When photographed with a foot on a desk inside then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, Alabama man Richard “Bigo” Barnett joined the ranks of a handful of rioters whose images became synonymous with the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Those include the shirtless, tattooed and face-painted “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley; the tactical gear-clad, plastic handcuff-toting “zip-tie guy” Eric Munchel; and the neo-Nazi apparel-sporting extremist Robert Keith Packer, known for wearing the “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt mocking the Holocaust — and an SS shirt underneath it.
As he awaits sentencing that could put him behind bars for several years, Barnett argued that he’s facing tougher treatment than he should because of his infamy.
“Even though the government admits that he committed no violence, the government is seeking to disproportionately punish him by seeking a sentence of years of incarceration, as if he were part of an insurrection or committed violence, simply because his case is famous,” his attorneys Jonathan Gross and Brad Geyer wrote in a 13-page sentencing memo.
Before going to trial, Barnett rejected a plea deal that carried a sentencing range of “70 months to 87 months.” His attorneys claim that sentencing exposure effectively amounted to a “life sentence” for their 63-year-old client.
The gamble didn’t pay off. A federal jury convicted Barnett of all charges, and prosecutors now want him incarcerated at the top of the range of the plea offer: 7.25 years.
In the government’s sentencing memo, prosecutors note that Barnett has sought to “capitalize” off the fame he now claims made him an unfair target. Three accounts on GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding site popular with hard-right causes, sprang up in Barnett’s support, which “collectively raised over $25,000.”
One of the jailhouse recordings of Barnett entered into evidence at his trial showed him complaining about other people merchandising off his image during the riot without him getting a cut.
“So people will start selling T-shirts that make money off me,” Barnett kvetched. “It ain’t gonna happen.”
Though Barnett’s attorneys were quick to note their client wasn’t accused of violence, police bodycam footage appeared to show him threatening law enforcement.
“Hey hon, can you do me a favor, though? Try to be a patriot,” Barnett could be heard telling a female officer as he exits a room marked “Office of the Speaker.”
“I’m being one,” the unseen officer replies.
As Barnett walks away, he appears to threaten the officer by stating: “Don’t be on the wrong side. You’re going to get hurt.”
In justifying a tough sentence, prosecutors argued: “The need to deter others is especially strong in cases involving domestic terrorism, which the breach of the Capitol certainly was.”
Barnett’s attorneys bristled at that characterization as a “slander,” adding that “there is literally zero evidence that he is a domestic terrorist.”
But prosecutors say that Barnett’s actions fit the bill.
“Given Barnett’s high profile and his use of that notoriety to continue stoking the fires that could lead to another riot in the future, this case, in particular, calls for a sentence that will deter others from emulating Barnett and using violence to achieve political goals,” they wrote.
Barnett’s sentencing has been scheduled for May 24.
Read the memo here.
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