WASHINGTON (KNWA/KFTA) — A federal court in Washington has denied a Gravette man’s request to have two charges against him dismissed in advance of his trial for charges pertaining to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Jury selection for the trial of Richard Barnett, 62, began on January 9. On the morning of January 10, Judge Christopher R. Cooper filed an order against the defense’s motions to have a pair of charges dismissed.
The defense’s first motion asked the court to dismiss the most recent charge, civil disorder, which was filed by the government in a superseding indictment. Barnett’s motion called the charging statute “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad,” and said that the defendant’s conduct fell outside the scope of the statute because he was not charged with engaging in violence.
“Barnett has not overcome the strong presumption against finding a statute vague,” the judge wrote. He added that the defense motion’s stance that Barnett’s actions were protected by the First Amendment “misreads the statute.”
The order also clarified the reference to violent actions in the statute, noting that the provision penalizes “any act to obstruct, impede, or interfere” with law enforcement’s response to a civil disorder.
“It is entirely understandable that Congress would penalize non-violent acts that prevent police from responding to a violent riot,” the filing added. The judge also cited rulings he found relevant in other, similar cases.
The defense’s second motion requested that a second charge, obstruction of an official proceeding, be dismissed after it was reworded in the prosecution’s superseding indictment. The judge’s order said that Barnett had previously raised arguments asking for that dismissal, which the court rejected.
“The Court again rejects those arguments as both untimely and contrary to its prior rulings,” the order said.
“Count Two surely placed Barnett on notice that the official proceeding he is charged with obstructing—i.e., ‘Congress’s certification of the electoral College’—was the Joint Session of Congress taking place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Judge Christopher R. Cooper, opinion and order, USA vs. Barnett, January 10
The ruling concluded by officially denying both motions to dismiss the two charges against the defendant.
Barnett is charged with: obstruction of an official proceeding; aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; entering and remaining in certain rooms in the Capitol Building; disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building; parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building; theft of government property.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Jury selection began in Washington on January 9 and the case is expected to proceed to opening arguments soon.