Capitol rioter's Trump-focused defense: 'People say outrageous things,' including the former president.

Guy Reffitt seen at the Capitol siege.
Guy Reffitt seen at the Capitol siege.FBI
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  • A Capitol rioter's defense lawyer name-dropped Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani in his closing argument.

  • The lawyer said prosecutors were using Capitol rioter Guy Reffitt's "hyperbole" against him.

  • A prosecutor said Reffitt's bragging about January 6 was, in fact, the "truth."

Former President Donald Trump's name was notably absent from the first trial linked to January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

Then, closing arguments happened.

On Monday, a defense lawyer for accused Capitol rioter Guy Reffitt spoke of Trump as he urged jurors to disregard comments in which Reffitt seemed to revel in the January 6 attack. The lawyer, William Welch, pointed to Trump urging supporters to "fight like hell" in a speech preceding the violence that day.

Welch's point: "People say outrageous things."

Through days of testimony, prosecutors presented jurors with text messages Reffitt had sent in the lead-up to January 6 that appeared to call for violence. Prosecutors also played recordings of Reffitt gloating to friends and fellow members of the far-right Three Percenters militia about his participation in the January 6 attack.

Welch sought to dismiss the comments as bluster.

"Guy does brag a lot. He embellishes. He exaggerates ... He uses a lot of hyperbole that upsets people," Welch said.

Welch quoted not only Trump but also former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's call on January 6 for "trial by combat." The references to Trump and Giuliani drew an objection from prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler, which Judge Dabney Friedrich upheld.

"The point is, they haven't been charged," Welch said of Trump and Giuliani.

Reffitt stands charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, bringing a gun onto restricted Capitol grounds, and threatening his children to keep them from reporting him to law enforcement. During the week-long trial, prosecutors called three current and former police officers who faced off with Reffitt as he ascended stairs outside the Capitol, with a mob advancing behind him.

Wearing a tactical vest and helmet, Reffitt appeared undeterred as Capitol police fired pepper balls at him. Reffitt stopped only after one of the Capitol Police officers pepper-sprayed him in the face.

Prosecutors said Reffitt did not personally enter the Capitol building. But they characterized him as the "tip of the mob's spear" who paved the way for some of the first rioters to enter the Capitol on January 6.

Welch on Monday used his closing argument to stress that Reffitt did not enter the building. He asserted that Reffitt "never put his hands on anyone," did not interfere with an arrest, and did not help anyone commit an assault.

"Guy Reffitt did not enter the Capitol. He was not armed. He did not threaten harm. He was not aggressive," Welch said.

Among the other witnesses was a former member of the Three Percenters who traveled with Reffitt from Texas to Washington, DC.

That witness, Rocky Hardie, recalled how they knew it would be illegal to carry their guns on January 6 but decided to do so anyway, putting their fear for their safety above the risk of prosecution.

"I think we used the phrase, 'It's better to be tried by a jury of 12 than carried by 6 [pallbearers],'" Hardie recalled.

In her closing argument Monday, prosecutor Risa Berkower used that phrase against Reffitt.

"He was itching to be judged by you, the jury of 12, and now we're here," she said.

Welch conceded that Reffitt was guilty of a misdemeanor for being on restricted Capitol grounds. But he disputed that Reffitt carried a gun and argued that jurors should find his client not guilty on the other counts, including the charge that he obstructed justice by threatening his children.

Reffitt wept in court at the sight of his teenage son, Jackson Reffitt, taking the stand to testify against him. In dramatic testimony, Jackson Reffitt, 19, recalled first contacting the FBI in December 2020 about his father and secretly recording him after January 6 as he recalled his participation in the attack. Jackson Reffitt testified that his father later threatened him and his sister by saying they would be traitors if they reported him to law enforcement — and that "traitors get shot."

Welch on Monday sought to undercut Jackson Reffitt's credibility by pointing to media appearances and a GoFundMe page that had raised more than $150,000 to help cover expenses. Reffitt's son "has been hyping this on CNN, on 'Good Morning America,' and on his GoFundMe page," Welch said.

In a rebuttal to Welch's closing, prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said Reffitt's exuberant recollection of his role in the January 6 attack was not overblown but, in fact, accurate.

"Yes, Guy Reffitt brags," Nestler said. "And you know what he brags about? The truth."

The jury is set to begin deliberating Tuesday morning.

Read the original article on Business Insider