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On Jan. 6, 2021, Jackson Reffitt watched the Capitol riot play out on TV from his family home in Texas. His father, Guy, had a much closer view. He was in Washington, armed with a semiautomatic handgun, storming the building. 

When Guy Reffitt returned home, there were news stories about people being turned into authorities. Jackson says his dad warned him if he turned him in, he’d be a traitor, and that: “Traitors get shot.”

Jackson decided to secretly tape Guy, and turned the recordings over to the FBI. In the tapes, you can hear Guy bragging about what he did at the Capitol, saying: “I had every constitutional right to carry a weapon and take over the Congress.”

Guy was the first person to stand trial for his role in the riot, and the case has divided his family. 

This week, Reveal features the story of the Reffitt family by partnering with the podcast Will Be Wild from Pineapple Street Studios, Wondery and Amazon Music. Hosted by Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, Will Be Wild’s eight-part series investigates the forces that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection and what comes next.

Dig Deeper

Read: Behind the Tweet That Became the Rallying Cry for the Insurrection

Read:  How the Christian Right Helped Foment Insurrection

Listen: Viral Lies

Credits

Will Be Wild team: Senior producer: Kat Aaron | Producers and reporters: Christine Driscoll and Alice Wilder | Associate producer: Marialexa Kavanaugh | Editors: Maddy Sprung-Keyser and Joel Lovell | Fact checker: Jane Drinkard | Sound designer and composer: Hannis Brown | Special thanks to Joaquin Sapien and Josh Kaplan of ProPublica

Reveal team: Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Sound engineers: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda | Associate producer: Jess Alvarenga | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Al Letson:Hey, hey, hey, it’s time for another Al’s podcast pick. And today we want to tell you about resistance stories from Ukraine, a podcast from project brazen and PRX. What happens when war lands on your doorstep? Photojournalist, Laurel chore spent six weeks with ordinary Ukrainians who were picking up whatever weapons they could find to fight back against the Russian invasion, even smart phones and sewing needles.
Al Letson:The podcast shows just how much more there is to this conflict. Check out resistance stories from Ukraine, wherever you get your podcast From the center for investigative reporting in PRX, this is reveal I’m Al Edson. Today. We’re teaming up with a new podcast called will be wild from pineapple street studios, wondering and Amazon music. It’s Christmas Eve, 2020. When Jackson REIT makes the biggest decision of his life. He’s been watching anime in his bedroom or trying to,
Jackson Reffitt:I just hear behind my wall, my dad talking about the government and Nancy Pelosi, and it’s all mumbled. And I’m just like, God, this is just, it’s crazy. It’s crazy talk.
Al Letson:Jackson’s 18 years old and lives with his family near Dallas, Texas. He’s come to the conclusion that his father, Guy Reffitt is a dangerous man. Jackson decides to do something after he hears his dad say he plans to do something big.
Jackson Reffitt:And I know that’s very vague and that’s what I think triggered me to be so worried about it is how vague it was and how I guess active he was. It just got to a point where I was getting so paranoid and anxious and nervous that I almost wanted to take this off my shoulders and give it to someone else.
Al Letson:Jackson Google’s how to tip the FBI. A text box pops up. Jackson looks at the blank space and tries to psych himself up.
Jackson Reffitt:Okay, I’m going to do this right now. I have to do this right now. Get it over with, I’m going to just do it. I don’t know what my dad’s doing. He’s a part of a couple organizations, Texas Freedom Force, I believe it’s called. He’s prominent in three percenters. He says he’s high up in the organization.
Al Letson:These are far right militia groups.
Jackson Reffitt:He says he’s doing something big. I don’t know what, but I’m just worried. I don’t know where he is going. He might do something soon. I have no idea.
Al Letson:Jackson hit send on his message to the FBI.
Al Letson:Jackson says he and his dad were not close. The older Jackson got, the more he came to see his dad as bossy and intolerant. But he didn’t start to worry about what his dad might be capable of until the pandemic hit. That’s when Guy joined the three percenters and he started patrolling racial justice rallies. He said he was protecting private property. Several far right militia groups claimed the same thing, even though some of them ended up getting arrested themselves for things like assault and weapons charges. Jackson’s dad got obsessed with this one Black Lives Matter activist. Jackson found out about it from his mom who knocked on his door late one night.
Jackson Reffitt:She talked about a BLM preacher off Facebook that my dad was keeping an eye on. I was like, “What are you talking about?” She’s like, “Your dad went to Mississippi for this guy. He tried tracking him to find dirt on him.” And I was like, “What? This is weird.”
Al Letson:Jackson’s dad has disputed this version of events. He says, that’s all just his son’s fantasy. But Jackson sees it as part of a bigger pattern, he says his dad got deep into conspiracy theories, was stockpiling ammo, gasoline, water, and a generator. And that he was convinced that the electrical power in the US would shut down and the electoral votes would be reset.
Jackson Reffitt:He was clearly, I don’t want to say unstable, I don’t even know a word for it.
Al Letson:Everything about Jackson feels at odds with his dad’s brand of masculinity. Jackson wears his long wavy hair, pulled back in a pink scrunchy. There’s a miniature Winnie the Poo doll hanging from his cell phone, a gift from his girlfriend. And where Jackson is soft spoken, his father can be aggressive.
Jackson Reffitt:This is a quote he uses a lot in his arguments. He put me in this world, he can take me out. That’s a classic for him. He loves that one. He’ll get in my face. He’s like, “I put you in this f’ing world, I can take you out.” It happens a lot and I don’t think it’s okay. And my dad has had moments of violence, it’s pretty horrible.
Al Letson:All of this is weighing on Jackson when he hears his dad, in late 2020, talking about doing something big.
Jackson Reffitt:I was like, I can’t call the police. They’re going to come here and do what? They’re going to do nothing. So I was just like the FBI, you can send in tips to the FBI. Almost everyone knows that.
Al Letson:After Jackson sends that message to the FBI, he feels relieved, like it’s not his responsibility anymore.
Jackson Reffitt:Okay. That’s off me. It’s on their shoulders, whatever they do, whatever they say, whatever my dad does, it’s on them.
Al Letson:So what was that something big Guy Reffitt was planning? It all started after Donald Trump lost his bid for a second term as president. At first, Guy was mainly watching TV and social media and just getting riled up. But on December 19th, 2020 things changed. That’s when Trump reached out to his supporters on Twitter, urging them to go to Washington. His first tweet said, “Big protests in DC, January 6th. Be there, will be wild.” Reporters Ilya Marritz and Andrea Bernstein watched what happened next. They had covered President Trump while he was in office through their award-winning podcast, Trump, Inc. When Trump lost the election, they figured that’s it, the show’s over. But then January 6th happened and they realized it was anything but over.
Al Letson:They started reporting on Trump’s role in the storming of the Capitol and they began piecing together the bigger story of what happened. They learned that people inside the government had seen it coming for years and it tried to stop it. And they reported on people like Guy Reffitt. Their investigation is now out in a new podcast called, Will Be Wild, from Pineapple Street Studios, Wondery, and Amazon Music. Today, we’re going to bring you a part of their podcast that focuses on Guy and Jackson Reffitt. Guy was the first January 6’er to stand trial. And his story sheds light on the motivation and inspiration for the insurrection. Ilya has this part of the story starting on January 6th.
Ilya Marritz:On the day that rioter stormed the Capitol Jackson Reffitt walks into the living room where his family is crowded around the TV.
Jackson Reffitt:I look at the TV, obviously there’s huge crowds. Everyone’s freaking out. They’re barricading the doors. And my mom looks at me and she’s like, “Your dad is there.” And I’m like, “What? You’re lying.” And they’re just staring in disbelief at what my dad is a part of.
Speaker 4:Guy, looking good.
Guy Reffitt:Patriot. Patriot. We’re taking the Capitol after this shit.
Ilya Marritz:In shaky videos released later, you can see Jackson’s dad, Guy Reffitt, make his way through Washington. He’s wearing a tactical vest and a helmet with a GoPro style camera mounted on top. There’s a bulge on his right hip. According to prosecutors, it’s a 40-caliber pistol.
Guy Reffitt:Lock and load. Let’s go. Pelosi’s coming out on her fucking ears.
Ilya Marritz:And you can hear him boasting to anyone who will listen, that he has big plans.
Guy Reffitt:I didn’t come here to play games. I’m taking the Capitol and everybody fucking else. We’re all going to drag those mother fuckers out, kicking and screaming. I don’t give a shit. I just want to see Pelosi’s head hit every fucking stair on the way out.
Ilya Marritz:When he gets to the Capitol, Guy is part of the very first group of rioters that pushes through a police barricade. They get to a stone staircase. At the top, a group of officers is protecting the doors that lead to the United States Senate.
Speaker 6:We have an individual breaching the west stairs, breaching the west stairs. We need back up.
Guy Reffitt:USA, USA, USA.
Ilya Marritz:Guy alone, climbs the stairs. The officers tell him to stop. He keeps going. First, police hit him with pepper balls. He’s undeterred. Then they shoot non-lethal pellets at him. Guy keeps coming, saying, you can’t stop us all. Finally, an officer holds a spray can up to Guy’s face. He doesn’t back down. The officer releases a stream of pepper spray. Guy wobbles, the crowd boos. Minutes later, Guy is washing his eyes out with bottled water. He doesn’t make it inside, but the mob that was once behind him has pushed past the cops and is headed for the building.
Guy Reffitt:USA, USA, USA.
Ilya Marritz:As the day is winding down, after hours of watching news coverage, Jackson notices his phone light up with a call from an unfamiliar number.
Jackson Reffitt:They’re like, “Jackson Reffitt, do you have time to talk?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure.”
Ilya Marritz:It’s an agent from the FBI. The agent asks Jackson if he’s in a safe place to talk. Jackson says, hang on a second. Slips on his shoes and gets into his car. Jackson has just spent hours watching the rioters battle police on TV. He now has a pretty good idea of the big thing his dad was planning.
Jackson Reffitt:I was like, “Your timing is impeccable.” That’s what I said on the phone call. Did they laugh? No.
Ilya Marritz:Two days after the storming of the Capitol, Jackson’s at home watching Borat II. It’s about 10:30 at night and there’s a sound at the front door.
Jackson Reffitt:I’m sitting in the living room. He walks in, he hugs my mom.
Ilya Marritz:Jackson’s dad is just getting home after spending five days away. He has a friend over who’d been with him in Washington.
Jackson Reffitt:He’s an older guy. I think he said he was in the Korean War. I have no idea. And they’re just talking. They’re like, “Yay. We did it. We did what we wanted to.”
Ilya Marritz:At this exact moment, as Guy returns triumphantly home, Jackson feels even more certain he was right to contact the FBI.
Jackson Reffitt:They were just talking about how proud they were and what they were going to do next. They were talking about taking down the media. They want to go to New York. They want to go to California. And he was bragging about how he saw this younger looking girl as a police officer, shooting him with rubber bullets. And he was like, “You need a bigger gun than that, lady.” Walked up to her and I don’t know, scared her off or something. I don’t know. And that was pretty much it for like 40 minutes until the older guy left.
Ilya Marritz:Guy brings his AR-15 into the living room. Jackson was secretly recording.
Jackson Reffitt:I was sarcastic, obviously. I was like, “You’re a hero.” And he was like, “Yeah.” And he goes on.
Guy Reffitt:Technically, I want to protect my country and I had every-
Jackson Reffitt:You brought your gun on federal grounds. And I brought that up. Except carrying a weapon. And he was like, “Yeah, but it says it in the law that I could, or the constitution, or constitution says this. You should read this court case, this. You should read that this.
Guy Reffitt:I had every constitutional right to carry a weapon and take over the Congress as we tried to do.
Jackson Reffitt:And I was like, but you broke the law. You did.
Ilya Marritz:Jackson’s mom and two sisters are here too. They say things like, “Wow, dad.” As he shows off his bruises from pepper balls and impact projectiles. Mostly, they’re just glad to see Guy home in one piece. And they think to themselves, he didn’t hurt anyone. He didn’t even go inside the Capitol. What’s the worst that could happen? In the days after Guy’s return, the family is on edge. One morning, Jackson walks into the kitchen and finds his younger sister, Peyton, in a heated discussion with their dad about the riot and the Feds who are now searching for suspects.
Jackson Reffitt:Kept bringing up about how the FBI’s closing in, the government’s closing in on suburbia and Texas and other spots. And that they’re going to shut down on all of us. And I was like, “Well, yeah. Do you know what you did? Isn’t it obvious?”
Ilya Marritz:Every day, the news is full of stories of people recognizing coworkers and ex-boyfriends from photos and video clips of the riot and turning them into the FBI.
Jackson Reffitt:If this ever happens, you’ll ruin the family. You’ll ruin what I’ve been doing. You’ll ruin yada, yada.
Ilya Marritz:Then as they’re standing there in the kitchen, Guy goes one step further. He says these words to his two kids.
Jackson Reffitt:You know what happens to traitors? Traitors get shot.
Ilya Marritz:That afternoon, Jackson leaves the house. He tells his dad he’s going to meet up with some friends. He’s lying. He doesn’t want to give Guy any clue what he’s really doing. And he’s afraid his father will track his movements.
Jackson Reffitt:My dad has a GPS tracker that he bought online that he can magnetize to the back under someone’s car.
Ilya Marritz:So he takes a detour to his old high school. Makes it seem like he’s picking up his friends. Then he drives to a restaurant parking lot and looks for a black Dodge Charger with an FBI agent behind the wheel. Jackson’s not sure what to expect. He’s never met an FBI agent before.
Jackson Reffitt:Stepped into his passenger seat, really awkwardly by the way, because it’s just like, I don’t know what to do. And he’s really nice. This is a weird detail, but he smells exactly like my uncle’s house. It was like right into my face, uncle.
Ilya Marritz:Jackson told me there was something comforting about special agent Laird Hightower.
Jackson Reffitt:He was like, “Do you need to see some ID?” I was like, “No, but sure.” Whipped out his badge. Cliche, I have to point that out. He’s got white short hair, very stern, he’s very Texan, FBI agent.
Ilya Marritz:Special Agent Hightower has questions.
Jackson Reffitt:Explain his organization, the three percenters. Are they the kind that just go on Facebook comments or he is the kind that go into the woods and shoot guns? And I was like, “I don’t know. He goes in meetings and he travels and he’s been to Mississippi and he’s very prominent online, but he’s been very prominent in real life too.” And he’s like, “Okay, okay, got it.”
Ilya Marritz:Jackson also shares some phone recordings he’s made of his dad with the agent and they agree to stay in touch. After returning from the Capitol, Guy gets seven nights of undisturbed rest in his own home. In the early morning hours of the eighth night, there’s a loud bang. Guy’s wife, Nicole, is the first one up.
Nicole Reffitt:I just hopped up and ran to the door in panic. I opened the door and there’s just AR-15s pointed at me. And they’re yelling at you. And then I hear the flash bangs in the backyard and I’m telling them to stop. I knew they were there for Guy. They were yelling his name. So at that point, I knew that I just wanted the kids out and let them do what they needed to do.
Ilya Marritz:The agents arrest Guy and slide him into a vehicle.
Nicole Reffitt:I felt super nervous, that fight or flight feeling that you get. We do live in Texas and the United States and we have our home defense weapons and things like that. And I wouldn’t be one to reach for a gun, Guy would, he’s the protector.
Ilya Marritz:Jackson missed all that. He’d spent the night at his girlfriend’s house. When he arrives home, his father is a silhouette in the back of a government car. Jackson walks past without stopping. Agents are combing through the house. Jackson spots Special Agent Hightower.
Jackson Reffitt:I walked up to him and I was like, “Okay, where do I go?” And he is like, “Just go be with your family.”
Ilya Marritz:It becomes clear to the rest of his family that this cataclysm is landing differently for Jackson. Here’s Jackson’s older sister, Sarah.
Sarah Reffitt:His computer was the only one they didn’t take. They took mine. They took all the computers in the house. Just not Jackson’s. They didn’t go through Jackson’s room either. They just went in there and went in there. I don’t know what they went in there for because they didn’t do anything. So we kind of just were like, what’s going on here?
Ilya Marritz:Nicole remembers Jackson coming over and trying to reassure her.
Nicole Reffitt:And Jackson was like, “Don’t worry, mom. Everything’s going to be fine. That’s been the plan from the beginning.” And the FBI was still there and he was loving on me and everything. So it didn’t register to me until later what he had said.
Ilya Marritz:Don’t worry, mom. Everything’s going to be fine. That’s been the plan from the beginning.
Nicole Reffitt:And then I knew that it was him. Although I kept saying no, it’s not Jack. No, it’s not Jack to everyone.
Sarah Reffitt:I was doing basically the same to myself. I was like, “It’s Jackson and Jackson definitely did this.”
Ilya Marritz:A few days later, Sarah is at work. She’s a waitress at Hooters.
Sarah Reffitt:It was after a football game or whatever.
Ilya Marritz:It’s the end of her shift when sports clicks over to news and Hooters has a lot of TVs.
Speaker 9:Jackson Reffitt joins us now. I know you love your family. And I know this is hard.
Sarah Reffitt:And I was just looked at the TV and Jackson’s on every single screen talking.
Jackson Reffitt:It just felt like the right thing, regardless of my emotions.
Speaker 8:How it’s her little brother recounting how he turned their dad into the FBI. Sarah finds out the same way the stragglers at Hooters did, the way millions of Americans did.
Sarah Reffitt:My friend’s bartending. She just started trying to turn off all the TVs. She threw remote that the other girls tried to turn him off. She’s like, “I’m so sorry, Sarah.”
Speaker 8:I was trying to get to the girls.
Sarah Reffitt:It was awful. It was really bad, man. It was really bad.
Ilya Marritz:Guy Reffitt was charged with five counts, including entering and remaining on restricted grounds with a dangerous weapon and obstruction of justice, hindering communication through physical force or threat of physical force. The last one is a result of Jackson reporting his dad’s threat. Sarah knows her dad would probably have been arrested no matter what, but she blames Jackson for reporting the threatening words, traitors get shot, to the FBI. She thinks that’s the reason the FBI treated Guy, she says, basically like dad’s a murderer.
Sarah Reffitt:Jackson is my little brother and we’ve lived together almost our entire lives. He’s not that much younger. And I don’t understand how his thought process could be so different is all.
Al Letson:When we come back, Ilya talks to Jackson and Sarah’s mom about how her husband first got hooked on Trump in the first place.
Nicole Reffitt:Guy was head over. From the minute when Trump started talking, he just really spoke to a large group of people. He really did.
Al Letson:You’re listening to Reveal.
Speaker 10:Which 1980s bad boy escaped from prison and later had his freedom negotiated by a former Beatle? Why did the father of a Hollywood A-lister confess to the assassination of JFK? These are just a few of the questions answered on an all new season of Badlands, the true crime podcast that dives deep into the real stories of the famous at their most infamous. Hear celebrity stories as unbelievable as some of their films plot twists. Like the story of Sharon Tate, who was caught up in a strange scene long before the Manson family came along, or how Judy Garland’s lifelong addiction to pills sent her over the rainbow much too soon. And Winona Rider’s connection to a child kidnapping case in her hometown. Badlands, get new episodes every Wednesday, wherever you get your podcast or binge the entire season right now only on Amazon Music.
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Al Letson:From the Center for Investigative Reporting in PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. Today we’re bringing you part of the new podcast, Will Be Wild, that documents what happened before and after the storming of the Capitol on January 6th. Reporters, Ilya Marritz and Andrea Bernstein spent months investigating some of the key figures like Guy Reffitt, the first January 6’er to stand trial. His son Jackson turned Guy into the FBI. Ilya interviewed Jackson, but to get a full picture of Guy, he also spoke to his oldest daughter, Sarah and wife, Nicole. Here’s Ilya again.
Ilya Marritz:I was nervous about meeting Sarah and Nicole for the first time. Nicole had been a little curt on the phone. And when I looked at the questions that I wanted to ask her, they seemed so intrusive. How do you feel about the fact that your son informed on his dad and now your husband is in jail? But when we met at a restaurant almost immediately, they put me at ease. The Reffitts are warm and funny and talkative. You hop scotch from one topic to the next and before you know it, another hour has passed. That’s how it went with Sarah and Nicole on my first day in Texas. And that’s how it went the next day when I interviewed Jackson. Nothing is off limits. No subject is too sensitive. And what surprised me was that their openness made it harder, not easier to understand how the members of this family have come to such completely different conclusions about what’s gone on in their lives.
Jackson Reffitt:Personally, I think my family, they overlook what my dad does as just him being, oh, it’s him. He’s just an arrogant narcissist.
Sarah Reffitt:Nothing ever really bad ever happened. But Jackson, it’s like he held onto everything that’s happened in the past year and brings them to light like they’re all these awful things, but really, there’s not been that many things ever.
Ilya Marritz:Jackson and his mom and sister agree on the facts, not just of what happened around January 6th, but in the years before that. Where they disagree is on who Guy Reffitt is fundamentally, whether his rhetoric is bravado or a warning, whether his threats are jokes or real, which is to say they disagree on what the truth of their family is, how they got here. And what, if anything, can bring them back together again. Nicole has bright green eyes and wears her hair in a punky undercut. For many years, she was the only Reffitt with any interest in politics. Even as she was raising three young kids, she always had a history book or biography on hand.
Nicole Reffitt:I am a forefather fan girl, John Adams being my favorite.
Ilya Marritz:She’s drawn to hell raisers and contrarians. Ron Paul, the libertarian former Congressman, Austrian economist, Friedrich Von Hayek, Edward Bernays, the ad man.
Nicole Reffitt:He actually sold World War I to America.
Ilya Marritz:It’s striking that Nicole’s husband is the one who might get a footnote in the history books because you can easily imagine Nicole with her considerable charisma making a mark. I think she knows this. She says she wishes she thought to run for school board when she was younger. Lately she’s been reading Saul Alinsky, a liberal community organizer who was an inspiration to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and who lately has been adopted by conservatives. Rules for Radicals is his big book.
Nicole Reffitt:Rules for Radicals felt like the matrix just fell in front of my eyes when I read that. The main point that I got out of his book is that you never stay stuck. You always go with what the grassroots want, what they want in the backyards of Chicago, what they want in the backyards of Wiley, Texas.
Ilya Marritz:Unlike his wife, Guy has never been much of a reader. Nicole says Guy started taking interest in American politics when the family was living on the other side of the globe. Guy works in the oil business. And in 2013 he took a job as a rig manager in Asia and the whole family moved to Penang, Malaysia. So it was from afar that Guy watched Donald Trump ride down an escalator into history in 2015 to announce he was running for president.
Nicole Reffitt:Guy was head over. From the minute when Trump started talking, he just really spoke to a large group of people, he really did.
Ilya Marritz:And Guy specifically, do you know what it was that resonated with him or was it just the style?
Nicole Reffitt:I think the style. Guy is kind of like that in a lot of ways, boisterous, arrogant. He’s an alpha male. So all of those things just, him and Trump were very similar. And then he started reading all of Trump’s books and Art of the Deal. I was just like-
Ilya Marritz:Maybe Trump’s wealth was a part of it too. The Reffitts had never been rich, but now in Malaysia they could taste the good life. Guy was earning as much as $30,000 a month, Nicole says. They could afford to send all three kids to private international school. They lived in a beach house at first and then in a penthouse with a view of the ocean. They took trips to Vietnam and Cambodia. But after a few years, the price of oil plummeted and Guy lost his job. The Reffitts hung on in Penang for a while, hoping things would turn around. They didn’t. Jackson remembers a hard landing in Texas.
Jackson Reffitt:I don’t know what happened, but we didn’t really end up saving any money. We just kind of just went in and went out. All five of us were sleeping on our air mattress with no TV, no nothing, just nothing, absolutely nothing. We were picking up bed frames off the side of the road.
Nicole Reffitt:We had no money, literally. And Guy didn’t let me know how bad that was. I didn’t know how bad it was. And so that was also hard because then I felt like he was lying to me and well, he was. He was lying to me. Now in hindsight he was probably just trying for me not to worry. But no, it was hard.
Ilya Marritz:The place they chose to live was Wiley, a suburb of Dallas. Nicole started driving Ubers and Lyfts. Guy found work installing sunrooms. It was not nearly the kind of money he made in the oil business. If candidate Trump appealed to Guy with swagger and big promises. Now, as president, Trump had something else to offer, grievance and resentment. Under the same roof, Jackson was developing his own political consciousness.
Jackson Reffitt:I’m very socialist. I just want the government to be involved just to help people out. My dad’s been very prominent about his very right wing views. And that’s drawn me very against those views, because it’s been shoved down my throat over and over again.
Ilya Marritz:This was the shape of things in early 2020, when the pandemic forced everyone into close quarters and the conflict between Guy and Jackson became acute.
Nicole Reffitt:Jackson would be in his bedroom and Guy would be in the living room or at the kitchenette, and I would be at work. And my phone’s just ding dinging, ding, ding. What emergency is happening? I had to mute the family chat because they were driving me crazy. They were literally driving me insane.
Ilya Marritz:This was last summer, spring?
Nicole Reffitt:Oh, it was all through the summer up until the election.
Ilya Marritz:Jackson wanted to join a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas. Nicole offered her car. Guy overruled her.
Nicole Reffitt:Said, no, he’s not going to take your car. It could be dangerous. It could get damaged. He could get hurt.
Ilya Marritz:Jackson made it to a rally eventually. And it turned out, Guy was there too patrolling the streets. Safeguarding local businesses, he said.
Nicole Reffitt:Once again, completely opposite situations.
Ilya Marritz:Guy had recently hooked into an anti-government militia group. The three percenters. They take their inspiration from the unproven claim that just 3% of American colonists fought for independence from Britain. It follows that a small minority can reorder political life around their beliefs if they’re willing to fight. Nicole helped guide and host a mixer for the local branch.
Nicole Reffitt:We had brisket and potato salad and rolls, tea, even beer.
Ilya Marritz:She says there was a lot of talk about guns and shit hitting the fan. It wasn’t for her, but Guy was into it.
Nicole Reffitt:Guy was excited. COVID really had people in a bad place. I’m sure that goes across the board and he needed an outlet and he found it there.
Ilya Marritz:Sarah sees the same thing. She says, Guy volunteered to do background checks on people who wanted to join the three percenters. Search their criminal history.
Sarah Reffitt:It almost sounded like more like a Boy Scout thing to me. He was having a purpose basically.
Ilya Marritz:Where Nicole and Sarah are reassured, Jackson is alarmed. What he sees is his dad gorging on conspiracy theories.
Jackson Reffitt:Fox News, Tucker Carlson, all that. It just grew into like Newsmax. And then he’d be on his Confederate page on Wiley Confederate page on Facebook. And I tried to gain an outsider point of view, the way I handle situations. Like stuff, my dad says, I’ll write it down and I’ll read it out to myself. And I did that and I was like, this is all weird to just see this written down.
Ilya Marritz:It’s not just words, but actions. Jackson remembers Guy buying a generator, stocking up on ammo, water, and gasoline. Since the time he was young, Jackson can remember his dad occasionally having angry and uncontrolled outbursts. Now, it feels more intense to him. One time Guy partied so hard in front of his own family, he passes out and they take him to the hospital. Guy believes he may have been drugged. And then the summer before the 2020 election, Jackson remembers his dad doing something that really shook him.
Jackson Reffitt:We were outside on the patio and my mom walked out. She’s like, “Your dad just put a gun to my head.” And everyone went quiet. It was my older sister and her boyfriend and me. And I was just like, “What? That’s not okay.” And then, I stood up and I was like, “Guys, that’s not okay. That’s clearly not okay. Say it outloud to yourself. Seriously.” And then nothing came about it. Not a single thing. It was just dad being dad.
Ilya Marritz:Guy has said this didn’t happen. But now when Jackson looks at his father, he sees a man who is riled up and violent. Whatever was there before is closer to the surface. And so a few months later, when Guy is loudly talking about doing something big, Jackson believes he really could. We know what happens next. Jackson tips the FBI in December. In January, Guy goes to Washington and joins the riot at the Capitol. When Guy comes back, he tells his kids that traitors get shot. Jackson reports this to the FBI and then the Reffitt home is searched. And Guy is hauled off to jail.
Ilya Marritz:You might think with Guy gone, the household would be a better place for Jackson, but he doesn’t think so. He expects fights with his mom and sisters. There’s still a lot of stuff left unsaid. They haven’t had it out over what he did. And so Jackson moves out. He told me the best way to not burn his bridges is to just stay away for now. In the space of just a few days, the two most important men in Nicole’s life disappear.
Ilya Marritz:The first time I meet Nicole, she never mentions the incident with the gun. If anything, she underlines how harmless Guy is, tells me his nickname is Queenie because he has a flare for drama. I learn he’s deathly afraid of spiders. The behavior that bugs Nicole is Jackson’s. She thinks he overreacted when Guy said traitors get shot.
Nicole Reffitt:If he was so scared, he would’ve taken his sister out of the house and left that day, but he didn’t. He didn’t like what his dad said. And I agree. He doesn’t have to like what his dad said. I don’t like what his dad said. Guy knows I don’t like what he said. But that’s not the first time that I’ve, I’ve corrected Guy a lot on his choice of words.
Ilya Marritz:Nicole says, you cannot take Guy’s words seriously, which is exactly what Jackson does.
Nicole Reffitt:I know Jackson hates the way Guy speaks to me. But like I said, I know where Guy’s coming from. I did not want Jackson to be that harsh spoken as Guy is. And it’s not Guy’s fault that happened. That he is a gruff speaker and that. It was how he is brought up and the industry that he was in. But Jackson is not that way, so I didn’t allow a lot of harsh talk towards Jack because Guy thinks that it’s a man’s world. This is how we talk. And I don’t feel that way. And the only way to change the next generation is by teaching them that is not okay.
Ilya Marritz:In that first conversation with Nicole, it seemed like absolutely nothing could shake the way she saw Guy. And then, something happened that did.
Al Letson:Ilya will be back with the rest of the story in a minute. You’re listening to Reveal.
Speaker 12:Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program to bring you a special bulletin.
Jim Briggs:From the Center for Investigative Reporting, this is Jim Briggs.
Fernando Arruda:And Fernando Arruda.
Jim Briggs:We’re the sound designers behind Reveal.
Fernando Arruda:Each week we create an album of original music for every single episode.
Jim Briggs:We like to think thematically and create music that will help listeners understand the story.
Fernando Arruda:It’s all available for download. You can find it at revealnews.bandcamp.com.
Jim Briggs:Thanks for listening.
Al Letson:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson today. We’re bringing you stories from the podcast, Will Be Wild. The series looks at the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Reporter Ilya Marritz has been telling us about Guy Reffitt who stood trial for his role in the attack. Guy’s wife, Nicole, had planned to attend the Justice for January 6th Rally in Washington, DC last September. The idea was to rebrand the people behind the attacks as patriots and prisoners of conscious, but Nicole never made it to DC that day. Ilya reconnected with Nicole in November, back in Texas. And over Mexican food and beers, she told him what happened.
Nicole Reffitt:Cheers.
Ilya Marritz:Cheers.
Nicole Reffitt:Y’all don’t do salted beer up north, do y’all?
Ilya Marritz:No, we don’t.
Ilya Marritz:Nicole says that as she was boarding her flight from Dallas to go to the rally, another passenger made a complaint about her. She was pulled off the plane before takeoff, she says.
Nicole Reffitt:And it was because of a three percenter sticker that was on my bag. It was Guy’s bag.
Ilya Marritz:Maybe you’ve seen it on a flag or bumper sticker. The three percenter logo is the Roman numeral three, surrounded by 13 stars in a circle. This is the militia Guy joined. The one the Reffitts served brisket to in their backyard.
Nicole Reffitt:I didn’t even think about it. I just got the backpack. It was like a Jan Sport backpack. Never even thought about it.
Ilya Marritz:Now back inside the terminal, the tears come. She will not be going to Washington. She’s overwhelmed by a sense of losing control. Nicole has always been good at compartmentalizing, but now it’s a big, awful mess. And a rational brain has no chance against an involuntary physical reaction.
Nicole Reffitt:I just could not stop crying. It just would not stop. I got really paranoid. I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone and I was just really overwhelmed.
Ilya Marritz:When she gets home, she locks herself in the bathroom and screams that she wants to die. Sarah is so alarmed. She calls 911. When the police arrive, Nicole is taken away and involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward.
Nicole Reffitt:I was like, I cannot believe this is happening because I was put in involuntarily.
Ilya Marritz:This is resulting from the incident-
Nicole Reffitt:September eight. Yeah. I got put in on the 18th.
Ilya Marritz:And Sarah made the call?
Nicole Reffitt:Yeah.
Ilya Marritz:She spends about a week there. She’s given medication and assigned a psychiatrist and she starts to tell her shrink what’s been going on.
Nicole Reffitt:When I was saying why I was there and all these different things. And she was like, wow, that’s a lot. And I was like, is it? Is it a lot because I’m living it, so I can’t think of it on those terms, that fight or flight feeling, and that’s just so exhausting have that feeling all of the time.
Ilya Marritz:You were feeling that all the time?
Nicole Reffitt:Oh yeah. I kind of felt like I was getting backed into a corner.
Ilya Marritz:All through this past year?
Nicole Reffitt:Yeah. I just kept feeling everything keeps coming, and just keeps happening. And you just want to have a day where maybe your husband’s not on Twitter, or something. And it doesn’t seem to work out that way.
Ilya Marritz:The Nicole I meet in November is less defiant, more reflective. She meditates, practices deep breathing, accepts the things she cannot change.
Nicole Reffitt:I don’t see my son. That breaks my heart. I have a hard time talking to Jackson because I get really upset. I do text him because I want him to know that I love him and to make sure he is okay, but it’s so emotional for me that I’m just going to have to wait until we can see each other and talk, because I just can’t.
Ilya Marritz:She is talking to Guy though, as often as the jail allows it.
Nicole Reffitt:It sounds weird that my husband is in prison and that I’m content, but I get to talk to him every day.
Ilya Marritz:She has a pretty good picture of his life on the inside. Without regular shaves, Guy’s facial hair has become wild. His nickname is the Lorax, like the Dr. Seuss character. Guy’s in a unit with other accused January 6th rioters. They call it the Patriot pod. Some of them pass the time playing Magic, The Gathering. Every night they say the serenity prayer and then sing the National Anthem.
Nicole Reffitt:I thought it was dumb. They were all together anyway. I don’t understand. You have people that obviously are passionate and now you have them all together.
Ilya Marritz:Seems like a recipe for-
Nicole Reffitt:It does. It really does.
Ilya Marritz:Still Nicole thinks or hopes that Guy is growing as a person. Has he made friends?
Nicole Reffitt:Well, yes. His best friend is Jessica Watkins.
Ilya Marritz:You’re kidding?
Nicole Reffitt:I am not.
Ilya Marritz:Jessica Watkins is a trans woman and an Army veteran. She went to the Capitol on the sixth. Just like Guy, she’s been charged with seditious conspiracy alongside 10 others affiliated with the right wing militia group, the Oathkeepers.
Nicole Reffitt:I’m telling you, I can’t even believe it, he’s advocating.
Ilya Marritz:Is she in the same prison as him?
Nicole Reffitt:Yes.
Ilya Marritz:I would’ve thought she was in a women’s prisoner.
Nicole Reffitt:No, Jessica is in that pod and not only is she being persecuted for a political ideology, she’s being persecuted for her identity even. And it’s just wrong. It’s wrong. Her story, to me personally, is the hardest story.
Ilya Marritz:Why?
Nicole Reffitt:Because there’s a lot of Christian outreach for our patriots, but because of her situation, people feel like that she doesn’t deserve the same support. And Guy And I have really just tried to normalize her story for these people, because she is normal.
Ilya Marritz:To me she’s one of the most fascinating figures.
Nicole Reffitt:Me too. And that’s his very best friend and I mean, he even knows all the right pronouns. He’s using them. Something I never thought he would’ve done before.
Ilya Marritz:I feel like if Jackson knew that, maybe he would be impressed with his dad.
Nicole Reffitt:Oh no, I think he knows. I do. I said, well I think I even said it to Jack. I said, well one good thing coming out of all this, dad’s becoming more sensitive. Because I don’t think, because he had never been friends with a trans, he just didn’t understand. That’s all it was, was ignorance. And now that he knows, he’s in the know and he’s an advocate for her.
Ilya Marritz:I want to ask you about something that is difficult to ask about. While Nicole was feeling reflective, I thought it was a good time to ask her about Guy’s behavior, about the incident with the gun in 2020 that convinced Jackson his dad was dangerous. Guy has denied this occurred. Jackson described to me an incident over the summer where he said that you said that Guy had held a gun to your head. And that was very disturbing to me. And so I do feel that I have to ask you about that.
Nicole Reffitt:Yeah. It happened. Twice it’s happened and that is a lot of Jackson’s anger towards Guy. And like I said, he said to me several times, I can’t believe you’re married to him. And it is because Jackson’s so sensitive. Guy wouldn’t shoot me, but he was really mad when all, the obviously, and I’m not scared. I’m not even scared of Guy now. I dare him to try to shoot me. But I mean, he’s even discharged a weapon next to my head and I’m not sure why he goes that far, because he is not going to hurt me, but he just gets more mad. Like I said, it’s like, you can’t have an argument with him because he just gets more mad than you get, no matter how mad you are.
Ilya Marritz:I’m going to drop my objectivity here. I’m kind of with Jackson on this, you don’t deserve that and that’s not right.
Nicole Reffitt:No, I know. I think Guy sees that now, maybe. I’m hoping. I’m hoping that he does see it, because that’s something that was very … The last time that it happened, I said it would, I will leave. I will leave. Not that I would want to, but you just can’t live that way.
Ilya Marritz:Why did he do it?
Nicole Reffitt:He just got more mad than me.
Ilya Marritz:About what?
Nicole Reffitt:I don’t even remember what it was, honestly.
Ilya Marritz:Do you stick up for yourself when something like that happens, when he does a thing that you know is wrong, that you think is like this, we don’t behave this way.
Nicole Reffitt:I probably don’t as much as I should. And maybe I will do it more now because I’ve always been independent, but the longevity of Guy being gone now, obviously no, I don’t think that I’m going to put up with being talked to like that. And he realizes that now. He got mad at me over the phone since he’s been in a few times and I’m like, I don’t have to listen. Bye. Because what is he going to do? Who’s he going to call? So I have a little bit of power over that right now. All the decisions are mine now and that’s not really something I’ve ever had. So I kind of like that. He may not like it when he gets out, but I kind of like that.
Ilya Marritz:It’s like now that she is the head of the household, the sole decider in her home, Nicole is looking in the mirror to see how the crown fits.
Ilya Marritz:Have you talked with Guy about this? I feel like you’re going through this whole like reassessment of how you’re living, what your life has been, your family, your marriage. Do you talk about this stuff with him?
Nicole Reffitt:Yes. And I in a safe environment to do so, because it’s over the phone. He knows how I feel now. I hate that he’s in this position because I love him dearly and I don’t want anything to happen to him, but things work in mysterious ways, so maybe all this was meant to be, to have some clarity. And I think time and space always makes things more clear, and I think he’s seeing that too.
Ilya Marritz:Nicole has a master vision, a plan that goes decades into the future. Eventually she and Guy will retire to Thailand where the countryside is beautiful and the living is cheap. But before that, she’ll bring her family together again. She’s going to do it through therapy, family therapy, individual therapy, and the kind of listening she’s recently learned to do with her psychiatrist.
Nicole Reffitt:At least everyone will have their say in a safe environment.
Ilya Marritz:If it all comes to pass, how do you see that going?
Nicole Reffitt:I think it’ll go well. I insist that it goes well. It better damn well. I want my men back. I want to be part of Jackson’s life, his entire life.
Ilya Marritz:But the very first step in her plan before any of that can happen is to get Guy released from jail. That means raising money for lawyers and building support for the cause. So the day after our interview, she’s driving to a Make Elections Great Again event with retired General Mike Flynn as a headliner.
Nicole Reffitt:A lot of the January six families gathering down there. It is a Mike Lindell event.
Ilya Marritz:Mike Lindell is the MyPillow guy who’s currently being sued for spreading the conspiracy theory that voting machines were hacked. And what’s your feeling about Mike Lindell?
Nicole Reffitt:Okay. I think he’s fine.
Ilya Marritz:There’s an eye roll here.
Nicole Reffitt:But I need to go and we’re going to try to raise some legal funds and everything while we’re down there. So it’s like a necessary evil, is how I’m kind of viewing it.
Ilya Marritz:While Nicole is swallowing her misgivings to try to bring Guy home quickly, Guy has made a choice that may keep him locked up for longer. Here’s what happened. After presenting photos that clearly show Guy Reffitt at the Capitol in a confrontation with police, prosecutors offered him a plea deal. We don’t know precisely what’s in it, but the sentence for pleading guilty would likely be lighter than if he’s convicted at trial. Guy Reffitt turned down the offer. As a result, Nicole and her kids were told they could be called to testify at Guy’s trial in Washington.
Nicole Reffitt:We’re just going to walk through the fire is what we’re going to do. We’re going to stand in front of 12 people and we are going to tell the story and whatever they deal us, they deal us.
Al Letson:Since Ilya met with Nicole in Texas, a lot has happened. In case you missed the news, the trial ended back in March and after just three hours of deliberations, a jury reached a verdict.
Speaker 15:Federal prosecutors have their first conviction on charges related to the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
Al Letson:The jury found Guy Reffitt guilty of five felony counts. His sentencing is scheduled for June and he’s facing up to 60 years in prison. Jackson testified against his dad in the trial. You can find out exactly what happened in the case, by listening to the Will Be Wild podcast. It’s a fascinating investigation that looks at January 6th from many angles, including why Homeland Security failed to issue any warnings about the attack even though people inside the administration were worried about extremism. You can find Will Be Wild on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Al Letson:Today’s show was in partnership with the Will Be Wild podcast, which is a production of Pineapple Street Studios, Wondery, and Amazon Music. The Will Be Wild team includes senior producer, Kat Aaron, producer reporters, Christine Driscoll and Alice Wilder, associate producer Maria Alexa Kavanaugh, editors, Maddy Sprung-Keyser, and Joel Lovell. Fact checker, Jane Drinkard, sound designer and composer, Annie Brown, thanks to Joaquin Sapian and Josh Kaplan of Propublica. Victoria Baranetsky is Reveal’s general counsel. Our production managers, Amy the great Mostafa, Jay Breezy, Mr. Jim Briggs and Fernando, my man, Yo are engineers. They had helped this week from Jess Alvarenga. Our digital producer is Sarah Merck. Our CEO is Kaizar Campwala. Sumi Aggarwal is our editor in chief, and our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Commarado Lightning.
Al Letson:Support for reveals provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D and Katherine T MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heisman Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the In As Much Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting in PRX. I’m Al Letson. And remember there is always more to the story.
Speaker 16:From PRX.

Amy Mostafa (she/they) is the production manager for Reveal. She is a UC Berkeley School of Journalism alum, where she focused on audio and data journalism as a Dean's Merit Fellow and an ISF Scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on NPR, KALW and KALX. Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She has most recently reported on housing and aging in the Bay Area. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is a sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. As a multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the original music, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. He has held four O-1 visas for individuals with extraordinary abilities. His work has been recognized with Peabody, duPont-Columbia, Edward R. Murrow, Gerald Loeb, Third Coast and Association of Music Producers awards, as well as Emmy and Pulitzer nominations. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio for media and TV ads, and co-founded a film-scoring boutique called the Manhattan Composers Collective. He worked with clients such as Marvel, MasterClass and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck+Company, BUCK and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles, such as SFJAZZ Monday Night Band, Art&Sax quartet, Krychek, Dark Inc. and the New York Arabic Orchestra. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 Percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker,” Wondery’s “Detective Trapp,” MSNBC’s “Why Is This Happening?” and NBC’s “Born to Rule,” to name a few. Arruda also has a wide catalog of composed music for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which has premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. The original music he makes with Jim Briggs for Reveal can be found on Bandcamp.

Jess Alvarenga (they/she) is an associate producer for Reveal. They are an audio producer and documentary filmmaker from the American South. Meeting at the intersection of art and journalism, they use storytelling as a way to document and reimagine immigrant narratives, particularly those of the Central American diaspora. In 2017, Alvarenga was awarded an individual artist grant from the Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston for their work on the city’s Central American population. They have a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.

Kevin Sullivan is the executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Sullivan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.