WASHINGTON (AP) — An Arkansas man who propped his feet up on a desk in then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the U.S. Capitol riot was convicted on Monday of joining a mob’s attack on the building two years ago.
A jury unanimously convicted Richard “Bigo” Barnett on all eight counts in his indictment including felony charges of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding.
Barnett lounging at a desk in Pelosi’s office made him one of the most memorable figures from the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, the day when Congress convened a joint session to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced in May. Prosecutors sought to jail Barnett while he awaits sentencing but the judge denied that request so Barnett will remain free on certain conditions.
Barnett, 62, testified last Thursday that he was looking for a bathroom inside the Capitol when he unwittingly entered Pelosi’s office and encountered two news photographers. He said one of the photographers told him to “act natural,” so he leaned back in a chair and flung his legs onto the desk.
“Did it dawn on you that what you were doing could cause some trouble?” defense attorney Joseph McBride asked Barnett.
“I was just in the moment,” Barnett replied. “I’m just kind of going with the flow at this point.”
Prosecutors said Barnett had a stun gun tucked into his pants when he stormed the Capitol and invaded Pelosi’s office. He took a piece of her mail and left behind a note that said, “Nancy, Bigo was here,” punctuating the message with a sexist expletive.
Before leaving Capitol grounds, Barnett used a bullhorn to give a speech to the crowd, shouting, “We took back our house, and I took Nancy Pelosi’s office!” according to prosecutors.
Videos support Barnett’s testimony that a crowd pushed him into the Capitol as he approached an entrance, causing him to briefly fall to his knees as he crossed the threshold.
“We have no choice!” he shouted repeatedly as he entered the Capitol.
After police ordered him and others to leave Pelosi’s office, Barnett realized he had left his American flag behind. Body camera video captured Barnett shouting at a police officer in the Rotunda for help in retrieving the flag.
More than 940 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan.6 attack. Nearly 500 of them have pleaded guilty. Barnett is one of several dozen Capitol riot defendants whose case has gone to trial.
A grand jury indicted Barnett on eight charges, including felony counts of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding. He also faces a charge of entering and remaining in restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon — a stun gun with spikes concealed within a collapsible walking stick.
Barnett, 62, is a retired firefighter from Gravette, Arkansas. He said he regrets coming to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rally where then-President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of supporters.
“Two years of lost life. Misery for my family,” he said.
A prosecutor told jurors during the trial’s opening statements that Barnett planned the trip for weeks and came prepared for violence.
McBride told jurors that Barnett was just a “crazy guy from Arkansas” who didn’t hurt anybody on Jan. 6 and couldn’t have harmed anybody with the stun gun device because it was broken that day. McBride sarcastically called it “the most famous trespass case of all time.”
Prosecutors said Barnett had a history of arming himself at political demonstrations. In July 2020, they said, a 911 caller reported that a man matching Barnett’s description had pointed a rifle at her during a “Back the Blue” rally.
“Law enforcement ultimately closed the investigation as unfounded due to unresolved apparent discrepancies in the evidence,” prosecutors wrote.
In November 2020, police were called to a “Save the Children” rally when a caller said Barnett was carrying a gun at the protest and acting suspiciously.
Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press