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Teen testifies about ‘surreal’ experience tipping off FBI about his dad before Jan. 6 riot

Jackson Reffitt, who contacted the FBI about his father, Guy Reffitt, before the attack on the Capitol, testified Thursday in the first Jan. 6 trial.
Guy Reffitt's son, Jackson, testifies against his father Thursday.
Guy Reffitt's son, Jackson, testifies against his father Thursday.Bill Hennessy

WASHINGTON — A teenager who tipped off the FBI about his father before the Jan. 6 riot and then gathered evidence after the attack on the U.S. Capitol testified Thursday that he was "nervous and paranoid" about his dad's demeanor when he decided to contact federal authorities.

Jackson Reffitt, 19, the son of Jan. 6 defendant Guy Reffitt, told jurors in the second day of testimony in his father’s trial that he was in his room at the family's home in Texas and Googled "FBI tip" on his phone after his father talked about plans to go to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

"I didn’t know what I was doing. I just felt gross. I don’t think I can explain it. I just felt uncomfortable,” Jackson Reffitt told the court about his decision to tip off the FBI on Christmas Eve. He said he decided to “shut off my day” by watching TV on Christmas and getting on his phone so he wouldn't dwell on the matter.

Guy Reffitt was emotional during his son's testimony, breaking down in tears as his son took the stand. Nicole Reffitt, Jackson's mother and Guy's wife, told reporters that she told her son that she loved him when she saw him in court. Jackson Reffitt testified that it was "sad" and "difficult" to be estranged from his family after his father's arrest.

William Welch, Guy Reffitt’s court-appointed attorney, told jurors Wednesday that the government’s case was based on “bragging and a lot of hype” and that Reffitt’s standoff with police lasted only a few minutes and ended after he was hit with pepper spray.

“Guy Reffitt did not go in the Capitol,” Welch said in a short opening statement. “Guy does brag, he exaggerates, and he rants. He uses a lot of hyperbole, and that upsets people.”

Jackson Reffitt said Thursday that he had a "pretty great" relationship with his father before 2016, around the time he was entering high school. The pair disagreed about politics, Jackson said, adding that he moved further to the left while his father moved further to the right during the Trump era.

Jackson Reffitt told the court he decided to tell the FBI about his father, who was affiliated with the Texas Three Percenters, after a dispute on the family's text chain in December 2020, just weeks before the riot. He testified that his father had talked about doing "something big" in August 2020 but that nothing ever happened. Then, after former President Donald Trump lost the election, Guy Reffitt started talking about how Congress had made "fatal mistakes" and saying something big was coming, his son said.

“When are you going to realize the Democrats are using race to keep minorities suppressed? We The People are willing to die to protect their safety. 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,” Guy Reffitt wrote. "Hold my beer and I'll show you."

Jackson Reffitt replied: "I thought I was going to see something in August."

“Your first mistake was you thought,” Guy Reffitt responded.

Soon, Guy Reffitt wrote in the chain, something was going to happen that “will shock the world.”

Not long after his son sent in the tip to the FBI, Guy Reffitt kept commenting on the family chain.

“Time to remove them. That’s why I’m going to DC. Promise, I’m not alone,” he wrote.

Guy Reffitt, right, in court Thursday.
Guy Reffitt, right, in court Thursday.Bill Hennessy

The government presented extensive evidence against Reffitt from before, during and after the attack, much of which was generated and recorded by Reffitt himself. It included video that Reffitt recorded Jan. 6 with a helmet-mounted camera.

“Everybody’s coming out kicking” and screaming, Reffitt said as he recorded himself talking to other attendees at the Trump rally that preceded the attack, adding profanities. “I’m taking the Capitol with everybody” else, he said. Songs from Trump’s preferred playlist — “Gloria” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” — served as background music as Reffitt previewed his alleged plan to drag House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., out of the Capitol.

The family group chat wasn't the only venue where the government says Reffitt was previewing his plans and confessing to his actions after the attack. In addition to discussing his alleged plan and actions on an encrypted group chat on Telegram, he also recorded a Zoom call on which he is alleged to have confessed to his behavior, prosecutors said.

The prosecution also used Jackson Reffitt's testimony to verify photos of the family home, where he secretly recorded his father narrating his actions on Jan. 6, when Guy Reffitt is alleged to have helped lead the mob up the steps of the Capitol and faced off with officers trying to prevent the rioters from reaching members of Congress inside. One photo, showing Guy Reffitt's bedroom, revealed a camouflage Trump hat hanging on his bed frame, with his holstered handgun sitting on his nightstand next to two empty Corona bottles. Jackson Reffitt verified the photos.

Guy Reffitt is charged with unlawfully transporting a gun across state lines in support of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding, along with other charges.

One argument that Reffitt's defense could make was that the gun holster he was seen wearing on his hip on video during the attack didn't have a gun in it. But Reffitt's own words, in multiple settings and formats, suggested he was armed.

“This gun right here was loaded,” Guy Reffitt said in a recording his son made after the attack. “I did bring a weapon."

He said on the Zoom call he recorded that he had his ".40" on his side during the Capitol attack and that other people he knew were also armed. "They're lucky we didn't shoot them," he said in video of the call.

Guy Reffitt didn't immediately seem worried about being arrested or charged in connection with the attack when he arrived home, Jackson Reffitt testified.

“Yeah you know they are tracking down everyone who was there right?” Jackson Reffitt wrote in the family group chat.

“Yeppers," Guy Reffitt replied.

"Isn’t that ya know bad…,” his son wrote.

“Yep, don’t care," Guy Reffitt replied. "I broke no laws.”

But Guy Reffitt's attitude began to shift, said prosecutors, who accused him of threatening his children if they turned him in.

“If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors… traitors get shot,” Guy Reffitt is alleged to have said.

Jackson Reffitt testified that despite everything he and his family have been through, he thinks he did the right thing. He said it was "surreal" to return to his family home after he got a call from his mother telling him the FBI had been at the house.

“I don’t regret it, but it’s a lot,” he said. “I don’t have words to really describe it. I think this is the best-case scenario.”

A federal prosecutor said Thursday that the government expects to rest its case Monday afternoon.