WASHINGTON — Guy Reffitt came to D.C. on Jan. 6 armed, dressed for “battle” and aiming for two targets – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – a federal prosecutor told jurors Wednesday morning.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler kicked off the government’s first trial against a Capitol riot defendant with a 30-minute opening statement laying out a timeline of Reffitt’s alleged actions leading up to, during and after Jan. 6.
Nestler told jurors the 49-year-old Three Percenter from Wylie, Texas, drove the 1,000 miles to D.C. with another militia member instead of flying because they wanted to have their firearms with them. Once in D.C., Nestler said, Reffitt was committed to being the tip of the spear in the assault on the Capitol.
“A mob needs a leader, and this man, Guy Wesley Reffitt, of Wylie, Texas, drove all the way to D.C. to step up and fulfill that role,” Nestler said.
Nestler also gave a preview of the evidence jurors will see during the trial. That evidence includes four less-than-lethal weapons used by U.S. Capitol Police officers to repel him and other members of the mob and recordings captured by Reffitt’s own helmet-mounted camera during the riot.
The defendant said, “We’re taking the Capitol before the day is over. Ripping them out by their hair. Every f***ing one of them,” Nestler told them. “Dragging them out kicking and f***ing screaming. I just want to see Pelosi’s head hitting every step on the way out. And Mitch f***ing McConnell too.”
At the Ellipse prior to the riot, Nestler, said, Reffitt told others around him, “I’m packing heat, and I’m going to get more heat.”
Jurors will also hear recordings captured by Reffitt’s son, Jackson, of him allegedly bragging about his actions at the Capitol, and will see a recording of a Zoom video meeting Reffitt called with other Texas Three Percenters in which he allegedly told them “The sh*t has hit the fan” and advised them to purge their communications.
Nestler was given 30 minutes to make his opening statements, and used the better part of it. Reffitt’s attorney, William Welch, was done in about three.
In brief remarks, Welch said the evidence will show Reffitt never assaulted anyone and did not try to disarm officers. He also denied Reffitt was armed on Jan. 6, and called the case against him “a rush to judgment.”
“Guy Reffitt did not enter the Capitol,” Welch said. “Guy Reffitt does brag. He uses a lot of hyperbole and that upsets people.”
Lighting the Match
Most of the first day of testimony was dedicated to former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Shauni Kerkhoff, who was one of three officers who repelled Reffitt from the steps leading to the Senate Wing.
Kerkhoff walked jurors through footage from multiple angles showing Reffitt, bullhorn in hand, at the front of a mob that continued inching toward police. Kerkhoff said she was eventually forced to fire 40-50 pepper balls at Reffitt after he ignored her commands to leave – but that they had little effect because he appeared to be “padded up.”
Another officer, Sgt. Adam DesCamp, could be seen in the video escalating the efforts to push Reffitt back with an FN-303 Projectile Launcher – a type of less-than-lethal weapon. It took a third officer, Sgt. Matt Flood, who deployed a large, 46-ounce canister of O.C. spray to finally stop Reffitt from advancing. DesCamp and Flood will both be called as witnesses later in the trial.
Though jurors remained attentive throughout the day, they seemed particularly interested in footage entered during Kerkhoff's testimony showing Reffitt motioning the crowd to continue advancing on police — even as he had to stop and clear his eyes from the O.C. spray. Jurors also took note of the size of the 46-ounce canister of spray used against him, which was displayed by another officer during testimony.
Upon cross-examination, Reffitt’s attorney asked Kerkhoff if she ever saw Reffitt anywhere else inside or on the Capitol grounds after their initial encounter. She said no. He also asked about a statement she wrote up about her experiences on Jan. 6 in which she did not mention Reffitt. On redirect, Kerkhoff told Nestler the statement had been written for a supervisor as part of an awards submission, and not as part of a criminal case or to describe the actions of a single individual.
Reffitt sat quietly throughout the day and took pages of notes during Kerkhoff’s testimony. At one point, when Nestler asked Kerkhoff if she could point and identify the man jurors saw in the video, he lowered his mask to show his face. Reffitt’s wife Nicole watched from the back of the courtroom in one of a small number of seats reserved for the public.
The day ended with partial testimony from USCP Inspector Monique Moore, who was in charge of the department’s command center on Jan. 6. Moore became emotional when she started talking about what she saw and heard that day.
“It was hard to hear the officers screaming on the radio,” she said. “Screaming for help.”
Reffitt’s trial was set to resume Thursday morning with more testimony from Moore.
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