He went to trial. He was sentenced. And his sentence, 87 months, was on the low end of the guidelines, and far below the sentenced sought by the government, which asked for a terrorism enhancement that would have brought the sentence up to about 15 years. Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected the enhancement, and yet imposed a signiricantly longer sentence on Wesley Reffitt than others had received.
After a six-hour hearing, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich handed down a sentence at the low end of the guideline range. She noted that was still significantly longer than any given so far to any of the more than 800 people arrested in connection with the riot, many of whom have struck plea bargains.
Prosecutors had asked that Mr. Reffitt be given 15 years after adding a sentencing enhancement used in cases of domestic terrorism. But Judge Friedrich rejected those terms, sentencing him to seven years and three months in prison with three years of probation, and ordering him to pay $2,000 in restitution and receive mental health treatment.
But what about all the other defendants sentenced, most to terms of days or months rather than years. Indeed, the previous “high” sentence had been five years after a plea for a defendant who attacked an officer with a fire extinguisher.
Before Monday, the longest sentence in a case related to the attack on the Capitol was just over five years, given last year to a man who had pleaded guilty to assaulting an officer with a fire extinguisher. But because Mr. Reffitt did not plead guilty like hundreds of others arrested in connection with the attack and went to trial, Judge Friedrich said, the sentencing guidelines for his case were two years more than if he had reached a plea deal.
Was Reffitt’s conduct similar?
A jury found Mr. Reffitt guilty on five felony charges in March, including obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election, carrying a .40-caliber pistol during the riot and two counts of civil disorder. Unlike others who breached the building, Mr. Reffitt did not go inside.
Clearly, the most significant difference here is that Reffitt chose to go to trial rather than plead guilty. Did he pay for exercising his constitutional rights or did he not get the discount off the congressional suggested list price under the Sentencing Guidelines? It didn’t help, of course, that his son informed the judge that he was threatened not to snitch on dad.
But Judge Friedrich described Mr. Reffitt’s case as unusual on account of threats of violence he made against his children when he discovered he might be swept up in the federal investigation following the riot. In March, Mr. Reffitt’s son, Jackson Reffitt, took the stand to testify that his father had become radicalized in the months leading up to the attack, and had threatened both him and his sister in an attempt to dissuade them from speaking to authorities, telling them that “traitors get shot.”
Was this sufficient to justify the sentence? Is this sufficient to overcome the appearance of having penalized Reffitt for the exercise of his right to trial? If the sentence imposed by Judge Friedrich was at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, is the problem really the trial tax or the sentencing guidelines? Or is it not a problem at all and you roll the dice and find out what happens, knowing full well that whatever discount you might get off the guidelines for copping a plea are gone and you’re playing for the big win or big loss?
*Tuesday Talk rules apply.