The Texas man who is the first person to stand trial for joining the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol told a friend he wanted to drag Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi out of the building, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Guy Reffitt, an oil industry worker from Texas, is accused of bringing a gun to Washington, battling police officers, impeding an official proceeding and other offences.
Mr Reffitt's case is being closely watched for its bearing on future prosecutions.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler, in his opening statement, described Mr Reffitt as a “leader” of the “worst assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812", when British troops set fire to the seat of Congress.
“A mob needs leaders,” Mr Nestler said, and Mr Reffitt was “the tip of this mob's spear".
Mr Nestler said Mr Reffitt texted a friend about plans to drag Ms Pelosi and other members of Congress from the building.
“I just want to see Pelosi’s head hitting every [expletive] stair” of the building, Mr Reffitt told the friend, the prosecutor said.
William Welch, Mr Reffitt's lawyer, denied that his client had brought a handgun to the Capitol and said he never actually entered the building or assaulted anyone.
More than 750 people have been arrested across the US for their roles in the failed bid by supporters of former president Donald Trump to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the November 2020 presidential election.
They face charges including unlawful picketing and seditious conspiracy, with which 11 people affiliated with the right-wing Oath Keepers were charged in January.
Nearly 220 people have pleaded guilty to various charges but Mr Reffitt is the first person facing criminal charges to go on trial for their role in the violent storming of the Capitol.
Mr Reffitt, who has pleaded not guilty, came to the demonstration with other members of a right-wing antigovernmental group called the Three Percenters, the affidavit supporting his arrest said.
Photographs released by law enforcement showed Mr Reffitt on the steps of the Capitol wearing a black motorcycle helmet and bulletproof vest.
In one picture, Mr Reffitt is seen washing out his eyes after being repelled with pepper spray by police defending the Capitol.
Mr Reffitt's estranged son Jackson turned him into the FBI. The son will give evidence against his father at trial, Mr Nestler said.
“If you turn me in, you're a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot,” Mr Reffitt was quoted as telling his children following his return to Texas.
Mr Reffitt, who has been jailed in Washington since his arrest, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Agencies contributed to this report