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Many Capitol riot cases could hinge on 1st trial’s outcome

Posted at 7:38 AM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 07:38:03-05

(AP MODIFIED) — The Justice Department launched one of the largest and most complex criminal investigations in its history after a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol over a year ago. Now it’s time for a jury to hear some of the government’s evidence about the unparalleled attack on American democracy.

The first trial for one of the hundreds of Capitol riot prosecutions starts this week, with jury selection scheduled to begin on Monday for the case against Guy Wesley Reffitt. The Texas man is charged with bringing a gun onto Capitol grounds, interfering with police officers guarding the building, and threatening his teenage children if they reported him to authorities.

Reffitt’s trial could be a bellwether for many other Capitol riot cases. A conviction would give prosecutors more leverage in plea talks with rioters facing the most serious charges. An acquittal may lead others to wait for their own day in court.

Reffitt “truly is the canary in the coal mine,” said Gregg Sofer, a former federal prosecutor who served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas from October 2020 to February 2021.

“It’ll really be interesting to see how strong a case the government has and whether or not they’re relying on evidence that, when pushed and tested, stands up. It’s going to have a huge impact going forward,” added Sofer, now a partner at a law firm.