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Barnett guilty on 8 counts in Capitol riot, faces up to 47 years in prison

by Bill Bowden | January 24, 2023 at 9:53 a.m.
Richard “Bigo" Barnett’s legal team talks with reporters about the the verdict outside federal court in Monday Jan. 23, 2023 in Washington. From left to right, Jonathan Gross, Richard “Bigo” Barnett, Joseph McBride and Bradford L Geyer. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bill Bowden)

WASHINGTON -- The Arkansas man photographed with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was found guilty on Monday of all eight charges filed against him in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Richard "Bigo" Barnett, 62, of Gravette, will be sentenced on May 3.

Barnett's attorney, Joseph McBride, said his client could spend the rest of his life in prison if sentenced to the maximum on each charge. Barnett faces a maximum penalty of 47 years in prison, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

After an eight-day trial with 16 witnesses, the jury of six men and six women deliberated a little over two hours before reaching a verdict in federal court in the District of Columbia.

"When a jury comes back that quickly, it's usually because they have bought hook, line and sinker what the government has said, and their minds were made up long ago," McBride told reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict Monday.

Arguing that Barnett should be kept in jail until his sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Prout told the court that Barnett had been tweeting during the trial and expressed no remorse for his actions on Jan. 6, 2021.

She said Barnett carried a dangerous weapon into the Capitol and into Pelosi's office, referring to a Hike 'n Strike Walking Staff stun gun.

"We can only imagine what would have happened if she had been there," said Prout.

The manufacturer testified that the spike electrodes on the device were long enough to penetrate an animal's fur and deliver a 950,000-volt shock.

"I actually did express remorse on the stand," Barnett told reporters. "The government is overstepping themselves on everything they say. I totally disagree with them as well as the verdict, and we will move forward to correct this injustice."

McBride said he will file an appeal with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

After serving about four months in the District of Columbia jail, Barnett was released on his own recognizance in April 2021 and has remained free since then, with some restrictions to his movement.

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper ruled that Barnett can remain free on the current conditions of his release.

"It would not be wise or prudent for you to violate those conditions or not show up for your sentencing," said Cooper.

"Yes, sir, I understand," said Barnett.

Cooper will determine the sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors, according to the Justice Department.

"I am going home for a few months to see my daughter and my dogs," Barnett told reporters. "I'm very happy about that. It's been a nice visit to D.C. this time. Thank you very much."

Throughout the trial, during breaks and lunch, Barnett could be seen reading from a Bible. Early Monday morning, he posted a message on Twitter saying, "The jury sequesters today. Please pray for them. And pray that Father touches their hearts to acquit me and send me home to my family."

He also attached Psalm 23.

Barnett's attorneys had sought to get a change of venue so the trial could be held in the Western District of Arkansas, where he could get "a jury of his peers," but it was denied.

Meeting with reporters after the verdict on Monday, McBride said, "Everybody who's a January Sixer, who's been accused of a crime, is looking to have their case heard somewhere else because nobody feels safe here. Regarding a jury of your peers, it just means a balanced jury, at least politically, as it's 96, 95% Biden voters [in the District of Columbia]. President Trump, the election's at issue here. We feel that that fact alone, in congruence with all the media coverage, the Jan. 6 hearings, so on and so forth, eliminated, eviscerated any chance for a fair trial."

Later Monday afternoon, McBride tweeted, "An issue at trial was the fact that he legally purchased a self-defense device before traveling to DC in anticipation of a conflict with Antifa. Antifa is an irrelevant fairy tale according to the Gov."

Barnett testified on Thursday and Friday.

McBride said he didn't regret putting his client on the stand.

"We thought the decision to testify was unequivocally the right one," said McBride. "He had a story that needed to be told. People needed to know why he came here, what his intentions were and what he did while he was here. The man got up there and told the truth, and it didn't work out for him. But at the end of the day, we have no regrets whatsoever about that choice."

During his testimony, Barnett said he thought the Hike 'n Strike might come in handy if a coyote were to attack his dog, but he also indicated in a video on social media that it could be used for self-defense.

Barnett said the stun gun didn't work on Jan. 6, 2021, apparently because he had dropped it in the shower the previous night.

During Barnett's testimony on Thursday, McBride asked if he had any regrets about Jan. 6.

"Heck yeah," said Barnett. "Right off the top of my head, I regret going."

"How come?"

"It was not what I expected, and it wasn't worth the two years of lost life and misery for my family," said Barnett. "A lot of reasons."

Barnett said former President Trump's speech at a Stop the Steal rally at The Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, wasn't what he expected.

"He just whined a lot," said Barnett.

Barnett said he had other regrets.

"I probably shouldn't have put my feet on the desk," he said.

Barnett said he also regretted calling Pelosi a b****.

He left a note behind in her office that read, "Nancy, Bigo was here, biotch."

"So if Speaker Pelosi was here today and you could apologize to her, would you say, 'I'm sorry for what I said?'" asked McBride.

"Yeah, I sure would," he replied.

Under cross-examination on Friday morning, Barnett snapped at Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon, saying he was "getting quite 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 tried to paint Richard Barnett as a loving family man, different from his online, loud-mouthed persona of "Bigo" Barnett.

His significant other, Tammy Newburn, testified that Barnett came up with the name Bigo as something to use online when he sold cars or car parts.

Barnett went into the Capitol about 2:43 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, 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.

After being told to leave Pelosi's office suite, Barnett went to the Capitol Rotunda. Then he realized he left his American flag, which was attached to a 10-pound pipe, on a credenza in Pelosi's office.

Barnett confronted Metropolitan Police officer Terrence Craig in the Rotunda, about his flag.

In videos presented during the trial, 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's being in his "personal space."

Barnett's encounter with Craig resulted in the charge of interfering with a police officer during a civil disorder.

"Evidence established that Barnett carried a Zap Hike 'N Strike Walking Staff with spike electrodes with him as he traveled through the Capitol, and that he exposed those spike electrodes at various points that day, including during a face to face encounter with a Metropolitan Police Officer," according to the Justice Department news release. "During that encounter, Barnett threatened to call in the mob and push through the line of officers if the officer did not go and retrieve Barnett's flag ..."

In his closing arguments, 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.

Assistant U.S. attorneys involved in the case said they couldn't comment after the verdict.

Since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 950 people have been arrested for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including over 284 who were charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, according to the Justice Department news release. The investigation remains ongoing.

Barnett was found guilty of 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


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