As alleged Capitol rioter Richard “Bigo” Barnett prepares for his next court hearing, the Arkansas man who was captured on Jan. 6 with his feet on a desk in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is asking for some help with his legal fees. In exchange for a contribution of $100 or more, Barnett will give back “a token of his appreciation,” according to a fundraising website: A signed photo of him inside the speaker’s office during the failed insurrection.
“Richard will send you an autographed picture of him sitting in Pelosi’s office personally addressed to whomever you like,” the fundraiser says.
The website for Barnett, who faces multiple federal charges as part of the pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol, also says that Barnett would email a copy of the court filing that resulted in his release from jail while awaiting trial for a contribution of $25 or more. The fundraiser from Barnett, which was first reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, boasts that the photo of the 60-year-old inside Pelosi’s office, one of the more shocking images in a day filled with them, turned him into “the face of the new anti-Federalist movement.”
“We will not go gently into that good night,” the website says.
The news of Barnett attempting to raise money for his defense fund comes as about 500 rioters have been charged since the attack. An indictment unsealed Sunday revealed that four more Oath Keepers associates have been indicted and that three were arrested in Florida in recent days in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol. Despite the avalanche of charges against supporters of former president Donald Trump who attempted to disrupt the election results, some Republicans continue to suggest debunked claims about how “it wasn’t just right-wing extremists” who breached the building.
In addition to posing in Pelosi’s office, Barnett, of Gravette, Ark., allegedly carried a stun gun into the Capitol and later showed off a piece of stolen mail to reporters. He also left a note that prosecutors said included an apparently misspelled expletive directed at Pelosi, though his defense disagrees about what the final word was.
Barnett, who was arrested two days after the riot and released from jail in April, faces charges that include disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, theft of government property, entering and remaining in a restricted building with a deadly or dangerous weapon and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restrictive building with a deadly or dangerous weapon. Prosecutors have proposed a higher sentencing range in preliminary plea talks of six to seven years under federal guidelines, which would be lowered if he pleads guilty, they told a judge at one hearing.
Joseph McBride, Barnett’s attorney, defended Barnett’s decision to fundraise for his defense fund in an interview with The Washington Post. He described the case of his client Wednesday as “the story of David v. Goliath, but we intend on defeating the giant.”
“The Department of Justice’s prosecution of all persons accused of Jan. 6-related crimes has now become the biggest in its storied history. This, in turn, equivocates to an unlimited budget. No man or woman should fail in a court of law just because they are poor or come from middle class,” McBride said. “We will not let the federal government bully Richard Barnett or push him around simply because it’s the biggest kid in the schoolyard.”
The fundraising effort is the latest in a series of online campaigns from alleged rioters looking to get donations from supporters following Jan. 6. Platforms such as GiveSendGo reportedly took on fundraising campaigns related to legal fees of at least 10 alleged rioters, according to USA Today. Barnett’s website claims that GoFundMe refused to host his fundraising efforts, which is consistent with the company’s January announcement that it would no longer let users raise money to travel to political events that are likely to turn violent.
The website, which quotes Mark Twain and Thomas Paine, says Barnett “admits that he ended up in Speaker Pelosi’s office, put his feet up on one of the desks, smiled for the reporter’s camera, and left her a nonthreatening note that the prosecutors purposely misquoted in court papers.” Much of the language on the site reflects McBride’s argument that Barnett should not be found guilty.
“Richard believes that his actions were not criminal,” the fundraiser says.
A federal judge previously warned Barnett against drawing the wrong impression about how the judge might handle sentencing if he were to plead guilty or be convicted.
“The notion that the events of Jan. 6 were a legitimate or excusable social protest against ruling elites or worse yet a reaction to some people in society feeling that they have been unfairly scapegoated for racism is, in a word, absurd,” said U.S. District Judge Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper.
Robert Steinbuch, a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said to the Democrat-Gazette that there was probably nothing illegal about Barnett trying to profit off the moment, especially since the alleged rioter has not been convicted.
But it is unclear whether Barnett can sell the photo of him inside Pelosi’s office, which was taken by Agence France-Presse photographer Saul Loeb. News photographers and the companies they work for control the copyright to their work. Eric Baradat, AFP’s North America photo editor, told The Post that “our legal team has started to look into the issue.”
McBride argued to The Post that Barnett “has every right to sell his photo.” The attorney later added that Barnett was looking to send autographed photos of himself in front of his home instead of ones from inside Pelosi’s office.
Aside from fundraising for his legal fees, the site noted that contributions would also go toward financial assistance for his family, claiming he was fired from his job as “a top salesman at a company where he worked for over 15 years” after his arrest.
Barnett’s next hearing is scheduled for June 15, court records show.
Spencer S. Hsu and Tom Jackman contributed to this report.