My dear friend Richard Barnett has been sentenced to 4.5 years in federal prison for sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s desk on January 6. The government had asked for seven years. This is in addition to the time he already spent being brutalized in the D.C. jail at the hands of vicious African immigrant guards and savage black inmates. He was one of the first J6 defendants to be arrested, and received the most media attention of any, save for Jacob Chansley.
Richard, 63, is a former firefighter who spent his entire life serving others. He was an indefatigable law enforcement booster, and counted scores of police officers and Arkansas politicians among his “friends.” All of them abandoned him when he needed them.
Ark. Man Pictured with Feet on Nancy Pelosi's Desk During Jan. 6 Insurrection Found Guilty on All Counts https://t.co/30uAfWXkwM— People (@people) January 23, 2023
Indeed, Richard’s own lawyers were scarcely there for him. His first defrauded him of his life savings, shortly after GoFundMe erased Richard’s fundraising page. The lawyer who nominally represented Richard for the majority of the trial was too busy trying to be a Republican celebrity to actually do his job, and his conduct was so egregious that Richard has a strong case for ineffective assistance of counsel when he appeals.
To imagine Richard locked away in a cage for the next 4.5 years breaks my heart. This is a man who radiates life, joy, spirit. He’s led one of the most incredible lives of anyone I know, from being a professional bull rider to backpacking all over Central America with nothing but a knife. For nearly three years, Richard has either been in federal custody or house arrest, feeling like a trapped animal. It has not broken him, not by a long shot, but it has taken a toll. He’s lucky to get four hours of sleep each night because of the nightmares.
Richard left the Ozarks for D.C. early this past Sunday morning. I spent a few hours with him on Saturday, after my law school graduation. Over coffee and cigarettes, we had one of our trademark discussions about our fallen nation. As dusk faded into night, coyotes howled from the woods, and the specter of prison loomed above. He expected—correctly, as it turned out—the judge to allow him to come home after sentencing and surrender himself to prison, but we knew that he might be locked up immediately.
He shared a story about his time in Central America. One day, hanging out with three Israeli girls, they ran into a trio of Palestinian boys. They all made fast friends, and complained about how their respective governments didn’t represent the interests of the people. “See,” Richard said to me, “it’s these average people, just trying to live their lives, trying to do the right thing, trying to be free… It’s these people that are never going to make it.”
People like us.