WASHINGTON — Richard Barnett’s lawyer said his client was “honest and upfront” after the prosecution tried to discredit Barnett’s interpretation of his actions at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“When the truth is on your side, you don’t have much to worry about,” Joseph McBride, Barnett’s lead attorney, told the Medill News Service. “We had no problem with him just getting up there and turning him loose.”
Both sides completed closing arguments on Friday afternoon, but not before the defendant told his side of his story.
On Thursday, the ex-firefighter said he was pushed into the Capitol, went wandering through the halls in search of a bathroom and took an envelope from former-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office because he bled on it and considered it a biohazard.
But on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon pressed Barnett on the legitimacy of nearly every aspect of his testimony and accused Barnett of lying in court and to the FBI during his initial interrogation on Jan. 8, 2021.
The Arkansas man previously testified that his “world got flipped upside down” when he witnessed police brutality for the first time in his life on the west side of the Capitol. He characterized the scene as a warzone, with explosions, tear gas and screaming.
Gordon asked him why he didn’t leave the Capitol grounds at that point. Barnett replied, “I was in a crisis. I can’t really explain why I did what I did.”
While Barnett, 62, said he was pushed into the Capitol he admitted that once inside he never tried leaving until he was maced. At that point, Barnett said police only permitted him to slip out because he was injured – but video presented by the prosecution clearly shows protesters freely moving through the Senate doors from which Barnett exited.
Gordon also pushed back against Barnett’s testimony that he removed an envelope from Pelosi’s office because he said he got blood on it and considered it a biohazard. He asked Barnett why he never tried to dispose of the envelope at any point between leaving the Capitol and arriving home in Arkansas.
“This biohazard story isn’t true, is it? Isn’t it true that you took [the envelope] as a trophy?” Gordon asked.
“You’re welcome to your opinion, sir,” Barnett said, refusing to directly answer Gordon’s question.
Barnett is facing eight counts for his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot. He was photographed inside Pelosi’s office suite, and accused of stealing an envelope from an aide’s desk. He also had a 950,000-volt stun gun with him in the Capitol and was charged with obstructing the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Barnett’s phone and the ZAP Hike n’ Strike stun gun that he had on Jan. 6 were never recovered by the FBI after it executed multiple search warrants on Barnett’s home.
The defendant testified Friday that the stun gun was stolen from him after he exited the Capitol building. He said he has “no idea” where his phone went, just one day after his wife, Tammy Newburn, testified that it could’ve fallen off the rail of his car. Gordon disputed both these assessments.
“You said in the interview with the FBI that you had given [your phone] to a lawyer because you’re a smart man,” Gordon said.
“No I didn’t,” Barnett said, later correcting the record. “My testimony is that I do not recall. If you say I did, I probably did.”
Despite all the discrepancies in Barnett’s story that were highlighted during cross-examination, McBride told the Medill News Service that he believes the decision to let Barnett testify “absolutely” helped his client and that the jury can still trust him.
“The jury understands the implications of how intimidating and confusing it may be for somebody to be in a room with two highly trained interrogators and give statements that may not match up with what you recall two years later,” McBride said.
Gordon’s assessment of Barnett’s testimony was clear in his closing statement to the jury.
“He lied over and over and over again to your faces, and then was immediately contradicted by video, and he lied about that, too,” Gordon said.
Jury deliberation will begin Monday morning.