Reffitt was convicted on March 8 of five felonies, including obstructing the session of Congress to confirm the 2020 presidential election, interfering with police and carrying a firearm to a riot, and threatening his teenage son who turned him in to the FBI.
The defense of Reffitt, a 49-year-old former oil rig manager, asked for a below-guideline two-year sentence. But Assistant US Attorneys Jeffrey S. Nestler and Risa Berkower, seeking a sentence that would be about three times longer than any previous sentence in a Jan. 6 crime case, called his case extraordinary.
“Reffitt attempted not only to stop Congress, but also to physically attack, remove and replace the representatives who served in Congress,” prosecutors wrote. They called his behavior “a prime example of intent to both influence government behavior through intimidation or coercion, and to take retaliatory action,” the legal definition of terrorist violence, which is subject to harsher punishment.
Refitt “played a pivotal role” at the head of a vigilante mob that challenged and overran police at a key chokepoint, they wrote in a 58-page sentencing memo, and conventional sentencing rules have “insufficient scope” to account for outreach his crimes.
A jury found that Reffitt had traveled to DC from his home in Wylie, Texas with an AR-15 style rifle and a .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol and had repeatedly stated his intention to be armed with a handgun and plastic handcuffs come to pull the legislature out of the building. After returning from Washington, he threatened his children not to report him to the authorities.
The motion of the US Attorney’s Office in DC, which is overseeing the prosecution of approximately 835 federal defendants in the Capitol siege, is not binding at Reffitt’s Aug. 1 sentencing by US District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich.
The longest sentence to date in a Jan. 6 case is about five years for a Florida man who pleaded guilty to assaulting police with a fire extinguisher and a wooden board.
Prosecutors may be hoping that Refitt’s trial judge will send a clear signal to the roughly 330 defendants who are still awaiting felony trial and who may still be debating whether to accept a plea deal or play before a jury. About 70 people have pleaded guilty and 10, including Refitt, have been convicted in court.
Some congressional Democrats have pressed Justice Department officials to explain why prosecutors had not sought tougher sentences in the Jan. 6 cases, calling for improvements on terrorism. They have pointed to statements made earlier this year by Attorney General Merrick Garland who suggested such improvements could come as prosecutors win convictions in more serious cases.
“This attack, this siege was criminal conduct, pure and simple, and this conduct we, the FBI, consider domestic terrorism,” FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2021, warning the Capitol Riot have encouraged some actors and that the problem of home-grown violent extremism is “metastasizing”.
Defense attorneys condemn the threat of coercive use of such extensions in plea talks, calling it the “nuclear option” because prosecutors can increase the range of sentences by 50 percent or more, even for crimes not provided for by law. However, the final decision rests with the judges in any case, regardless of the recommendation.
Reffitt attorney F. Clinton Broden urged Friedrich to weigh his client’s unique circumstances, view his actions as an “errant” and avoid unequal treatment with defendants previously convicted on Jan. 6 of violent assaults on police were convicted or brought more guns to Washington.
Refitt left home at 15, moved in with his older sister, and began working as a KFC dishwasher after years of being physically abused by his father, who “[b]elts, switchs and the occasional smack or fist,” Broden wrote. After becoming a father himself, Broden said, Refitt devoted himself to his children and to creating safe spaces for others. Reffitt, his attorney said, was a self-made man who took his family abroad while working in places like Malaysia, where he was responsible for tens of millions of dollars worth of operations, but after a downturn in the oil and gas industry was financially and emotionally devastated. He lost his job in November 2019 when the pandemic hit.
Refitt’s daughters noted that “[h]Mental health deteriorated during this time,” Broden wrote. Refitt “fell down the rabbit hole of political news and online banter,” one of his daughters wrote, and he came under the influence of Donald Trump, “who constantly nurtures polarizing racial sentiments.”
“I could really see my father[‘]His ego and personality dropped to the knees when President Trump spoke, you could tell he was listening to Trump’s words like he was really really speaking to him,” his daughter said.
Many of the letters from nine friends and relatives presented to the court by Reffitt’s defense “describe a depressed man who felt unable to provide for his family (his life’s work) adequately and a man who pushed himself aside and felt excluded,” said Broden.
Refitt founded a security company and joined the Three Percenters in Texas, a right-wing anti-government group named after the myth that only 3 percent of the colonists fought the British in the American Revolution.
In the Capitol, Reffitt never entered the building, unholstered his pistol, and committed no violence, his attorney said. Not condoning Reffitt’s “paranoid remarks” about his children, Broden argued that he never gave any indication that he would actually harm them.
Refitt has also spent 19 months in unusually harsh pre-trial detention conditions at the run-down DC prison, spending about half of that time in his cell under 22- or 23-hour pandemic-related lockdowns, his attorney argued.
“The very basic question that needs to be answered is whether Mr. Refitt, who has not used violence, has not thrown objects at police, has not attacked police with weapons” and who should not have entered the Capitol or prohibited areas for long “to be treated the same as those who did this?” asked Broden.
In a letter to the judge, Reffitt outlined a range of family trauma since 2020, including medical and mental health emergencies, and pleaded for leniency in the interest of his family.
“My regret for what happened is insurmountable. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret how much this has affected me [my wife and kids]’ Refit wrote. “Yes, what is happening to my family is all my fault, I would like to fix it please. … I’m just asking for a chance to prove myself again.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/07/15/reffitt-jan6-terrorism-sentence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_politics Citing terrorism, the US is seeking a 15-year prison sentence for the first accused Jan. 6