First trial of Capitol attacker begins
Washington, Feb 28 (EFE).- The first trial of one of the accused US Capitol attackers got under way on Monday with selection of the jury who will judge Guy Reffitt, a member of an extreme rightist organization who came armed to participate in the assault on the Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
Up to now, all those convicted of assaulting the Capitol last year to prevent the certification by US lawmakers of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, had reached agreements with prosecutors to admit their guilt, thus avoiding going to trial.
Reffitt – a 49-year-old resident of Wylie, Texas, and member of the extreme rightist Three Percenters organization – is being held in a Washington jail for having assaulted the Capitol carrying a pistol.
Prosecutors accused him of obstructing the work of Congress, participating in the Capitol assault while in possession of a pistol, confronting police, transporting weapons illegally and threatening to harm his three teenage children if they reported his actions to police, charges to which he has pleaded not guilty.
According to photographs attached to a court document, Reffitt was wearing a bulletproof vest and a helmet with an attached camera and was carrying handcuffs during the assault on the Capitol.
The accused confronted police on the steps of Congress while other attackers entered the building and an officer sprayed pepper spray into his eyes.
Prosecutors also say that Reffitt illegally transported to Washington a semi-automatic pistol and a rifle and that when he returned to his home he threatened his children, telling them that “traitors get shot.”
Reffitt’s defense attorneys claim that his pistol was not loaded and that he never actually entered the Capitol building.
A federal judge in Washington on Monday began the process of selecting the 12 members of the jury and, according to local media, ruled out one person in the jury pool who lives near the Capitol and said they felt a strong emotional reaction to the attack.
On Jan. 6, 2021, a mob of thousands of supporters of now-former President Donald Trump, who was still president at the time, marched on the Capitol and broke into the building as a joint session of Congress was under way to certify Biden’s victory in the presidential election the previous November.
Shortly before the attack, Trump had delivered an incendiary speech to his supporters near the White House, urging them to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to keep Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, hurling unfounded accusations that the Democrats had committed massive election fraud and had “stolen” re-election from him, claims that have since come to be widely known as the “Big Lie.”
Authorities have accused more than 750 people from around the country of assorted crimes including sedition, attacking police, destroying government property or entering a restricted-access building.
More than 200 of the defendants have pleaded guilty after arriving at agreements with prosecutors.
Last week, Adam Johnson – whose image was seen around the world after he posed during the Capitol assault with the lectern of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – was sentenced to 75 days behind bars.