Judge refuses to free Capitol riot suspect linked to militia

Politics

FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. With riot cases flooding into Washington’s federal court, the Justice Department is under pressure to quickly resolve the least serious cases. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

A federal judge refused Thursday to free a Texas man whom authorities have accused of planning an attack on a social media company’s facility after he returned home from storming the U.S. Capitol.

Guy Wesley Reffitt, one of more than 400 federal defendants charged in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, has been identified by prosecutors as a member of a militia-style group linked to the anti-government Three Percentersextremist movement.

Reffitt bragged about his actions in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 during a Zoom meeting with two other militia members four days after the siege, according to prosecutors. A recording of the meeting obtained by investigators captured Reffitt discussing a plan to attack “mainstream media,” “Silicon Valley,” and “Big Tech,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say Reffitt specifically targeted a “prominent” social media company’s facility in Texas. During Thursday’s remote hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler didn’t name the company that Reffitt allegedly targeted but said it had servers near his home in Wylie, a Dallas suburb.

“He knew the description of the generator there and how a well-placed sniper shot could take out that generator and how much impact that would have on that company and therefore on American society,” the prosecutor said.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich concluded that Reffitt would pose a danger to the public if she ordered his release from a Washington jail. The judge said she can’t dismiss Reffitt’s violent rhetoric as “mere boasts,” pointing to evidence that he planned more attacks.

“Mr. Reffitt backed up his comments with actions,” she said during a remote hearing Thursday. “He did, in fact, attempt to recruit new militia members to his cause. And he stated that the events of January 6th were just the preface to what was coming.”

Reffitt had been threatening to attack social media companies for months before the Capitol siege, prosecutors said. A relative warned the FBI in late December that Reffitt was “going to do some serious damage” related to lawmakers in Washington, according to prosecutors, who said he took an AR-15 rifle and a pistol with him when and another militia member drove to Washington.

Reffitt played a “significant and dangerous role” in the deadly attack, leading a group of rioters up the Capitol steps to confront law enforcement officers, prosecutors said in an April 28 court filing.

“Reffitt’s actions caused the police line guarding the building to retreat closer to the building itself; soon after, law enforcement was overwhelmed, and rioters breached and flooded the building,” they wrote.

After returning home, Reffitt told his children that they would be traitors if they reported him to law enforcement and warned them that “traitors get shot,” according to prosecutors.

A grand jury indicted Reffitt on charges of obstructing an official proceeding, obstruction of justice and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds.

In March, a federal magistrate ordered Reffitt detained pending trial. Reffitt asked Friedrich to overturn that order.

“The government just claims that Mr. Reffitt is a threat, but does not identify an articulable one,” defense attorney William Welch said Thursday.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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