Gravette man’s attorneys oppose jury questions about deadly weapons, QAnon

Attorneys for a Gravette man charged in the U.S. Capitol riot don’t like some of the questions prosecutors want to ask prospective jurors in his trial, which is scheduled to begin on Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C.

They don’t want the specific charges against Richard “Bigo” Barnett to be mentioned because two of the counts include the words “deadly” and “weapon” in reference to a stun gun, according to a filing Tuesday night in federal court in the District of Columbia.

“The Government proposes listing the counts,” wrote Barnett’s attorneys, Jonathan Gross of Baltimore and Joseph D. McBride of New York City.

“This serves no purpose other than to cast Mr. Barnett in the most prejudicial light,” they wrote. “The jurors are immediately introduced to words like ‘deadly’ and ‘weapon.’ The Government has the burden of proving at trial that he had a weapon and that it was deadly. Implanting the idea into the jurors’ head at this early stage places the burden on the Defendant to disprove both.”

Prosecutors argue that Barnett bought a ZAP Hike ‘n Strike Hiking Staff at a Bass Pro Shop in Rogers on Dec. 31, 2020, and that photographs indicate he had the stun gun with him in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Based on earlier hearings in the case, packaging for the stun gun was recovered from Barnett’s residence, but investigators hadn’t found the weapon.

Barnett got national media attention after he posed for photos with his foot propped on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite during the Capitol riot.

In Tuesday’s filing, Barnett’s attorneys said they were filing their own “proposed voir dire” because federal prosecutors had done the same thing the previous day. “Voir dire,” in this instance, refers to questions for potential jurors during the process of jury selection before the trial begins.

“On December 19, the Government and Mr. Barnett’s counsel were unable to reach consensus on a joint voir dire,” according to Barnett’s attorneys. “The Government unilaterally submitted its proposed voir dire without any acknowledgement to Mr. Barnett’s reasonable proposals, so in kind, Mr. Barnett submits this proposed voir dire which adopts the Government’s proposal but incorporates Mr. Barnett’s proposed changes.”

In the government’s filing, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison B. Prout, Michael M. Gordon and Nathaniel K. Whitesel note that Barnett’s attorneys didn’t get their proposed joint voir dire to them until 8:27 p.m. Monday and the court’s deadline was midnight.

“The government did not receive the defense proposal until 8:27 p.m.,” wrote the prosecutors. “Upon reviewing it, the government noted that the defendant’s proposed voir dire questionnaire — which required prospective jurors to provide narrative responses in some places and to check all categories that apply to them in others — did not follow the format of the jury selection procedure used by this Court in United States v. Robertson, 1:21-cr-34-CRC, or United States v. Strand, 1:21-cr-85-CRC.”

The prosecutors wrote that, during a 1:30 p.m. conference call on Monday, a new attorney for Barnett participated: Bradford Geyer.

Mehta in the Oathkeepers trial, in which Mr. Geyer participated,” according to prosecutors.

“With respect to choosing a jury, Mr. Barnett’s case should instead be treated as a high-profile January 6th case, similar to the recent Oath Keepers trial in front of Judge Mehta,” wrote Barnett’s attorneys in their filing. “In that case, the voir dire was done by written questionnaire that was the product of collaboration between a team of Assistant United States Attorneys with several defense attorneys representing multiple defendants, and was approved by Judge Mehta. The notoriety of this case warrants a voir dire for a high-profile case, like the Oath Keepers, rather than Robertson and Strand who were not indelibly etched into the public’s mind through a single image that was repeatedly displayed on the news and in pop culture as Mr. Barnett was.”

The prosecutors note that Barnett is charged with seven counts, but they intend to seek a superseding indictment adding an eighth count, a charge of civil disorder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 231(a)(3), which will be listed as “Count One.” That statute concerns obstructing, impeding or interfering with a fireman or law enforcement officer who is trying to perform his official duties during a civil disorder.

Barnett’s attorneys “strongly objected” to two questions proposed by the prosecutors regarding QAnon: “Do you consider yourself a supporter of QAnon or believe in the theories advanced by its supporters?” and “Do you have an opinion about QAnon believers or supporters that would make it hard for you to serve as a fair and impartial juror in this case?”

“Questions referencing one type of political belief open the door to infinity inquiries about how potential jurors feel about Donald Trump and/or Joe Biden, etc.,” wrote Barnett’s attorneys. “If questions about ‘QAnon’ are allowed, Defense requests that the jury also be asked ‘Do you consider yourself a supporter of Black Lives Matter or believe in the theories advanced by its supporters?'”

Barnett, 62, is one of two Arkansans who face felony charges in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot. The other is Peter Francis Stager, 43, of Conway, who is accused of using a flagpole to beat a police officer who was face down on the steps of the Capitol. Stager remains in the District of Columbia jail. He is the only Jan. 6 defendant from Arkansas still incarcerated. A plea hearing is scheduled for Stager on Feb. 16.

Three Arkansans were charged with misdemeanor counts regarding the Capitol breach. Robert Thomas Snow, 79, of Heber Springs and Jon Thomas Mott, 39, of Yellville both pleaded guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. Snow was sentenced to one year of probation and 60 hours of community service. Mott’s sentencing is scheduled for March 8.

Brennen Cline Machacek, 32, of Hindsville, was arrested Monday and charged with the same four counts that Snow and Mott initially faced. His initial appearance is scheduled for Tuesday via video teleconference.

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