Was Richard “Bigo” Barnett a rioter or a protester? That’s one of the latest disputes in the trial of a Gravette man on trial in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots.
Defense attorney Brad Geyer argued today that the jury and only the jury should decide that question. The U.S. attorney’s office had asked a judge Monday to block the defense from arguing that Barnett was a non-violent protester when it gives an opening statement this week.
The defense countered today: “The reality is that the Government is attempting to hold the Defendant Barnett responsible for the violent conduct of others because the Government cannot prove its case.”
Barnett, 62, is being tried in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on eight charges resulting from the Jan. 6 insurrection seeking to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden as winner of the 2020 presidential election.
The defense said it’s up to the jury, not the government, to decide if Barnett was a rioter.
“A rioter conveys one committing one or more illegal acts,” the defense argued. “A protestor conveys a legal act consistent with our nation’s founding, core, and traditions of the exercise of First Amendment rights. One suggests a crime. The other suggests a constitutional right. Rioter conveys violence. ‘Rioter is a conclusion for the jury to decide, to reach or not, not evidence. The jury must decide if someone is a rioter.”
The defense also argued: “The Government contends – but forgets whenever useful – that people who gathered at or near the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, all did different things that day,” the defense wrote. “When useful, the Government is fixated on the idea that everyone is collectively identical, part of a hive mind, and guilty as a collective crowd.”
Barnett gained notoriety after he posed for a picture with one of his feet propped on a desk in then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.
Barnett is charged with obstruction of an official proceeding; aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; entering and remaining in certain rooms in the Capitol building; disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building; parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building; and theft of government property.