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Gravette man accused in Jan. 6 riot asks for longer rein to swap classic cars

Judge takes up suspect's request by Bill Bowden, Frank E. Lockwood | June 16, 2021 at 7:29 a.m.
Richard Barnett (Washington County sheriff's office & special to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette/AFP via Getty Images/Saul Loeb)

The Gravette man arrested after the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot has asked a federal judge to allow him to travel to a classic-car swap meet in Central Arkansas.

Richard "Bigo" Barnett, 61, is currently allowed to travel up to 50 miles from his residence while he is on home detention awaiting trial.

Petit Jean Mountain, where the car show is being held this week, is 200 miles from Gravette.

During a teleconference court hearing Tuesday in the District of Columbia, Barnett's attorney, Joseph McBride of New York City, said Barnett needs to travel to make a living.

In a letter to the court, McBride noted that Barnett was in jail from Jan. 8 to April 27.

"During that time Mr. Barnett was terminated from his career position as a window salesman, which was his primary source of his income," wrote McBride. "Mr. Barnett's second job of buying and selling classic cars is now his primary source of income. Consequently, his ability to travel for work is crucial to his ability to pay his bills, provide for his family and fund his legal defense."

Barnett must travel to inspect, appraise, negotiate and purchase vehicles in person, according to McBride's letter.

"Because of this, we are respectfully asking that Mr. Barnett's travel restriction be modified so that pretrial services can grant or deny work related travel requests, and shield the details of said requests from the prying eyes of the public," wrote McBride.

In Tuesday's hearing, McBride suggested a travel radius of 200 to 250 miles would be more appropriate than 50 miles.

A radius of 250 miles would allow Barnett to travel to Little Rock, Kansas City, Tulsa and Springfield, Mo.

"We understand the court's concern, but a 50-mile radius in rural Arkansas is just not practical," he told the court. "Mr. Barnett is basically 75 miles from anywhere to start."

McBride said Barnett's pretrial services officer in Arkansas supports the proposed modification of Barnett's home-detention status.

In his letter to the court, McBride said Barnett is asking for permission to spend Friday night in the vicinity of Petit Jean Mountain and return to Gravette on Saturday evening.

The Mid-America Old Time Auto Association swap meet ends Saturday.

The government opposes McBride's request to loosen the restrictions on Barnett, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Dohrmann told the court.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper asked McBride if Barnett's car business is registered and files tax returns, or if it's just a "side hustle, a hobby."

McBride said it was a hobby but has become Barnett's primary source of income. Barnett hasn't incorporated the business yet but he does pay taxes on the buying and selling of cars, said McBride.

"At this time, your honor, this is the only way he has an opportunity to make ends meet, to provide for his family and of course provide for his legal defense," said McBride.

Cooper asked Dorhmann to file a response by Thursday so he could make a decision in time for Barnett to travel on Friday, if he is allowed to do so.

A Richard Barnett of Gravette got a $9,300 loan from through the Paycheck Protection Program in April 2020, according to ProPublica. The loan program was meant to help businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic. Barnett was listed as an independent glass and glazing contractor, according to ProPublica. The business had existed for more than two years, according to the website. The loan was made by Legacy National Bank.

In Tuesday's hearing, Dohrmann said there were 3,500 discovery files so far in Barnett's case, and there will be considerably more. She said that discovery includes lengthy videos.

Cooper set Barnett's next court hearing for Aug. 24. A trial date hasn't been scheduled yet.

During the Capitol riot, Barnett entered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and posed for photos with his foot on a desk.

A grand jury indicted Barnett on seven charges, 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.

The weapon was a ZAP Hike N' Strike 950,000 Volt Stun Gun Walking Stick that Barnett purchased at Bass Pro Shops in Rogers on Dec. 31, according to court filings.

Barnett's attorneys argue it wasn't a dangerous weapon because it had no batteries in it during the Capitol breach. Based on court filings, investigators have yet to recover the stun gun or the cellphone Barnett had with him at the Capitol.

Barnett also took an envelope from Pelosi's office and left a scrawled note for her. According to his attorney, the scrawled note read "Nancy, Bigo was here, biatd." The last word was meant to be "biatch," but the c and the h ran together, they said in a court filing in which they argued that "biatch" is slang and a less offensive word.

A fundraiser has been set up to help Barnett raise money for his legal expenses. It's called the Richard "Bigo" Barnett Legal Defense Fund, according to the fundraiser's website.

"For contributions of $100 or more, Richard will send you a picture of him with his feet up on a desk while on house arrest," according to the website.

Initially, the website message read: "As a token of his appreciation for contributions of $100 or more, Richard will send you an autographed picture of him sitting in Pelosi's office personally addressed to whomever you like."

On Sunday, Barnett and McBride were featured on Russian state television, according to the Daily Beast. In the broadcast, Barnett was described as "colorful" and an "American patriot" who protested against "the stolen election," according to the Daily Beast.

"McBride welcomed Rossiya-1 special correspondent Valentin Bogdanov into his office and FaceTimed his client, who appeared cheerful and at ease at his Arkansas ranch, flashing a big smile and showing off his car collection," according to the article.

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are to meet today in a summit in Geneva.

"The glorification of the Jan. 6 rioters is just one of several tactics Kremlin loyalists are using to disparage the U.S. in the lead-up to the summit," according to the Daily Beast.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Pelosi said the House of Representatives will move forward with investigations of the Jan. 6 insurrection now that legislation to create an independent commission has stalled in the Senate, saying "we can't wait any longer" to investigate the attack, according to The Associated Press.

Information for this article was contributed by Frank E. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Print Headline: Jan. 6 riot suspect asks for longer rein to swap classic cars

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