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Wanted restroom, says Gravette man accused in Capitol riot

Man at Pelosi’s desk files for release by Bill Bowden | April 7, 2021 at 7:23 a.m.
Richard “Bigo” Barnett of Gravette sits inside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. House impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett said the world is now “all … too familiar with the images” of Barnett in Pelosi’s office. (AP/AFP/Getty Images/Saul Loeb)

Richard "Bigo" Barnett of Gravette was just looking for a restroom when he "wandered" into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a filing Tuesday in federal court in the District of Columbia.

A reporter asked Barnett, 60, to pose for pictures at a desk in Pelosi's office, according to the motion filed by his attorneys, Joseph D. McBride and Steven A. Metcalf II of New York City.

The reporter told Barnett to "act natural," wrote the attorneys.

Barnett obliged, propping his feet on the desk.

Photos of Barnett with his feet on the desk were used by news media around the world, making him "one of the stars of this assault," District of Columbia Chief Judge Beryl Howell said after a Jan. 28 hearing in which she ordered pretrial detention for Barnett.

A grand jury indicted Barnett on seven charges in connection with the riot, including 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(1) and (b)(1) (A), Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

But Barnett's stun gun wasn't a dangerous weapon because it didn't have batteries installed, according to Tuesday's motion.

Barnett bought the Zap Hike 'N Strike 950,000 Volt Stun Gun Walking Stick at the Bass Pro Shop in Rogers, according to court filings. When Barnett turned himself in at the Benton County sheriff's office, he didn't have the stun gun. When the FBI searched his home, they found the packaging but not the stun gun or any of Barnett's firearms. Barnett "entrusted his firearms to a responsible friend," according to Tuesday's motion. The FBI also couldn't find the cellphone that Barnett had with him at the Capitol.

Barnett's attorneys say he is neither dangerous nor a flight risk.

Barnett should be released from jail on personal recognizance or to the custody of his wife and under a "high intensity supervision program," they wrote.

During the Jan. 28 court hearing, Howell said Barnett was "brazen, entitled, dangerous" when he entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 with a mob trying to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote declaring Joe Biden president.

"He not only entered the Capitol without authority but he strutted into the office of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, sat behind her desk and had pictures of himself, smiling and seemingly enjoying himself," Howell said during the hearing.

Howell said federal prosecutors had presented overwhelming evidence that Barnett "enthusiastically participated in this act of assaulting the Capitol and disrupting the democratic process."

Barnett's attorneys took issue with Howell's use of certain words.

"There is no legal or logical authority leading to the facile conclusion that allegedly 'strutting' (to describe nefariously walking) into someone else's office with a collapsed walking stick attached to one's belt that was not then capable of being used as a stun gun (due to the absence of batteries) nor was it so used, while someone looking cloaked in entitlement -- plus sitting behind someone else's desk, while apparently enjoying oneself, constitute sufficient facts for the proving up dangerousness by clear and convincing evidence under the meaning of the Bail Reform Act," according to their motion.

According to the motion filed Tuesday, Barnett went to Washington to participate in a peaceful protest because "like many other Americans, he believes the November 2020 presidential election was incorrectly decided."

Barnett was standing about 30 yards from the Capitol when the door opened and a throng of people swept him inside, his lawyers wrote.

"It was impossible to go against the tidal wave of people, all moving all in the same direction," according to the motion. "Soon thereafter, looking for a restroom, he wandered in Speaker Pelosi's office, along with an Associated Press reporter and several other reporters. He did not break the door to get into the room. It was open and there was no sign on the door. The reporter invited Richard to take a picture at the speaker's desk, and told Richard 'act natural.' Richard was asked to leave at some point, and he did not object."

Barnett bled on an envelope, so he took it with him for sanitary reasons, leaving 27 cents, according to Tuesday's court filing. He also left a note saying "We will not back down."

According to the criminal complaint, outside the Capitol, Barnett told reporters he left a note saying "Nancy, Bigo was here, you b."

Besides the weapon charge, Barnett also faces these pending charges:

• 18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(2) and 18 U.S.C. 2; Obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting.

• 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(2) and (b)(1)(A); Disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon.

• 40 U.S.C. 5104(e)(2)(C); Entering and remaining in certain rooms in a Capitol building.

• 40 U.S.C. 5104(e)(2)(D); Disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.

• 40 U.S.C. 5104(e)(2)(G); Parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building.

• 18 U.S.C. 641; Theft of government property (the envelope).

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