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Jury in the first Jan. 6 trial finds Capitol riot defendant Guy Reffitt guilty

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The first man convicted for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is expected to appeal. Outside the courthouse, Guy Reffitt's wife told reporters, quote, "this fight has just begun."

NPR's Tom Dreisbach covered this trial, and I talked to him earlier this morning.

TOM DREISBACH, BYLINE: Reffitt was a member of a militia that calls itself the Texas Three Percenters, and on the day of January 6, he brought his handgun to Capitol grounds. He was at the front of the mob, climbing Capitol steps. Police then hit him with pepper spray, stopped him. So he never made it in the building. But rioters behind him did swarm the Capitol. Later, back home in Texas, he threatened his teenage kids, telling them not to turn him into the FBI, saying quote, "traitors get shot." Ultimately, he was convicted on the gun charges, obstructing police officers, obstructing Congress certification of the electoral vote and for threatening his children.

MARTIN: What kind of evidence did the jury hear from prosecutors?

DREISBACH: It was what prosecutors described as a mountain of evidence. We saw video from January 6 showing Reffitt on those stairs, messages from his phone. His son secretly recorded his dad bragging about what he had done on the 6. We even heard a recording of a Zoom meeting between Reffitt and members of his militia, again talking about that day, again talking about bringing a gun to the Capitol. Prosecutors then backed all of that up with testimony from police, a member of Reffitt's militia and the son who testified against his dad.

MARTIN: Wow. So the defense - what kind of arguments did the defense make?

DREISBACH: Overall, it was pretty minimal defense. The opening statement was just three minutes. They did not call any witnesses. Attorney Bill Welch suggested that the videos we saw in court could be deep fakes without really providing any evidence for that. He suggested that Guy Reffitt had a drinking problem and used Xanax the medication, so maybe he was under the influence when he said those incriminating things. He did not really have much response to all the evidence that Guy Reffitt had a gun on Capitol grounds, even though they denied that he did. And at the end of the trial, I asked Reffitt's wife, Nicole, about Welch's performance. She said he did what he needed to do.

MARTIN: What other reaction did you hear from the family?

DREISBACH: Well, as I mentioned, the son testified against his father in this case. So this case has torn this family apart in many ways.

MARTIN: Yeah.

DREISBACH: Nicole Reffitt said yesterday was a hard day. She said she stands by her husband. She loves her son still. She was also asked if she had a message for the other Jan. 6 defendants. Here's what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NICOLE REFFITT: Don't take a plea. Do not take a plea. They want us to take a plea. They are making a point out of Guy to intimidate the other members of the 1/6-ers. And we will all fight together.

DREISBACH: And when she says 1/6-ers, that's a reference to the hundreds of other January 6 defendants.

MARTIN: So this is far from done, right? I mean, there are...

DREISBACH: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Hundreds of other cases to come.

DREISBACH: That's right. I mean, around 500 people have cases that are still unresolved. Many were watching this case very closely. Couple of things might stick out to them - one, that mountain of evidence prosecutors introduced. The other is the fact that the jury took just about two hours to return a verdict that is very quick. So this may give prosecutors some leverage to get other people to bargain with a plea agreement. Other defense attorneys, though, might have a more assertive strategy than we saw here in this case, so we'll just have to see how it plays out.

MARTIN: NPR's Tom Dreisbach, who is following it all - thanks so much, Tom.

DREISBACH: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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