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Judge rebukes lawyers who represented Gravette man in Jan. 6 trial

They had earlier represented Gravette man by Bill Bowden | March 24, 2023 at 8:45 a.m.
Richard “Bigo” Barnett (center) stands between attorneys Jonathan Gross (left) and Joseph McBride as McBride speaks with reporters outside federal court in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bill Bowden)

A federal judge in the District of Columbia is threatening disciplinary action against two lawyers who represented Richard "Bigo" Barnett of Gravette and currently represent other Capitol riot defendants.

After a two-week trial in January, Barnett was found guilty on eight counts in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. He faces a maximum of 47 years in prison, and his sentencing is scheduled for May 3. Barnett famously posed for photos with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office suite.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden filed an order in the case of Christopher Quaglin, a Jan. 6 defendant from New Jersey accused of attacking police officers with a stolen riot shield.

McFadden wrote that Quaglin's attorneys -- Joseph McBride and Jonathan Gross -- have repeatedly caused delays in the case while their client sat in jail.

On March 6, about a month before Quaglin's trial was scheduled to begin on April 10, McBride filed a motion to withdraw from his case so he could concentrate on the case of another Jan. 6 defendant, Ryan Taylor Nichols of Longview, Texas, who is accused of carrying a crowbar and canister of pepper spray into the Capitol.

McBride wrote that Gross could handle Quaglin's case, but Gross indicated that's not so.

In a March 16 filing in the Quaglin case, Gross wrote that he is "a constitutional rights attorney who has never in his life practiced criminal law." He entered the Quaglin case on Sept. 22 as a contract attorney hired by McBride to advise on another of Quaglin's legal matters and "was never intended to be Mr. Quaglin's lead attorney for his criminal case."

"Gross ... explained that he does not practice criminal law and that he is not competent to be Mr. Quaglin's lead attorney at the trial scheduled to begin in a few weeks," McFadden wrote in Thursday's order. "Gross also stated that he strictly observes the holiday of Passover and would be unavailable for the first four days of the trial if it proceeds as scheduled."

McFadden ordered McBride and Gross to show cause as to why they shouldn't be referred to the court's Committee on Grievances for violation of professional conduct rules concerning competence, diligence and "candor to the tribunal."

They have until April 10 to respond and must appear in McFadden's court for an in-person hearing on the matter April 18.

McBride was Barnett's lead attorney.

McBride, Brad Geyer and Carolyn Stewart have all filed motions to withdraw as defense attorneys in Barnett's case, but U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper had yet to approve any of those motions as of late Thursday afternoon.

The pending withdrawals have left Gross as the only one of Barnett's attorneys still working on his pre-sentencing filings, some of which are due Monday.

After Barnett's trial, McBride said he would appeal the verdict to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, but that hasn't happened.

On Feb. 5, Barnett's attorneys filed motions for acquittal or a new trial. Judge Cooper has yet to rule on those motions.

In Thursday's order, Judge McFadden summed up the delays in Quaglin's trial.

"Trial was originally set for October 3, 2022, for him and his two co-defendants," wrote McFadden. "His attorney, Joseph McBride, filed few pretrial motions and was frequently unavailable for status hearings. As such, the Court repeatedly expressed concerns about McBride's ability to represent Quaglin. Then, McBride moved for a continuance on August 3, 2022, citing health issues that rendered him unable to represent Quaglin."

In hearings in Barnett's case, McBride told Judge Cooper he was suffering from covid-19 and Lyme disease.

McFadden rescheduled Quaglin's trial to begin April 10.

Regarding McBride's motion to withdraw from Quaglin's case, McFadden wrote: "McBride wrote that Gross 'knows Quaglin's case well' and that he had notified Quaglin and his family of the change. With this information in hand, the Court granted McBride's motion to withdraw that same day. Two days later, Gross moved to withdraw from the Nichols case to 'devote [his] time and attention to Mr. Quaglin's [case].'"

On March 14, Gross notified the court that he intended to file for a continuance of the Quaglin trial, wrote McFadden. In a hearing a few days later, Gross said he "inadvertently" entered an appearance in Quaglin's criminal case instead of another Quaglin legal matter.

"Quaglin's attorneys have now delayed this trial multiple times to the detriment of their client, who remains detained, and to the inconvenience of his co-defendants and the Government who seek a speedy resolution to this matter. Indeed, the Court has doubts that McBride's initial continuance request was made in good faith. Given the inconsistencies between McBride's motion to withdraw, Gross's motion to withdraw in the Nichols case, and Gross's statements at the March 21st hearing, McBride and Gross are hereby ordered to show cause as to why they should not be referred to the Committee on Grievances for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for attorney discipline under D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (diligence), and 3.3 (candor to the tribunal)."

Print Headline: Judge rebukes two Jan. 6 lawyers for delay of case


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