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Jury begins deliberations in first trial against US Capitol attack

A jury on Tuesday began deliberations in the trial of a Texas man accused of leading a “vigilante” of Donald Trump supporters in storming the U.S. Capitol.

Guy Reffitt, 49, a member of a right-wing militia group called the Three Percenters, is the first person to face charges of the January 6, 2021 attack at the congress.

The case, which is being tried in a federal court in Washington, is being watched closely for its potential impact on future charges against other defendants at the Capitol.

“Guy Reffitt lit the fires of the first-ever group of rioters to breach the Capitol,” prosecutor Risa Berkower said in closing arguments Monday.

“The vigilante was set on fire by the defendant,” Berkower said. “Every mob needs leaders and this defendant was a leader that day.”

Reffitt faces multiple charges, including bringing a gun to Washington, interfering with the police and obstructing official proceedings — Congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 presidential election.

Reffitt, an oil worker from Wylie, Texas, is also accused of threatening his teenage son and daughter when they spoke to law enforcement about his involvement in the Capitol attack.

Reffitt’s then 18-year-old son turned to the FBI despite his father’s warning that “traitors are being shot” and gave emotional testimony to his father in court.

His daughter was expected to testify, but did not.

– ‘Has taken matters into his own hands’ –

Video of Reffitt confronting police on the steps of the Capitol and cheering on the pro-Trump mob was played repeatedly before the 12-member jury over four days of testimony.

Sergeant Matthew Flood, a Capitol police officer, testified that Reffitt “waved to the rioters and motioned for them to move forward.”

“He was in the front,” said Flood. “He led them up the stairs.”

Prosecutors also showed Reffitt text messages from before Jan. 6 in which he promised to “drag lawmakers” out of Congress.

“The election didn’t deliver the results he wanted, so he took matters into his own hands,” Berkower said.

Reffitt was wearing body armor and a helmet, wearing zippered handcuffs and armed with a .40-caliber handgun when he arrived at the Capitol, she said.

“He went there with a purpose — to overthrow Congress,” the US assistant attorney said.

William Welch, Reffitt’s attorney, presented no witnesses and said his client was only guilty of being in a restricted area — the perimeter around the Capitol.

“Man brags a lot,” Welch said. “He beautifies. He uses a lot of exaggeration.”

But Reffitt “never attacked anyone” and after being sprayed in the face with pepper spray by police, he left the Capitol and returned to his hotel, Welch said.

“Guy Reffitt didn’t go to the Capitol,” he said.

More than 750 people have been arrested for their role in the January 6 attack.

Nearly 220 people have pleaded guilty to various charges, but Reffitt has pleaded not guilty and is the first person to stand trial.

He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The storming of the Capitol killed at least five and injured 140 police officers and followed a fiery speech from Trump to thousands of his supporters near the White House.

Trump was impeached by the House for a historic second time after the Capitol riot — he was charged with inciting insurgency — but was acquitted by the Senate.

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