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Jackson Reffitt, son of January 6 defendant Guy Reffitt, Googled the FBI tip line to report his father

Trial set for Texas man in January 6 attack
Texas man to face trial over alleged role in January 6 Capitol attack 08:43

Jackson Reffitt took the stand Thursday as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of his father, Guy Reffitt, the first January 6 defendant to stand trial. He spoke of sitting in his bedroom, while his father was at home, and secretly Googling the FBI tip line to tell the bureau about his father because he was worried about what his father might do. 

When prosecutors called his son to the stand, Guy Reffitt immediately began to cry, wiping his eyes through his white mask, his face turning red. Jackson Reffitt entered the courtroom, wearing a pink shirt, dark suit, long hair, and a black mask. There was some emotion in Jackson's voice as he both identified and then described his relationship with his father.

"Pretty great," Jackson said when he told the jury about his relationship with his dad, explaining that the two grew "more distant" after he spent some time abroad in 2016 to live in Malaysia.

Sketch: Jackson Reffitt, son of January 6 defendant Guy Reffitt, testifies for the prosecution, Mar. 3, 2022. William J. Hennessy, Jr.

At one point, as Jackson discussed the far-right extremist group his father belongs to, the Three Percenters militia, Guy Reffitt again began crying, and he looked over at his wife in the gallery. She motioned to him as if to tell him to calm down, while she also held back tears. 

Stoic and soft-spoken, Jackson Reffitt had trouble making himself heard, and jurors strained to listen to his testimony.

It "felt gross" to be googling a way to tip the FBI off about his dad, "to report my father," Jackson told the court. 

Jackson, 19, said that his politics differ from his father's. As he put it, where he goes left, his father goes right. 

Reffitt is accused of transporting firearms from Texas to Washington, D.C., and of bringing a firearm to the Capitol on January 6.

Jackson identified the Three Percenters logo on clothing belonging to his father and stickers that adorn Guy Reffitt's truck. He said his father has told him that the group's name is derived from the American Revolution. His father wouldn't let him stay in the house when the group met there.

The younger Reffitt also testified that Guy Reffitt "pretty much all the time" keeps his Smith & Wesson gun on his hip." That's the gun Reffitt is accused of carrying during the riot at the Capitol. In photos shown by prosecutors, Jackson identified a handgun on the nightstand in his father's bedroom and a Trump hat Guy Reffitt would wear "every day or so."

It was late 2020 when Jackson Reffitt says he became "paranoid" about his father's plans.   

Prosecutor: "How many times did he reference doing something big?"

Jackson Reffitt: "Several"

Jackson testified about messages his father allegedly sent to his family, including one that read, "We did it in the CIVIL WAR and now we are doing it again. It's the government that is going to be destroyed in this fight." Jackson first learned of his father's participation in the attack when he returned to the family's home to see his mother and sister watching news coverage of the events, and his mother told him that his father was there.

Prosecutors then played for the jurors multiple audio recordings Jackson said he took of his father upon his return from the January 6 attack. "I had a very epic point in my life," Guy is heard saying in one recording. "I felt so patriotic," he told  his family, adding that Donald Trump's presidency was not the issue — it was the "disgusting people" inside the Capitol who needed to be removed.

Prosecutors allege Guy Reffitt specifically targeted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. 

According to the recordings played for the jury, Jackson captured his father admitting he had carried a gun outside the Capitol, an offense that carries years in prison. "You carried a weapon onto Capitol grounds," Jackson is heard saying. "Okay," Guy responded, adding later, "I did it. I did bring a weapon on property that we own."

Guy Reffitt, of Wylie, Texas, was charged in connection with the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Emotions ran high again when Jackson described the threat his dad had made against him and his sister, Peyton, when they said they had to turn him in. "If you turn me in you're a traitor, and traitors get shot," Jackson recalled his father saying. He said he was "pretty sure" his father had uttered those exact words. 

And as prosecutor Risa Berkower closed her questioning, the courtroom grew silent, when Jackson said he didn't regret turning his father in. "I think this is the best-case scenario," he said. .

Jackson has set up a GoFundMe account worth $158,000 from donations after he told his story to the media and had to move out of his parent's home out of fear of conflict. He said the money made him feel "guilty" because his family is struggling, too. 

He explained that he had decided to  speak out following his father's arrest to help other families like his. "There were hundreds of people on January 6, and they all have families," he said. 

Guy Reffitt's attorneys tried to poke holes in his son's testimony, asking questions about the defendant's alcohol and Xanax use, his mental health status — all supposed defenses for his actions — and implied that the son should have known to stop the conversation before his father had allegedly made the threatening comment. 

His attorney suggested Wednesday that he'll argue the case against Guy Reffitt is "a lot of hype," that he is prone to "brag," "he exaggerates and rants" and uses "a lot of hyperbole." 

That approach was on display Thursday, when attorney William Welch questioned why Jackson continued to live at home with his father if he took his father's threats against "traitors" seriously.

If convicted, Guy Reffitt could face a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

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