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A Capitol rioter has received the most severe punishment to date

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

A federal judge has sentenced a former oil worker from Texas to more than seven years in prison in a case related to the assault on the U.S. Capitol. The sentence is the hardest punishment yet in a case connected to the riot. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Guy Reffitt stands in a class of his own, the judge said, because he didn't just want to stop the electoral count at the Capitol. Instead, he wanted to overthrow the government and yank House Speaker Nancy Pelosi out of the building. Reffitt didn't assault police on January 6. And he didn't break into the building. But he did bring a gun holstered on his hip. And he waved rioters past him to overwhelm law enforcement. Prosecutors said Reffitt is still portraying himself as a martyr, willing to take a bullet for freedom and issuing belligerent statements from inside the D.C. jail. When it came time for Reffitt to speak, he said January 6 was a big blur and that he had acted like an idiot. Reffitt promised not to associate with politics or militia groups from now on. The judge said she'd sentenced him to 7 1/4 years. But she declined to add more punishment for domestic terrorism. Outside the courthouse, Reffitt's wife, Nicole, said her husband had backtracked in court to get the judge to show mercy.

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NICOLE REFFITT: We are patriots. Guy was a patriot that day. He will always be a patriot.

JOHNSON: In some ways, the Reffitt family has been divided just like parts of the country, daughter Peyton Reffitt said.

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PEYTON REFFITT: Americans are not a united country. We are divided. And that's not OK.

JOHNSON: Peyton said her father wasn't the leader at the Capitol.

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P REFFITT: Because it was Trump's name on the flags. That's what I meant. That's all I meant.

JOHNSON: Another daughter, Sarah, also invoked former President Donald Trump.

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SARAH REFFITT: To mark my dad as this horrible person and then having him prosecuted like this when somebody is maybe even able to get elected again doesn't seem right to me.

JOHNSON: Their brother, Jackson, turned in their father to the FBI and testified against him at the trial this year. Jackson didn't turn up in court this week. But he sent a letter asking the judge to get his father mental health services. Reffitt has already spent more than a year and a half in the D.C. jail. The judge said she hopes he'll seize the opportunity to speak to other rioters and become part of a solution in this country.

Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.