WASHINGTON — Richard “Bigo” Barnett said he has several regrets about his actions on Jan. 6.
“I regret going. It wasn’t worth two years of lost life, misery for me and my family,” Barnett testified in court on Thursday. Barnett said he should not have put his feet on a desk in former-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, and that he would apologize to Pelosi (D-Calif.) if he saw her. He also said he regrets some of his comments captured on video, including calling Pelosi a “biotch,” and shouting at a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer to retrieve his flag from the former speaker’s office.
“Because of some of the stuff that happened that day, I just kind of lost it,” Barnett said.
Barnett’s apologetic remarks in court mark a major shift in tone from an initial interview he did with FBI agents on Jan. 8, 2021. He previously told Special Agent Johnathan Willett that he didn’t really regret going to the Capitol and would “do it again.”
The Gravette, Ark. man is facing eight charges for his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, including theft of government property, disruption of an official proceeding and possession of a dangerous weapon – a 950,000-volt stun gun.
The defense argued Thursday that Barnett’s stun gun was never working on Jan. 6.
Barnett said he activated the ZAP Hike n’ Strike over 100 times prior to Jan. 6, including at a hotel bar the night before. But he testified that when he returned to his room late that evening, he accidentally dropped the device in the shower with the water running. He said that it no longer worked once he dried it off, either due to water damage or because the batteries ran out of charge. He did not attempt to replace the batteries before heading to the Capitol, he said.
Prosecutors have argued that Barnett came to Washington “prepared for violence,” pointing to multiple images from Jan. 6 where the cap on Barnett’s Hike n’ Strike is removed. But Barnett said the cap fell off accidentally and that he had “no intention of brandishing the weapon and hurting anyone in the Capitol.”
Tammy Newburn, Barnett’s wife, testified earlier Thursday that the only reason Barnett brought the Hike n’ Strike was to defend against Antifa.
In its opening statement, the defense said Barnett is not a domestic terrorist, but rather “your crazy, irrational uncle from out of town.” Throughout his testimony, Barnett admitted that he lost his cool on several occasions.
He characterized an altercation with MPD officer Terrence Craig – where he threatens to “make it real bad for [Craig]” if he doesn’t retrieve his flag – as “childish banter” and “bluster.”
During the same exchange, Barnett screams “I’m fixin’ to bring ‘em in,” and appears to motion with his hand for other rioters to join him closer to the police line. But Barnett disputes this interpretation, arguing that he was calling-in a protester with a “big camera” to capture a skirmish between an officer and another rioter.
Barnett maintained that he was pushed into the Capitol “involuntarily” on Jan. 6 and said that it was impossible to leave right away because of the flood of people coming through the doors. Instead, he said he decided to look for a bathroom and unknowingly wound up in Pelosi’s office.
That is when he said he encountered two photographers, including Saul Loeb, of the Agence France-Presse.
“He said, ‘Do you mind if we take your picture?’ And I said, ‘Yea I guess so.’ So they said, ‘Why don’t you sit down and act natural,’” Barnett explained Thursday. “I was just in the moment. I’m not thinking totally 100%. I’m just going with the flow.”
Barnett said he posed with his feet on a Pelosi aide’s desk because that is how he sat all the time at his home desk. He even sat that way in the interview with the FBI just before his arrest, evidence presented by the prosecution revealed Tuesday.
Barnett, a former firefighter, said he frequently attended Back the Blue rallies prior to Jan. 6 and even organized an event to raise money to buy body cameras for local police officers.
“My instinct is to protect, protect, protect,” he said. “It’s what I’ve done all my life.”
Barnett said he even showed support for police early in the day on Jan. 6, shaking officers’ hands on his walk to the Capitol. But once he arrived he saw something he had never seen before.
Barnett said he saw officers launching tear gas and flash bangs. A line of police donning riot gear, who he referred to as “stormtroopers,” patrolled the crowd outside the Capitol.
“It flipped my world upside down,” Barnett said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I never had any doubt that police officers are good people. All of the sudden, I saw people that I trust do something really, really bad. ”
Barnett’s bad first impression with police at the Capitol informed his decision that day to film future encounters with police, like Craig, on his phone for his safety, he said.
The FBI was unable to recover Barnett’s phone from his home despite executing multiple search warrants on it in early 2021.
Barnett didn’t want to occupy the Capitol on Jan. 6, he said Thursday. But his testimony does not align with what he posted on social media days before the riot.
In the weeks leading up to the Capitol riot, Barnett shared an ad to his Facebook promoting Jan. 6-related events in all 50 states. The graphic reads: “Operation Occupy the Capitol. Taking back our country from our corrupt politicians.
Assistant U.S. Assistant Attorney Michael Gordon pressed Barnett on this post.
“You wanted to occupy the Capitol on Jan. 6?” Gordon asked.
“No,” Barnett said. “I thought it meant Capitol grounds. Anything that said Jan. 6, I just threw it out there. I didn’t really read it.”
Gordon, who became impatient with Barnett numerous times when he interrupted his questions, also asked Barnett about whether he stood by some of his other posts and comments from prior to Jan. 6. He asked whether Barnett still believed the election of Joe Biden would lead to U.S. citizens becoming China’s slaves, or whether Barnett would be willing to fight other Americans to “stop the steal.”
“If I had to defend our democracy, I’d probably stand up against anybody,” Barnett said.
Barnett said Thursday that an FBI agent, who originally testified under oath that he did not take a selfie with the defendant, did indeed snap a photo with Barnett.
Special Agent Willet, who led the execution of the search warrants on Barnett’s home, said on Tuesday that he did not take a selfie with Barnett on Jan. 8, 2021 prior to transferring Barnet to the Washington County Detention Center.
On Wednesday, Gordon told the jury that upon further reflection, Willett “did not have a memory either way” whether he took a selfie with Barnett.
Barnett explained his recollection of the situation on Thursday.
“Willet looked at me and said ‘Hey man, I’m kinda on your side. Can I take a selfie with you?”
No selfie has been presented as evidence yet.