50 p.m., Reffitt was at the front of a pack that charged U.S. Capitol Police officers at the terrace on the west side of the Capitol building. He climbed a banister, led the mob up staircases outside the Capitol building, and kept advancing on the officers holding the police line, even as he was struck repeatedly by the officers’ less than lethal projectiles and O.C. spray.
As he kept moving, Reffitt urged others to keep moving forward, too. He eventually made it up the stairs to outside the Senate wing of the Capitol, as others breached the building, but he did not personally go inside. While narrating a video he recorded that day, he stated, “I said I wasn’t leaving till I got in there. I didn’t make it in there. But I started the fire.”
Reffitt later boasted about his actions in conversations with his traveling companion as well as in messages and a meeting with other militia members.
On Jan. 9, 2021, for instance, he wrote, “We took the Capital of the United States of America and we will do it again.”
But his mood quickly changed. On Jan. 10, 2021, after learning that the Texas Three Percenters’ leader had been questioned by Texas law enforcement agents, Reffitt sent messages to several other group members, urging them to “Start purge of all previous conversations. NOW.”
Heeding his own advice, he deleted from his iPhone a Telegram message thread between himself and the militia leader in which he disclosed his plans to be armed while attacking the Capitol.
Reffitt also told his family what he had done and threatened his teenage children to prevent them from reporting him to law enforcement.
U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich condemned Reffitt’s conduct in handing down an 87-month sentence, saying in a nearly six-hour-long hearing that his views espousing political violence were “absurd,” “delusional” and “way outside of the mainstream.”
What Reffitt and others did at the Capitol “is the antithesis of patriotism,” Friedrich said, adding: “Not only are they not patriots, they are a direct threat to our democracy, and will be punished as such.”
Reffitt, who has proclaimed himself a “martyr” from prison, sought to legitimize efforts by himself and others to foment a rebellion against so-called government tyranny, “believing he was going to forcibly remove [state and federal] legislatures and install a new government that will be approved by judges and the Constitution,” the judge said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing. And to this day, he has not disavowed these comments,” said Friedrich, a 2017 Trump appointee.
In the 18 months since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 850 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including over 260 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or visit tips.fbi.gov.