Washington— A federal judge on Monday sentenced Guy Reffitt, the Texas man convicted of bringing a handgun to the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, to 87 months in prison, the longest sentence so far related to the 2021 assault.
A member of the far-right militia group the Texas Three Percenters, Reffitt was the first defendant to stand trial on charges stemming from the attack. He was found guilty in March of five criminal counts, including obstructing Congress’ certification of President Biden’s Electoral College win.
The 7.25-year sentence was far shorter than the 15 years sought by prosecutors, who argued that the punishment should be more severe since Reffitt’s actions amounted to terrorism. At a sentencing hearing on Monday in federal court in Washington, DC, Judge Dabney Friedrich disagreed, citing another Jan. 6 cases in which prosecutors did not seek such an enhancement.
Still, the sentence is the lengthiest handed down for a Jan. 6 defendant to date. Two other defendants received sentences of 63 months earlier this year for their roles in the attack. Reffitt’s defense team had urged the judge to sentence him to no more than two years behind bars.
Reffitt will also be on probation for three years upon his release, and must pay a $2,000 fine.
Addressing the court during Monday’s hearing, Reffitt admitted he acted like a “f***ing idiot” on Jan. 6 and said he regretted his actions, apologizing to Congress and the officers he encountered that day.
“I was a little too crazy,” he said to a skeptical Friedrich. “I was not thinking clearly.”
The judge said it was difficult not to see the apology as anything but “halfhearted,” particularly given some conspiratorial statements he has made about the events of Jan. 6 since his arrest.
“What he and others who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 did is the antithesis of patriotism,” the judge said before handing down the sentence.
In seeking the lengthier sentence, prosecutors said in court filings that Reffitt played a central role as part of the mob on Jan. 6, and intended “to use his gun and police-style flexicuffs to forcibly drag legislators out of the building and take over Congress.”
Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Nestler told Friedrich that Reffitt “puffed himself up” as the leader of the mob, waving the rest of the rioters on as he confronted police on the Capitol’s west front.
“He didn’t just want President Trump to stay in power,” Nestler said. “He wanted to physically and literally remove Congress.”
The prosecutor alleged that Jan. 6 was “the beginning” for Reffitt. “He wanted the rest of his militia group to start taking over state capitols all around the country,” Nestler said.
Former US Capitol Police Officer Shauni Kerkhoff, who confronted Reffitt outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, implored the judge to sentence Reffitt to the maximum sentence possible under the law.
“His actions weren’t acts of patriotism. They were acts of domestic terrorism,” Kerkhoff said.
Prosecutors said Reffitt also threatened his children when they wanted to report him to authorities.
At his trial, Reffitt’s 19-year-old son Jackson — who turned his father in to law enforcement — told the jury that he had learned of his father’s membership in the mob when he saw his mother and sister watching news coverage of the events that day. jackson described the threat his dad had made against him and his sister, Peyton, when they tried to turn him in: “If you turn me in you’re a traitor, and traitors get shot.”
In court on Monday, prosecutors read a letter from Jackson to the judge, in which he described the “painful, slow story” of his father’s descent into conspiracy theories. He said his father needed mental health care, which Friedrich said she would require as part of the sentence.
During the trial, Reffitt’s attorney at the time called no witnesses, and Reffitt did not testify in his own defense.
F. Clinton Broden, Reffitt’s new attorney, disagreed with prosecutors’ characterization of his client. He argued in written memos and in court that Reffitt never actually entered the Capitol, never removed the handgun from his holster and “never gave any indication he would actually harm his children.”
Peyton, the defendant’s daughter, spoke emotionally in court on Monday in support of her father and explained that his mental health was a real issue.
Wiping away tears, Peyton said, “My father’s name wasn’t on the flags that were there that day, that everyone was carrying. It was another man’s name,” referring to former President Donald Trump, who addressed his throngs of supporters near the White House before they marched on the Capitol.
Friedrich, the judge, appeared most concerned with Reffitt’s mental health and prospects once he is eventually freed, at one point asking, “What is this man going to do after he is released from prison?”
“It’s really disturbing that he repeatedly persists with these views that are way outside the mainstream,” she added, “His claims [about attempts to overthrow the government] are wrong.”
Friedrich also took issue with Reffitt’s violent threats against lawmakers like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“To this day, he has not disavowed those comments,” she said.
Since Reffitt’s conviction by a 12-person jury, five more defendants have been found guilty by juries. Five others have been convicted by judges at bench trials. One defendant, matthew martinwas acquitted of multiple misdemeanor counts by a judge.
Outside of court on Monday, before the sentence was imposed, Reffitt’s wife Nicole told CBS News she believed prosecutors’ representation of her husband was a “misrepresentation.”
“He’s a good man,” she said.
Cristina Corujo contributed to this report.