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NWA EDITORIAL | “Bigo” Barnett barked beyond the moon and invaded the Capitol; his actions had to be dealt with

Arkansan’s actions have to be dealt with by NWA Democrat-Gazette | January 24, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
Richard Barnett of Gravette, who was photographed with his feet on a desk in then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office during the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, arrives for the jury selection at federal court in Washington in this Jan. 10, 2023 file photo. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Hickory High School basketball booster George Walker knows a little something about Richard "Bigo" Barnett.

Don't remember Walker? Can't quite place where Hickory High School is?

Think back to 1986 when Gene Hackman played Coach Norman Dale in the sports movie classic "Hoosiers." After a 12-year hiatus from a troubled coaching career, a friend hires Dale to coach a high school basketball team that is the heart of a rural Indiana town's identity. The town struggles to accept Coach Dale.

George Walker has been running the team's practices since the previous coach passed away. When Dale shows up at practice, Walker assumes he'll continue his role in preparing the team for the coming season.

Coach Dale, recognizing his coaching approach and Walker's aren't compatible, tells him "your coaching days are over." Walker isn't happy, at all.

"Look, mister," Walker explains to Dale. "There's two kinds of dumb: Guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and a guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don't matter. The second one you're kinda forced to deal with."

•••

"Bigo" Barnett of Gravette is known to a lot of Americans as the man who sat back and put his foot on a desk in the office of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while others invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In recent days, Barnett has been in a Washington, D.C., federal courthouse to answer for his actions on that historic but shameful day. He and his attorneys have defended those actions, teetering close to arguing that whatever else was going on that day, Barnett was just a simple-minded Arkie who got caught up in a frenzied event.

"It's not a crime to jump up, run and yell, scream and bark at the moon," said Joseph D. McBride, part of Barnett's four-person legal team. "He's everybody's crazy uncle, but he's not Osama bin Laden."

No, he's not. Bin Laden is dead at the hands of the U.S. military, his body given a place to rest at the bottom of the northern Arabian Sea. In his trial, Barnett faced no such potential punishment.

Whatever barking and howling Barnett has done -- and our impression is he likes to hear his own voice -- the fact is he entered something far more precious than any of our living rooms. Along with others, he invaded the U.S. Capitol as the U.S. House of Representatives was doing its constitutional duty of certifying the ballots of presidential electors.

So, yes, our nation was kinda forced to deal with him. There's nothing illegal about being boisterous and full of ... malarkey like some of our "crazy uncles." But Barnett did so much more than bark at the moon.

He claimed he was swept up in the crowd at the Capitol on the day he left Pelosi a nasty note, posed for the famous photo and later bragged of his activities. Swept all the way into the House speaker's office? Even if that were plausible, he's got a funny way of showing resistance.

A jury in Washington, D.C., on Monday dealt with Barnett by convicting him of all eight charges against him in relation to the Capitol riot. McBride, speaking alongside Barnett outside the courtroom, said Barnett could spend the rest of his life in prison if sentenced to the maximum on each charge.

In an eight-day trial, jurors found the case compelling enough that it took them just more than two hours to reach the verdict. Barnett said it was an unfair trial because the jurors weren't his peers. His attorney explained that the jury wasn't comprised of "people from Arkansas ... or a jury that has a political composition of anything that's like the rest of the United States."

Last time we checked, though, the jurisdiction where a crime occurs is where cases play out. Defendants don't get to shop around for better jurors.

"Crazy uncles" are undoubtedly colorful characters. There's no crime in that, except when their actions violate the law. And that's what we have prosecutors and the courts for: To deal with them when their barking turns to biting.

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What’s the point?

Prosecutors and jurors in a Washington, D.C., courtroom had no choice but to deal with an Arkansas man who invaded the U.S. Capitol.

 


Print Headline: A “Bigo” deal

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