An accused Texas militia member slated for what is expected to be the debut trial over the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol must stay in jail, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
Guy Reffitt, who has been linked to the Three Percenters militia group, allegedly led a group that charged at police officers trying to control the crowd at the Capitol as the mob of Donald Trump supporters sought to stop the certification of Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election. Prosecutors say Reffitt was armed at the time.
He has been in custody since March of 2021. In his latest request, he said that he should be released because the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had recently suspended jury trials and closed the courthouse due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also cited dangerous and unsanitary conditions in the D.C. Jail.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich denied that request, saying that Reffitt “has not presented new information that would cast doubt” on the previous decision to have him detained.
Friedrich, a Trump appointee, also noted that while Reffitt submitted findings from the U.S. Marshals Service about the conditions at the D.C. Jail, Reffitt himself “is not housed in that facility,” and said that the Marshals Service found that the conditions at the Central Treatment Facility where Reffitt is housed were “largely appropriate.”
Friedrich also resolved two of three pretrial motions Thursday, requesting further briefing from the government on its plan to call a law enforcement agent to testify about the gun holster Reffitt was allegedly wearing at the Capitol that day.
Friedrich questioned the appropriateness of calling a law enforcement official as a non-expert, or lay, witness to testify about the holster. Prosecutors argued that the official could testify because he owned the holster in his personal, but not professional, capacity.
Prosecutors insisted that the purpose in calling the agent was simply to identify the holster.
“It’s as simple as being able to identify a simple tool that’s available to the public that this witness has personal familiarity with,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Risa Berkower said.
Friedrich considered whether it would be more appropriate to elicit such testimony from an expert.
“That’s the ultimate issue,” Reffitt’s lawyer, William Welch, said. “One of the charges is the allegation that [Reffitt] was armed.”
Friedrich ordered Berkower to provide further briefing by Wednesday, although she also ordered the government to file a notice by Monday if they intend to call an expert.
Lawyers had resolved the two other pretrial motions ahead of Thursday’s hearing. One motion dealt with how the government would caption pictures in exhibits, and the other had to do with questions Reffitt’s lawyer would be allowed to ask of a Secret Service agent the government is planning to call as a witness.
Reffitt is poised to be the first Jan. 6 defendant to go to trial for his role in the pro-Trump mob that swarmed the Capitol. Friedrich has denied his efforts to dismiss the charges against him, including a federal obstruction charge that multiple Jan. 6 defendants have similarly—and unsuccessfully—challenged.
Reffitt allegedly threatened his kids to keep quiet about his involvement in the insurrection, allegedly telling them: “Traitors get shot.”
Reffitt’s son, Jackson Reffitt, turned him in—and then told the press about it.
Reffitt’s trial is set for Feb. 28.
[Image via FBI.]
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