Man Reffitt’s 19-year-old son took the stand towards him in federal courtroom in a outstanding tableau that captured how one household was break up by the assault on the Capitol.
WASHINGTON — When an oil-field employee named Man Wesley Reffitt returned to Texas after collaborating in the attack on the Capitol final yr, his welcome dwelling was not fully heat.
He bragged to his household about confronting the police outdoors the constructing and promised that the violence there was solely “the start,” in response to federal prosecutors. His 18-year-old son pushed again, accusing him of getting damaged the regulation.
A number of days later, Mr. Reffitt realized his son could be proper and that the F.B.I. may in actual fact be on to him. In a burst of anger, he threatened his son and daughter, telling them that they might face his wrath in the event that they bought him out to the authorities.
On Thursday, the son, Jackson Reffitt, confronted his father from the witness stand in Federal District Courtroom in Washington, testifying towards him in a outstanding tableau that captured the painful rupture in a single household — and in some methods the nation — attributable to the occasions of Jan. 6, 2021.
“He mentioned, ‘For those who flip me in, you’re a traitor,’” Jackson Reffitt instructed the jury as his father watched him intently from throughout the courtroom after which seemed down. “‘And traitors get shot.’”
The older Mr. Reffitt, 41, is the primary defendant out of greater than 700 to go on trial in reference to the Capitol assault, and prior to now two days the prosecution has documented how he drove to Washington with a fellow member of a Texas militia and, armed with a pistol, led a pro-Trump mob in an advance on the police outdoors the constructing.
However with the looks of his son on the witness stand, the trial took an unusually private — and emotional — flip.
Testifying for greater than three hours, Jackson Reffitt, now 19, instructed the jury how his father had turn out to be extra distant and extreme in his beliefs in 2016, the identical yr Donald J. Trump was elected president. Father and son, he mentioned, didn’t see eye-to-eye on politics.
“I used to be reasonably left and my father was reasonably proper,” the youthful Mr. Reffitt mentioned, including that in that election yr, “we each went additional in our personal route.”
Jackson Reffitt additionally mentioned his father was a member of the Texas Three Percenters, a state militia group carefully linked to the gun rights motion. Man Reffitt flew a flag outdoors the household’s dwelling in Wylie, Texas, emblazoned with a Three Percenters’ brand. His son instructed the jury that he usually went about his enterprise with a .40-caliber pistol on his hip.
Issues grew to become extra tense between the daddy and son in December 2020, Jackson Reffitt mentioned, as Mr. Trump was enterprise a number of, overlapping schemes to reverse his election defeat. A lot of the battle performed out on a household group chat, a number of messages of which have been proven to the jury Thursday.
“Congress has made deadly errors this time,” Man Reffitt wrote on Dec. 21 that yr. “This isn’t about Trump, it’s a lot a lot greater. It’s about OUR nation.”
The son wrote again: “I don’t suppose Congress makes up all 80,000,000 votes for biden however okkk.”
The daddy then responded: “It’s not about Trump. Or Biden. What comes subsequent is about tyranny. Maintain my beer and I’ll present you.”
Studying these and comparable messages — some about his father touring to Washington for Jan. 6 — was “scary and surreal,” Jackson Reffitt mentioned.
He instructed the jury that he was frightened about what his father may do. So someday that month, he Googled “F.B.I.” and “tip” and adopted the hyperlink to a web based bureau tip line, describing what had handed between him and his father.
He testified that he was ashamed for having reached out to the F.B.I. “I simply felt gross,” he defined.
However the F.B.I. didn’t reply for weeks, and on Jan. 6, 2021, Jackson awakened at his girlfriend’s home to discover a textual content on the household group chat, indicating that his father was in Washington. He instructed the jury that he hurried dwelling and located his mom and sisters watching the chaos on the Capitol unfolding on TV.
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“I sort of simply stood there in awe and disappointment, saddened and scared,” he mentioned.
Two days later, as Man Reffitt headed again from Washington, he despatched his household a textual content that appeared to rejoice the violence he took half in.
“Shot a number of instances with clay balls and Pepper Sprayed closely,” he wrote. “We took the US Capital. We’re the Republic of the Folks.”
“Yeah,” his son responded, “you recognize they’re monitoring down everybody who was there proper?”
“Yep, don’t care,” his father answered. “I broke no legal guidelines.”
The daddy and son had the same dialog when Man Reffitt lastly received again to the household’s dwelling in Wylie. A number of days later, his father made the menace about “traitors,” Jackson Reffitt mentioned. Jackson met with the F.B.I. that day. His father was arrested inside every week.
Testimony on the trial earlier within the day was not fairly as dramatic and was largely given over to the proof that investigators had extracted from Mr. Reffitt’s electronics gadgets, together with a 30-minute video he fabricated from himself within the crowd outdoors the Capitol with a digital camera mounted on his helmet.
Within the video, a foul-mouthed Mr. Reffitt might be heard repeatedly urging individuals within the mob to storm into the constructing and drag the lawmakers, together with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, out by their hair or ankles.
“I didn’t come right here to play — I’m taking the Capitol,” he mentioned at one level. “I simply wish to see Pelosi’s head hitting each stair on the way in which out.”
Prosecutors additionally confirmed the jury a recording of a Zoom name that Mr. Reffitt took half in with different members of the Texas Three Percenters after he returned from Washington. The decision contained an echo of the testimony given Wednesday by a former Capitol Police officer, Shauni Kerkhoff. Ms. Kerkhoff instructed the jury that she had began to panic after firing dozens of pepper balls at Mr. Reffitt, none of which managed to cease his advance up a staircase on the constructing.
On the Zoom name, Mr. Reffitt recounted the identical occasions, telling his fellow militiamen that he had been hit at the least 20 instances by Ms. Kerkhoff’s projectiles, however that his physique armor had absorbed a lot of the blows.
“I mentioned, ‘Child, you’re going to want a much bigger gun than that,’” he mentioned on the decision, including, “They’re fortunate we didn’t shoot them.”