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Accused Rioter Seen Storming Pelosi’s Office Asks Judge: Don’t Let Prosecutors Tell Jury About Police Who Died After Jan. 6

Richard Barnett leans back in Nancy Pelosi's office

Richard Barnett, who kicked up his feet on a desk in Speaker Pelosi’s office, had a stun gun at the time.

The man photographed kicking his foot up on a desk in then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office asked a federal judge not to let prosecutors mention the U.S. Capitol police officers who died after Jan. 6, 2021.

As accused rioter Richard “Bigo” Barnett readies for jury selection on Monday, defense attorneys filed a flurry of motions trying to prevent the government from calling certain witnesses and making certain arguments at trial. Barnett faces a raft of charges in connection with Jan. 6, including obstruction of an official proceeding, entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon, theft of government property and other counts.

The dangerous weapon referred to in the indictment is a stun gun, which was visible in his pants when he was photographed, leaning back and with a beaming smile, in Pelosi’s office.

In two eye-catching motions, Barnett’s lawyer Brad Geyer asked U.S. District Judge Christopher Reid Cooper not to allow the government to call the Pelosi staffer who used that desk as a witness.

Geyer also wants to prevent prosecutors from telling jurors that five police officers died after defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, describing that widely cited statistic as a “falsehood.”

“The Attorney General and the President of the United States and others have repeated this disinformation countless times over the last two years,” Geyer said, citing Merrick Garland’s recent remarks marking the second anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.

On the eve of that second anniversary, the estate of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick sued former President Donald Trump for allegedly “inciting” the attack the resulted in him being doused with pepper spray. Two people were charged in connection with that incident, George Tanios and Julian Khater, but only Khater pleaded guilty to the assault.

Geyer has earned a judge’s rebuke in the past for his “bombastic” arguments endorsing “fringe” theories on behalf of his clients. While representing Kelly Meggs in the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial, Geyer compared COVID-19 vaccines to the Holocaust, the World War II-era genocide of European Jews and others that resulted in at least 11 million deaths. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta unequivocally rejected these arguments at the time they were made. Geyer also leaned heavily into conspiracy theories implicating unknown “outside provocateurs” as the true perpetrators of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Though it’s now undisputed that Sicknick was assaulted before he died, authorities stopped short of attributing his death to being pepper sprayed. The D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office found that Sicknick died of “natural causes” after suffering from two strokes on Jan. 7, 2023.

“Not only did the D.C. Coroner rule that Officer Sicknick died of natural causes, but the autopsy also found no physical injuries or any irritation by any chemical substance,” Geyer said.

D.C. Medical Examiner Francisco J. Diaz added at the time, however, that Sicknick having been among the officers who engaged with the Capitol mob “played a role in his condition.”

In addition, four law enforcement officials who responded to the riot took their own lives after that day: Officer Howard Liebengood, Officer Jeffrey Smith, Officer Gunther Hashida, and Officer Kyle DeFreytag.

“However, there is no evidence of any connection between these suicides and any event on or related to January 6, 2021,” Geyer asserted.

The Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board and the White House made dramatically different findings.

Both Liebengood and Smith’s demises were ruled line of duty deaths, making their families eligible for benefits.

“Based on evidence submitted by the petitioner and the Department, we find that Officer Smith sustained a personal injury on January 6, 2021, while performing his duties and that his injury was the sole and direct cause of his death,” the board reportedly found in March 2022.

President Joe Biden also recently marked the second anniversary by presenting Sicknick, Liebengood and Smith with posthumous Presidential Citizens Medals on Friday.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."