By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An operative with the far-right Three Percenters militia was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in prison after joining a gang of supporters of former President Donald Trump to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. and later threatened to harm his own children if they informed the FBI about him.
Guy Reffitt, of Wylie, Texas, was convicted by a jury in March of five charges, including bringing a gun into the Capitol grounds and obstructing official proceedings.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich has handed down a seven-year, three-month prison sentence — the longest yet for anyone involved in the riots. She also banned Reffitt from interacting with militias and ordered him to undergo mental health treatment.
Earlier on Monday, the judge said she was troubled by Reffitt’s actions and comments that suggested he wanted to overthrow Congress, calling his statements “terrifying claims bordering on delusional.”
“In democracy, we respect a peaceful transfer of power,” she said. “The election was challenged in multiple courts across the country, and judge after judge said these claims are unfounded.”
Friedrich declined to apply a domestic terrorism increase to her sentence — the first requested in a Jan. 6 case — though the chief prosecutor and a former Capitol police officer who made a victim statement both said they believed Reffitt was a terrorist. had committed that day.
Reffitt “was intended to harm members of Congress,” former Capitol police officer Shauni Kerkhoff told the court, adding that she “watched in horror as he encouraged the angry mob to push past.”
Reffitt, 49 at the time of his sentencing, never entered the Capitol, but video footage showed him crowding the crowd and leading other rioters up stairs outside the building.
His trial included testimony from his estranged son Jackson, who brought his father to tears when he told the jury that his father threatened him if he dared call the FBI.
“He said, ‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and traitors will be shot,'” Jackson Reffitt told the jurors.
At his sentencing, prosecutors introduced evidence showing that Reffitt intended to commit further violence. In a text exchange, he told other militia members, “We have taken the capital of the United States of America and we will do it again.”
His daughter, Peyton, addressed the court as she burst into tears when she told the judge: “As I know my father, he poses no threat to my family”, adding that his mental health is “a real problem”.
Jackson Reffitt also wrote a letter that was read in court. “I hope my father will use all the safety nets” available in the prison, including mental health services, he added.
Prior to announcing the sentence, Reffitt said in 2020 that he was “a little too crazy” and openly apologized to police and his family.
“I don’t want anything to do with this stuff anymore. I don’t want anything to do with militias… I’m so sorry,” he said.
Reffitt was the first Capitol rioter to appear in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
To date, federal prosecutors have won convictions in all but one of the 13 trials related to the Capitol attack.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Scott Malone, Mark Porter and Bill Berkrot)