WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal jury is scheduled to hear attorneys’ opening statements Wednesday for the first trial stemming from the riot at the U.S. Capitol last year.
Twelve jurors and four alternates were selected Tuesday for the trial of Guy Wesley Reffitt. The resident of Wylie, Texas, is charged with bringing a gun onto Capitol grounds and interfering with police officers who were guarding the building on Jan. 6, 2021. Reffitt also is charged with threatening his teenage children if they reported him to authorities.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich individually questioned dozens of prospective jurors on Monday and Tuesday. She disqualified several members of the jury pool who said they have strong opinions or emotions about the riot that would make it difficult for them to be impartial.
A man employed by the Architect of the Capitol was among those disqualified from serving as a juror. The man, who manages construction projects for the Library of Congress, said he knows one of the Capitol police officers who was assaulted during the Jan. 6 attack.
He also said it also was upsetting to see the damage to the Capitol, which has cost more than $1 million to repair.
“You do get kind of emotionally invested in your work,” he told the judge.
Reffitt’s trial could be a bellwether for many other Capitol riot cases. A conviction would give prosecutors more leverage in plea talks with others. An acquittal could inspire other defendants to either push for a more favorable plea deal or gamble a trial of their own.
More than 750 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot following then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally. Over 200 of them have pleaded guilty, more than 100 have been sentenced and at least 90 others have trial dates.
A prosecutor said a Capitol police officer will be the first government witness at Reffitt’s trial after opening statements. The trial is expected to stretch into next week.
Reffitt is a member of a militia-style group called the “Texas Three Percenters,” according to prosecutors. The Three Percenters militia movement refers to the myth that only 3% of Americans fought in the Revolutionary War against the British.
Reffitt was armed with a holstered handgun and wearing body armor when he and others charged at police officers on the west side of the Capitol, according to prosecutors. Reffitt retreated only after an officer pepper sprayed him in the face, prosecutors said.
Defense attorney William Welch has said there is no evidence that Reffitt damaged property, used force or physically harmed anybody.
Reffitt faces five counts: obstruction of an official proceeding, being unlawfully present on Capitol grounds while armed with a firearm, transporting firearms during a civil disorder, interfering with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder, and obstruction of justice.
The obstructing justice charge stems from threats that he allegedly made against his son, then 18, and daughter, then 16. Reffett told his children to “choose a side or die” and said they would be traitors if they reported him to law enforcement, prosecutors said.