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Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant Guy Reffitt has been found guilty on all counts

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Guilty - that is the verdict in the first trial stemming from the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. A federal jury deliberated for just three hours before convicting the defendant, Guy Reffitt, on obstruction and weapons charges. NPR's Carrie Johnson has been following this trial and joins us now. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So it sounds like the jury didn't really struggle here with the verdict. Was there anything in the government's argument that stood out to you?

JOHNSON: Prosecutors developed what they called a mountain of evidence, mostly using Guy Reffitt's own words against him in this trial. They had text messages and a Zoom recording with members of a militia group from Texas and helmet footage that he took at the Capitol on January 6. That's where he talked about wanting to drag lawmakers out of the building by their hair with their heads hitting every step. Reffitt's 19-year-old son turned him in to the FBI and actually recorded him after January 6 making incriminating statements about having a gun that day in Washington. The government says Reffitt was, quote, "ecstatic about his actions." Here are some tape the prosecutors played.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GUY REFFITT: There will be days your whole life where you'll know that your father was there when an epic, historical thing happened in this country. And guess what? I'm gonna have to tell ya - I've got a lot more to do.

JOHNSON: The DOJ says Reffitt changed his tune once the FBI started making arrests. They said Reffitt threatened two of his kids to stay quiet. That's one of the charges for which he was convicted today.

CHANG: Wow. Well, how did Reffitt try to defend himself in court? Like, what was his defense here?

JOHNSON: Good question. Reffitt rested his case without putting any witnesses on the stand, and he didn't testify in his own defense. So all that we heard came from his attorney, William Welch. Welch told the jury that Reffitt rants a lot. He's a big talker, but not a criminal. Welch also tried to cast key government witnesses as unreliable, like Reffitt's son and the man who drove with him to D.C. for the Capitol riot. The defense lawyer suggested, without much evidence, that the videos and other evidence the government used might have been faked. And he did make kind of a last-ditch plea to the jury to just convict Reffitt of one count of these charges - a trespassing related count - but that didn't work. Guy Reffitt has been in federal custody more than a year now. He faces a lot more time in prison when he's sentenced June 8.

CHANG: Well, Carrie, we know one of the reasons we've been watching this case is because it is the first one to go to trial from January 6 out of - what? - several hundred cases. So I'm curious. Like, what kind of message do you think this guilty verdict sends to some of the other people who've been charged in connection with January 6?

JOHNSON: Well, surely the Justice Department hopes it sends a signal to plead guilty. There are more than 750 people charged, and about 220 people have taken plea deals. So there could be a lot more action in this federal courthouse for years to come. Guy Reffitt's wife Nicole took a different message from the verdict today. Our colleague Tom Dreisbach caught her outside the courthouse talking to reporters.

NICOLE REFFITT: Guy was used as an example today to make all the 1/6ers take a plea. Do not take a plea, 1/6ers. Do not.

CHANG: Well, I know that there was another big January 6 development today. Can you just tell us what happened there?

JOHNSON: Sure, the Justice Department filed conspiracy charges against the leader of the Proud Boys, the far-right group. Enrique "Henry" Tarrio didn't breach the Capitol January 6, but prosecutors say he was in touch with the people who did break in. And the indictment says before the 6th, he and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, met in a parking garage for 30 minutes. There's a lot more to learn about what happened there, and it sounds like the FBI is digging.

CHANG: That is NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thank you, Carrie.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.