Texas man convicted of all counts in first Capitol Hill rioters trial
A Texas man was found guilty of all charges Tuesday for his role in the January 6 Capitol riots, including obstruction of justice for telling his teenage children not to speak to investigators. An obstruction charge alone can carry a sentence of up to 20 years.
A Texan man was convicted Tuesday of storming the US Capitol with a loaded pistol, a notable victory for federal prosecutors in the first trial of hundreds of cases stemming from last year’s riots.
A jury also convicted Jay Wesley Rivett of interfering with police officers who were guarding the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and obstructing justice for threatening his two teenage children if they reported him to law enforcement after the attack. The jury traded about three hours and found him guilty of all charges.
The ruling could pioneer many other capitol riot cases. It could give Department of Justice prosecutors more leverage in plea negotiations and discourage other defendants from gambling in their own trials.
Rivette, 49, of Willie, Texas, did not testify at his trial, which began last Wednesday. He did not clearly react to the referee, but his face was covered with a mask.
During closing arguments for Monday’s trial, Assistant US Attorney Risa Berkauer told jurors that Rivette had flown to Washington, D.C., with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Rivette proudly “lit the fire,” the attorney general said, allowing others in the mob to overpower Capitol police officers near the gates of the Senate.
Rivett was not charged with entering the Capitol. Defense attorney William Welch said there was no evidence that Rivett damaged property, used force or physically harmed anyone.
The defense attorney urged the jury to acquit Rivette of all but one of the charges: He said he should be found guilty of a misdemeanor charge he entered and remained in a restricted area.
Rivette faced a total of five charges: obstruction of official proceedings, unlawful presence on the Capitol while armed with a firearm, transporting firearms during civil disturbances, interfering with law enforcement officers during civil disturbances, and obstruction of justice.
Jurors watched videos depicting the confrontation between a few Capitol police officers and a crowd, including Rivett, who approached them on the west side of the Capitol.
Armed with a Smith & Wesson pistol at his waist, Rivett carried zip-up handcuffs and wore body armor and a helmet with a video camera when he approached police, prosecutors said. Prosecutors said he backed off after an officer sprayed him pepper in the face, but waved at other rioters who eventually broke into the building.
Before the crowd could advance, Rivett used his megaphone to shout at the police to step aside and urged the mob to move forward and bypass the officers. Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said Rivette played a leadership role that day.
During testimony last Friday, prosecutors zoomed in on a video image of Rivett at the Capitol. FBI Special Agent Laird Hightower said the photo shows a “silver metallic linear object” in a pouch protruding from under Rivette’s jacket as he leans forward.
Shawnee Kerkhove, who was one of the Capitol Police officers who tried to fend off Rivett, said she fired pepper balls that didn’t stop him from advancing. She testified that Rivette was apparently leading the crowd down the stairs, toward the police.
Rivett’s 19-year-old son, Jackson, testified last Thursday that his father threatened him and his sister, then 16, after he returned home from Washington. Rivett told his children that they would be traitors if they reported him to the authorities and said “traitors are being shot,” Jackson Rivett recalls.
Jackson Rivett, then 18, said the threat terrified him. His younger sister, Peyton, was listed as a potential government witness but she did not testify.
Jackson Revit used a mobile app to secretly record his father bragging about his role in the riots. The jurors heard excerpts from that family conversation.
Jackson Rivett initially called the FBI on Christmas Eve, less than two weeks before the riots, to report concerns about his father’s behavior and increasingly disturbing rhetoric. But the FBI did not respond until January 6, after the riots broke out.
Another key witness, Rocky Hardy, said he and Rivett were members of the “Texas Three Persons” militia group. The Three Percenters militia movement refers to the myth that only 3% of Americans fought in the Revolutionary War against the British.
He drove Hardy from Texas to Washington with Rivette. He testified that both were armed with holstered pistols when they attended then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop Theft” rally before the riots broke out. Hardy said Rivett also took an AR-15 rifle to Washington but left it locked in his car.
Hardy said that, during their trip to Washington, Rivett talked about pulling lawmakers from the Capitol and replacing them with people who “follow the Constitution.” Hardy also said Rivett gave him a couple of zip-up handcuffs in case they needed to detain anyone.
Rivett was arrested less than a week after the riots. The FBI found a pistol in a pod on a nightstand in the defendant’s bedroom when they searched his home near Dallas.
More than 750 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riots. More than 220 of them pleaded guilty, most of them to misdemeanours. More than 110 of them were sentenced. Nearly 90 others have trial dates.
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