FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — After agreeing to postpone the start of a trial for the Gravette man charged for his role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a federal court issued rulings on several pretrial motions.
Richard Barnett, 61, is facing a host of charges due to his actions on January 6, 2021. On November 22, the Government agreed to Barnett’s request to delay his trial.
In a nine-page motion and order filed on November 23, the court ruled on three defense motions pertaining to charges against Barnett, as well as the trial venue, and a fourth by the government seeking to strike portions of the indictment against the defendant.
First, the defense moved to have all charges against Barnett dismissed because it asserted that “publicity surrounding January 6th has tainted the jury pool throughout the country.” As an alternative, the defense additionally proposed moving the federal trial from Washington D.C. to the Western District of Arkansas.
“Barnett offers no authority explaining how publicity can disqualify all prospective jurors throughout the country,” wrote Christopher R. Cooper, U.S. District Judge. “Even if a potential juror knows about the events of January 6th or heard the President’s speech, it does not follow that the potential juror is necessarily unqualified to sit on the jury.”
Judge Cooper also cited multiple other court cases that had empaneled impartial jurors for high-profile trials without issue. The judge also noted that the voir dire process “will yield a fair jury in this case despite the considerable publicity surrounding the events.”
The defense’s motion for a change of venue referenced “privately commissioned opinion polls” that maintained that the Western District of Arkansas is the only district “where he has any chance of selecting a fair and impartial jury of his peers,” according to court documents. The court found this motion premature “for the same reasons stated above.”
“The opinion polls which Barnett relies on are not substitutes for ‘comprehensive voir dire examination’ while prospective jurors are under oath,” the judge added. “The Court will determine whether individual prospective jurors harbor bias or prejudice and whether an impartial jury can be impaneled through voir dire, as it has done in other January 6th trials.”
The defense separately requested that one count against Barnett be dismissed for “failure to state a claim.”
“The Court has already addressed and rejected several of the arguments that Barnett advances, and any novel arguments are unpersuasive,” the judge said. “Accordingly, the Court will deny the motion.” The court cited relevant statutory text supporting that opinion.
The government’s motion to strike certain wording in the indictment was unopposed by the defense and the court granted it. Both the defense and prosecution have filed additional motions in limine regarding the types of evidence and arguments that can be raised at trial, and the court noted that it would address these at a later pretrial conference.
Barnett’s trial was set to begin on December 12 but the court granted a continuance. A new trial date has not yet been announced.
In a filing submitted on November 28, attorneys for both sides addressed their availability in an effort to help the court select a new trial date. That document identified January 9, 2023 as “the preferred date in which they are mutually available” and offered January 16, 2023 as an alternative potential start date.
The filing also noted that remaining pretrial deadlines could be adjusted accordingly, with the sides exchanging exhibit lists and identifying all expert witnesses no later than 21 days before trial.
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.