A Capitol Hill rioter who was photographed with his feet on Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s desk has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.
Richard “Bigo” Barnett became one of the faces of the riot on 6 January, 2021.
Barnett was convicted at trial on eight counts, including felony charges of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding – a session of Congress to certify Joe Biden‘s victory over Mr Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Ms Pelosi, who was speaker of the House of Representatives at the time, was forced to flee the chamber as protesters – supporters of then president Donald Trump – stormed the building.
It was established during proceedings that Barnett brought a stun gun with spikes into the Capitol, concealed within a collapsible walking stick.
He also took a piece of Ms Pelosi’s 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.
Prosecutors also said Barnett has since posted “falsehoods” on social media about the events, and downplayed his role.
“The defendant still believes he can say or do whatever he wants and if someone else is threatened by it, that’s their problem,” prosecutor Alison Prout said.
Barnett testified at trial that he was swept along with the crowd into the Capitol, and was looking for a bathroom when he unwittingly entered Ms Pelosi’s office and encountered two news photographers.
He said he was “going with the flow” and struck a pose after the photographers told him to “act natural”.
Barnett told the judge that joining the riot was “an enigma in my life” that he regretted, but said prosecutors wanted him to be “remorseful for things I did not do”.
“January 6 was a traumatic day for everyone, not just law enforcement,” he said.
The 63-year-old from Gravette, Arkansas, has vowed to appeal his conviction.
Defence lawyer Jonathan Gross said Barnett did not hurt anyone or damage property, and was being singled out because the photo had made him famous.
“Mr Barnett should not be punished because the government thinks he’s a symbol,” he said.
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The judge, however, said he did not believe Barnett played such a passive role.
Sentencing the retired firefighter on Wednesday, US District Judge Christopher Cooper said Barnett seemed at times to enjoy the notoriety.
“All the folks who follow ‘Bigo’ need to know the actions of January 6 cannot be repeated without some serious repercussions,” he said.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot.
Just over 500 of them have been sentenced, and more than half have received prison terms ranging from a week to over 14 years.