WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors on Monday rested their case against the first Capitol attack defendant to go to trial, telling jurors during closing arguments that Guy Reffitt of Texas was “ecstatic about what he did” when he tried to storm the Capitol while armed on Jan. 6.
Reffitt was the first Capitol attack defendant to take his case to trial out of hundreds of defendants who have been charged. Prosecutors, quoting Reffitt, argued that the Texas man “lit the match” at the Capitol during the attack, and relied upon testimony from Reffitt’s son (who tipped off the FBI about his father before the attack) and Reffitt’s friend (who brought a weapon to the Capitol and testified with immunity).
Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower, a federal prosecutor on Reffitt’s case, told jurors that Reffitt “wouldn’t stop” and “lit the fire that allowed the mob to push up the stairs and into the building.”
Reffitt, allegedly armed with a handgun, pushed to the front of the mob and confronted officers, Berkower said. “Every time he advanced, the crowd advanced,” Berkower said. “You saw him lead the crowd.”
Berkower pointed to evidence of Reffitt’s activities before, during, and after the Jan. 6 attack, including bragging to his own family about his actions when he returned home.
“He was ecstatic about what he did, about what the mob did,” Berkower said. “Back home in Texas, he thought he has gotten away with it.”
Reffitt chose not to testify in his case, and his attorney presented little proactive defense of his client. In opening arguments, he portrayed his client as a blowhard who bragged about his behavior.
Reffitt faces several charges, including transporting a rifle and semi-automatic handgun intended to be used in furtherance of a civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, and entering and remaining on restricted grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon.
William Welch, Reffitt’s attorney, told the jury during closing arguments they “should find my client guilty” of a misdemeanor charge, but that there’s not enough evidence to find him guilty on the felony counts. He said there was reason to doubt Reffitt’s son’s testimony because of the media attention he’s received, as well as Reffitt’s friend’s testimony because he was granted immunity.
The government presented a lot of evidence of Reffitt saying that he was armed when the attempted to enter the Capitol building. Reffitt was a member of the Texas Three Percenters, and exchanged numerous messages about Jan. 6 both before and after the attack. On Jan. 6, he also recorded himself talking about his plans to drag Nancy Pelosi out of the Capitol by her heels. His friend, testifying under an immunity agreement, testified that they were both armed on Jan. 6. And afterwards, in a Zoom meeting Reffitt recorded, Reffitt admitted that he had his “.40” on his side when he attempted to storm the building. He also bragged about his exploits during discussions with his family, which were recorded by his son.
The government also presented a photo of Reffitt’s holstered gun on his nightstand, sitting next to two empty bottles of Corona and under Reffitt’s camouflage Trump hat.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating the case Tuesday morning.
More than 750 people have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. More than 2,500 people are believed to have committed chargeable criminal acts on Jan. 6, either by unlawfully entering the Capitol building itself or committing violent crimes outside. Over 200 people have pleaded guilty so far, largely to misdemeanor offenses. Robert Scott Palmer, a Florida man who attacked officers with a fire extinguisher, is serving the longest Jan. 6 sentence to date: more than five years in federal prison.
Ryan J. Reilly is a Justice reporter for NBC News.