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Arkansas man photographed in Pelosi’s office in police custody

by Bill Bowden | January 9, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
Richard Barnett (Washington County sheriff’s office & special to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette/AFP via Getty Images/Saul Loeb)

Two days after propping his feet up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk in the U.S. Capitol, Richard “Bigo” Barnett was in the Washington County jail in Fayetteville.

“Richard Barnett is in FBI custody,” Connor Hagan, a spokesman for the FBI in Little Rock, said Friday. “He self-surrendered this morning at 10 a.m. to our agents at the Benton County sheriff’s office.”

During the melee at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Barnett, 60, of Gravette, entered Pelosi’s office and posed for photographs.

“The shocking images of Mr. Barnett with his boots up on a desk in the Speaker of the House’s office on Wednesday was repulsive,” said Jeffrey A. Rosen, acting Attorney General of the United States. “Those who are proven to have committed criminal acts during the storming of the Capitol will face justice.”

“Many of the images from the Capitol riot showed the terror. One highlighted the smugness,” read a headline in the Washington Post on Thursday, referring to Barnett’s photo.

“Richard Barnett found a desk that he believed belonged to the most powerful woman in the country and smugly kicked up his boots between her coffee mug and her bowl of paper clips,” wrote Post columnist Monica Hesse.

But he didn’t stay for long.

According to a “statement of facts” from Special Agent James Soltes of the Capitol Police Department, Barnett spent six minutes in Pelosi’s office.

Now he faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

On Thursday, Barnett was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and theft of public money, property, or records (an apparent reference to envelope he took from Pelosi’s desk).

Barnett is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Fayetteville on Tuesday, said Charles Robbins, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Fort Smith. He will ultimately be extradited to Washington, D.C., according to a news release from the Justice Department.

According to a news release from the Justice Department, 13 people connected with Wednesday’s event have been charged in federal court in the District of Columbia and about 40 were charged in Superior Court, which is similar to Circuit Court in Arkansas. The Superior Court charges included unlawful entry, curfew violations and firearms-related crimes.

Wednesday’s incident is still under investigation.

Hagan said photographs and video from the invasion of the U.S. Capitol are posted on the FBI’s website at fbi.gov. The agency is asking for help identifying the people in the photographs. The FBI is also looking for people who may have more photos or video from the Capitol building on Wednesday.

“My Office is committed to prosecuting all individuals who participated in these abhorrent acts to the fullest extent of the law,” said Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said the Capitol is “one of the most iconic buildings in our country and a symbol of the Constitution.”

“Its destruction will not be tolerated,” he said.

“Barnett’s arrest demonstrates to all those involved in the storming of the Capitol that the FBI will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes, no matter your location,” said D’Antuono, who thanked the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office for “their quick assistance in bringing this perpetrator to justice.”

In his “statement of facts,” which accompanied the criminal charges, Capitol Police Special Agent Soltes wrote that, after people began streaming through the Capitol building, he heard that someone was in Speaker Pelosi’s office “with his feet propped up on the furniture.”

From photographs circulating in the news media, databases were searched and that person was identified as Barnett.

Video surveillance from a camera positioned outside of the Speaker’s main office door shows someone pushing the locked door open at around 2:33 p.m. Wednesday, wrote Soltes.

“At 2:50 p.m. Barnett is captured on surveillance video carrying an American flag and a cellular phone while entering the doors which lead to the Speaker’s conference room adjoining the main office space,” wrote Soltes. “At 2:56 p.m. Barnett is captured leaving the main office doors of the Speaker’s office space with only a phone in his hand.”

Afterwards, Barnett spoke to media outlets, who videoed the interviews.

In one video, wrote Soltes, when asked how he obtained the envelope, Barnett says: “I did not steal it. I bled on it because they were macing me and I couldn’t f* see so I figured I am in her office. I got blood on her office. I put a quarter on her desk even though she ain’t f worth it. And I left her a note on her desk that says “Nancy, Bigo was here, you b*.”

Gravette Mayor Kurt Maddox said residents and the city had received threats after the photo of Barnett appeared in several news outlets.

Hagan said it was “unacceptable” that people were threatening residents of Gravette.

“We have made a swift arrest,” said Hagan. “This guy is facing multiple charges. There is no reason to involve townspeople or city employees of Gravette who had nothing to do with the Jan. 6 incident. There’s no reason to threaten them and the FBI takes a very dim view of threats made against citizens of Northwest Arkansas.”

State Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, tweeted on Friday in response to a reporter’s question: “I am glad that Barnett is custody. I hope that he and all who participated with him in this outrageous attack on our nation’s capital resulting in the loss of one of our Capitol police officers are brought to justice. Barnett does not represent my town or my state.”

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