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Attorney says 7 years would be life sentence for Gravette man found guilty in Capitol riot

by Bill Bowden | May 18, 2023 at 8:50 a.m.
Attorney Jonathan Gross stands with his client, Richard "Bigo" Barnett of Gravette, outside federal court in Washington in this Jan. 23, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bill Bowden)

Richard "Bigo" Barnett, 63, of Gravette should be sentenced to no more than 12 months in prison for his role in the U.S. Capitol riot, and get credit for four months already served, his attorney wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed late Wednesday night in federal court in the District of Columbia.

"Twelve months of incarceration is a fair sentence for Mr. Barnett based on the totality of the circumstances of his case," wrote Jonathan Gross. "Not all January 6 cases are equal. Mr. Barnett did not engage in violence, did not assault police, did not destroy property, and did not use a deadly weapon against another person."

In their filing Wednesday, federal prosecutors recommended 7.25 years in prison plus a $25,000 fine and $2,000 restitution.

Barnett was in the Capitol for just over 20 minutes with a Hike 'n Strike attached to his belt, according to Gross' filing. Gross described the device as "a retractable walking stick with a stun component at the handle — which is legal to carry in Washington, DC, which Mr. Barnett brought to the city for protection."

Such devices, however, aren't legal to carry into the U.S. Capitol.

In January, a jury found Barnett guilty of eight charges in connection with the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021. He faced enhanced charges for carrying a "dangerous weapon," the stun gun, into the Capitol.

While in the building, Barnett posed for photographs with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office suite.

Later, in the Capitol Rotunda, he obstructed a police officer during a civil disorder, according to the charges and jury verdict.

"The Government’s relentless pursuit to punish Mr. Barnett left him no choice but to go to trial because the Government’s plea offer was 70 months to 87 months, potentially 7 years in prison, which at Mr. Barnett’s age would be a life sentence," wrote Gross.

"The Government now ruthlessly asks the Court to impose the maximum sentence of 87 months, a longer sentence than other January 6 defendants who committed actual violence, assault, and destruction," according to Gross. "The Government cites irrelevancies such as the fact that Mr. Barnett believes that the election was stolen, that President Biden is beholden to China, or that police acted violently on January 6. Mr. Barnett is permitted to believe whatever he wants. The question before the Court is whether the few minutes of conduct deserve over seven years in prison — what will surely be a life sentence for Mr. Barnett given his age and health.”

5:25 a.m.: U.S. wants Gravette man to serve 7 years in prison for Jan. 6 role, his lawyer recommends 1 year

Federal prosecutors say Richard "Bigo" Barnett of Gravette should serve 7.25 years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021.

They also recommend a $25,000 fine, $2,000 restitution and three years of supervised release.

That's according to a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday in federal court in the District of Columbia.

The recommendation is "at the top of the applicable 70-to-87-month Guidelines range," according to the 44-page filing from assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Prout, Michael Gordon and Nathaniel Whitesel.

"An 87-month sentence reflects the gravity of Barnett's conduct and the need to deter Barnett and others from obstructing the democratic process and dangerously interfering with the police in pursuit of their political beliefs in the future," they wrote.

Jonathan Gross, Barnett's attorney, said he'll request one year in prison instead, with time served for four months that Barnett spent in the District of Columbia jail.

In a telephone conversation Wednesday night, Gross said he was still working on his sentencing memorandum, which was due at midnight. Gross said the presentence report from the a U.S. probation office suggested five years in prison.

Barnett is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday in Washington.

In January, after a two-week trial, a jury in the District of Columbia convicted Barnett of all eight counts -- four felonies and four misdemeanors. He faced 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.

Barnett, 63, of Gravette, posed for pictures with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office suite.

It became "one of the best-known images of that day, symbolizing the rioters having wrested control of both the hallowed space and the political process from the nation's elected leaders," prosecutors wrote in Wednesday's filing.

Barnett was aware of the significance of Jan. 6, 2021, they wrote.

"He believed that the United States would be taken over by communists if President-Elect Biden became president and was prepared to do 'whatever it takes,' (as he said on social media), including occupying the Capitol, to prevent that from happening," according to Wednesday's court filing.

"To that end, Barnett anticipated violence on January 6," prosecutors wrote. "He declared on social media that he was prepared to fight anyone who opposed him, including law enforcement and/or the military. He prepared for that violence by arming himself with a stun device and a ten-pound steel pole, both capable of inflicting serious bodily injury. And then he traveled to Washington, D.C. with those weapons."

Barnett left his 10-pound steel flag pole, with an American flag attached, in Pelosi's office and was charged with obstructing a police officer in the Capitol Rotunda for repeatedly asking -- and then demanding -- that police go to Pelosi's office to retrieve his flag.

"Barnett incessantly shouted at the officers to 'be a patriot' and demanded they retrieve his flag," according to Wednesday's filing. "Having failed to persuade the officers by questioning their patriotism, Barnett next tried appealing for sympathy, and then tried bargaining with them, offering to help call off the rioters if the police would send an officer to retrieve his flag. When none of that worked, Barnett escalated to threatening the officers, specifically MPD Officer Terrence Craig, who was part of that police line.

"Barnett threatened to 'make it real bad' for Officer Craig, claiming 'I'm fixin' ta bring 'em in,' i.e., that he was preparing to call more rioters forward to challenge the police line," according to prosecutors. "At one point, Barnett flashed his stun device at Officer Craig with the cap removed, revealing the device's sharp spike electrodes, which Officer Craig saw and recognized as a weapon that could pose a serious danger to himself and others."

During Barnett's trial, the owner of the company that makes the Hike 'n Strike testified that the spike electrodes are long enough to penetrate an animal's fur. He said it can be used on "mountain lions, coyotes, bears."

Outside the Capitol, Barnett boasted of his exploits and displayed an envelope he had taken from Pelosi's office, according to prosecutors.

"After January 6, Barnett sought to profit from his notoriety and criminal conduct," they wrote in Wednesday's filing. "He sold autographed photos of himself in the Speaker's office suite. While in pre-trial detention, he directed his significant other to copyright the message he left on the desk he believed belonged to Speaker Pelosi: 'Nancy, Bigo was here you biotch.' He wanted to be able to sell merchandise with that statement on it, further glorifying January 6 and sowing disrespect for the law. His post-trial statements similarly show he is without remorse and would readily engage in similar conduct in the future."

Print Headline: U.S. seeks 7 years for Barnett in Capitol riot


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