Today's Paper Arkansas News Legislature Newsletters Core Values Sports Public Notices Archive Obits Puzzles Opinion Story Ideas
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Testimony ends in Barnett’s Capitol riot trial

by Bill Bowden | January 20, 2023 at 10:42 p.m.
Richard “Bigo” Barnett sits at a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol in a photo that gained national media exposure. His trial for his part in the breach is set to start Jan. 9 in Washington. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Getty Images/AFP/Saul Loeb)

WASHINGTON — After eight days and 16 witnesses, testimony ended Friday in the U.S. Capitol riot case of Richard “Bigo” Barnett.

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper said the jury will return Monday morning to begin deliberating.

Barnett, 62, of Gravette, faces eight charges in connection with the riot on Jan. 6, 2021. He got worldwide attention after being photographed with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite.

Barnett faces enhanced charges for entering the Capitol with a dangerous weapon — a Hike ’n Strike Walking Staff stun gun that he bought a week earlier at the Bass Pro Shop in Rogers.

The trial began Jan. 9 in federal court in the District of Columbia with jury selection. The government presented 12 witnesses. The defense presented four.

Under cross-examination on Friday morning, Barnett told Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon that he was tired of his line of questioning.

“You knew you had broken laws,” said Gordon.

“No,” said Barnett. “I have made mistakes and I regret those mistakes. … I feel horrible about it, but I’m not going to let you put words in my mouth. I’m getting quite tired of it. … I’ve made some bad mistakes but I don’t think I broke the law.”

During his closing arguments late Friday, Gordon said Barnett’s outburst indicates he is an angry and frustrated man.

The defense attorneys, on the other hand, tried to paint Richard Barnett as a loving family man, different from his online, loud-mouthed persona of “Bigo” Barnett.

Gordon had been grilling Barnett, off and on, since he took the stand on Thursday.

As court began Friday morning, Gordon quoted Barnett’s testimony from Thursday saying a patriot would never let his American flag touch the ground.

Gordon then showed video of Barnett entering the U.S. Capitol carrying an American flag on a 10-pound pipe. The flag was dragging on the floor behind Barnett as he walked. At times, Barnett stepped on the flag.

“You see that?” asked Gordon. “You’re walking on it. Dragging your flag on the ground, right?

“Yeah, I didn’t realize it at the time, though,” said Barnett.

In video from the Capitol riot, Barnett said, “I would die for my flag.”

Barnett faces a charge of interfering with Metropolitan Police officer Terrence Craig during a civil disorder. Based on video and testimony, Barnett was in Craig’s face yelling at him in the Capitol Rotunda because Barnett had left his flag in Pelosi’s office and he wanted a police officer to go get it.

They didn’t.

Barnett said the flag was given to him by a state representative.

In the Capitol Rotunda, Barnett starts out saying “Please go get my flag,” but a few minutes later he’s yelling “Get my f****** flag!”

According to prosecutors, Barnett threatened to call a crowd over to break through the police line, and Craig felt threatened and distracted by Barnett being in his “personal space.”

On Thursday, Gordon quoted Barnett saying he loves the Constitution.

On Dec. 27, 2020, Barnett wrote on Facebook: “Now hear this. Anyone, and I mean anyone, that does not support the Constitution of the United States of America is my enemy and will be treated as such! Civilian, law enforcement or military.”

Gordon asked Barnett what the Third Amendment says. He didn’t know.

Gordon then asked about the Fourth Amendment, Seventh Amendment and Twelfth Amendments.

“I have mainly focused on the First and Second Amendments, and I love my Constitution because I know my forefathers wrote it to keep our country free,” said Barnett.

“You wouldn’t do anything to interfere with the Constitution, would you?” asked Gordon.

“No,” said Barnett.

“Are you aware that the Twelfth Amendment is what lays out the law for the certification of the presidential election?” asked Gordon.

“Yeah, honestly, I’m not familiar with how the certification works,” said Barnett. “I guess I didn’t even realize that day having gotten pushed into the Capitol.”

“So all of your talk about loving the Constitution, is it fair to say you don’t really know what’s in a lot of it?” asked Gordon.

“That would be fair,” said Barnett. “I don’t know all of it.”

At one point during cross-examination early Friday, Barnett said, “I think I need to slow down. I’m talking faster than I’m thinking.”

Defense attorneys described the Hike ’n Strike as being like a Swiss Army knife because it was a walking stick, flashlight and stun gun.

Barnett said the stun gun didn’t work because he dropped the device in the shower the night before going to a Stop the Steal rally at The Ellipse and then to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But Barnett carried the inoperable stun gun with him, walking for miles, and forgot his cherished American flag in Pelosi’s office, said Gordon. An FBI agent testified on Thursday that in all the video she watched from the Capitol, she never saw Barnett use the Hike ‘n Strike as a walking stick. But he did pull his shirt back to display the weapon to Craig in a threatening manner, argue prosecutors.

Barnett testified he put the Hike ’n Strike down on the ground after he left the Capitol because his eyes were still burning from mace, and the device disappeared.

Barnett’s cellphone, which he was using to film video in the Capitol, has also disappeared.

Barnett went to the Benton County sheriff’s office on Jan. 8, 2021, to talk to the FBI and turn himself in. He told the FBI they wouldn’t find anything if they searched his home because he’s a “smart man.”

Gordon said that, in Barnett’s interview with the FBI, he said he gave his cellphone to a lawyer.

In separate testimony on Thursday, both Barnett and his significant other, Tammy Newburn, said he may have left the phone on the rail of his pickup and driven off.

“Did you know, at 10:51 a.m., while you were in the middle of your interview with the FBI agents that a text was sent from your cellphone?” asked Gordon.

“I don’t know,” said Barnett. “I was in custody with no phone.”

Gordon reminded Barnett of his testimony on Thursday, when he said he heard a loud bang, then saw police “totally armored out” and looking like storm troopers attack protesters outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“I heard someone scream the police are attacking us,” Barnett testified Thursday. “It flipped my world upside down. I went into full crisis mode. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. … All of a sudden, I’m watching the people I believe in, the people I trust, doing something really, really bad.”

But, during a one hour and 45 minute interview with the FBI in Bentonville two days after the riot, Barnett didn’t mention seeing any police brutality at the Capitol, said Gordon.

The police in question were wearing riot gear to protect themselves during a riot, said the prosecutor.

Barnett is captured on video yelling in the face of a police officer in riot gear and walking along beside him.

“You had many opportunities to walk away but you didn’t, correct?” said Gordon.

“I guess that would be a yes,” said Barnett.

Barnett went into the Capitol at about 2:43 p.m. that day, according to testimony. He stayed in the Capitol for about 30 minutes, apparently going straight to Pelosi’s office, where he took an envelope that he bled on and left 25 cents and a nasty note for Pelosi.

Barnett’s attorneys say he took the envelope because it was a bio-hazard. But Gordon noted that, when Barnett met with the FBI in Arkansas two days later, he walked in and slapped the envelope down on the table. It wasn’t sealed in a plastic bag or anything of the sort.

Regarding the envelope and the quarter, Gordon said, “You know that’s stealing, right?”

Barnett said he figured an envelope is worth 7 or 8 cents, so he left more than enough money for it.

Gordon asked Barnett if someone stole his pickup truck and left money for it, if he would think that was OK.

“If my truck is worth 25,000 and they leave 40 [thousand] I’m good,” he said.

Joseph D. McBride, one of Barnett’s attorneys, questioned him after Gordon.

“What does hyperbole mean to you?” asked McBride.

“Running your mouth, mad, pissed off … whatever,” said Barnett.

“Exaggeration?” asked McBride.

“Probably, yeah,” said Barnett.

“So when you said, ‘This is a f****** war,’ that was an exaggeration?”

“Yes.”

“I thought it was a war zone,” said Barnett. “And I saw people saying, ‘the police attacked us.’ I just wanted answers. I went to each of [the police officers outside the Capitol] and asked ‘Why are y’all doing this?’

“One of them, who looked like he was about to cry, said, ‘Sir, I can’t talk to you right now.’”

In his closing arguments, Gordon said the riot was “a ferocious battle — the worst of humanity on display.”

What if mob violence had won, allowing the loser of a presidential election to stay in office, asked Gordon.

“We’re not here because he put his feet on a desk,” said Gordon. “We’re here because the defendant committed eight individual crimes.”

Gordon went through the list, explaining how each charge pertained to Barnett’s actions that day.

Barnett faces the following charges:

• 18:231(a)(3); Civil Disorder

• 18:1512(c)(2) and 2; Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Aiding and Abetting

• 18:1752(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A); Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon

• 18:1752(a)(2) and (b)(1)(A); Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon

• 40:5104(e)(2)(C); Entering and Remaining in Certain Rooms in the Capitol Building

• 40:5104(e)(2)(D); Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building

• 40:5104(e)(2)(G); Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building

• 18:641; Theft of Government Property

Gordon said Barnett’s regrets regarding the riot center on how it has caused problems for him and his family.

“He has no regrets for the others impacted by the riot,” said Gordon.“He’s regretful he got caught. He’s not regretful about entering the Capitol.”

Gordon said Barnett took the envelope from Pelosi’s office as a trophy and showed it off outside the Capitol, saying Bigo Barnett had taken over Nancy Pelosi’s office.

“None of us are perfect,” McBride said during his closing arguments. “You don’t have to like what he did … what he looks like or what he stands for. … Look at him. He’s clearly not from D.C. … Go to the back of the bus. You’re not welcome here.”

McBride said Barnett had thrown a “temper tantrum” over his flag, but the prosecution’s case really centers on the photo of Barnett in Pelosi’s office suite.

“They have literally made a federal case out of an act of stupidity that could have been handled with a ticket and a fine,” said McBride.

During her rebuttal of McBride’s cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Prout went through a list of excuses she said the defense has made for Barnett’s behavior at the Capitol: “back hills uncle, agent provocateurs, pushed inside, head trauma, just bluster, in crisis, phone fell off the truck, antifa, broke in the shower, couldn’t find exit, ‘Bigo’ the alter ego, relic from the past, no one is perfect.”

“What we haven’t heard is how Barnett is responsible for his own actions,” said Prout. “The defendant is not on trial for his beliefs. He’s on trial for his actions.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT