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Big House to Become Bigo House

Richard Barnett is a remarkable combination of jackass and dumbass. Also known as "Bigo," he's the fellow who was photographed with his feet up on a desk in then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) office. He earned himself the "jack" portion of the above sentence by breaching the Capitol in the first place, and by leaving a note on the desk that said "Nancy, Bigo was here bi-otch!" And he earned the "dumb" portion of the sentence by choosing the wrong desk (the desk actually belonged to Pelosi aide Emily Berret), and also by being so foolish that he thought the FBI couldn't possibly find him aided by a crystal clear image of exactly what he looks like.

And actually, Barnett has an enormous supply of "dumb," because the dumb did not cease when he finally left the Capitol. No, once he knew the FBI was on to him, he destroyed evidence. Then, he decided to fight the charges against him instead of taking a plea bargain. And then, during the trial, he lied on the stand, grew petulant in front of the jury, offered ridiculous explanations for his illegal acts (e.g., that he took an envelope from Pelosi's office not as a trophy, but because it had given him a papercut and had his blood on it, and so was a biohazard he needed to dispose of). Oh, he also demonstrated not-so-believable contrition in the courtroom, and then would go home and night and tweet messages about how right he was to invade the Capitol. It would seem he does not know that judges and DAs have access to Twitter, too.

Now, Barnett will have to put his career as a rocket scientist on hold, because he was convicted on all eight counts he faced. He will be sentenced in May, and faces up to 47 years in prison. Even if he gets just a quarter of that, well, at the age of 62 that would be getting in the vicinity of a life sentence.

We don't normally note convictions of the 1/6 insurrectionists, because it's sort of the same old story, over and over. But Barnett is almost certainly one of the three most famous Capitol breachers, along with the QAnon Shaman and Kevin Seefried (the guy with the Confederate Flag). Further, this gives us a chance to answer a question that would otherwise have been addressed in the Saturday Q&A this week. Courtesy of reader D.E. in Lancaster, PA:

Today was not a good day for the 1/6 Insurrectionists, what with multiple guilty verdicts rendered. That leads to my two part question.

1. One of the insurrectionists found guilty today was Richard "Bigo" Barnett, who is infamous for having his picture taken while seated at a desk in Nancy Pelosi's office with his boots propped up on the desk. He is also infamous for leaving a note behind that read "Nancy, Bigo was here bi-otch!" Charming guy. After he was quickly found guilty today on 8 counts, his lawyers held an after verdict press conference in which Bigo's lawyer said that his client was unable to get a fair trail because he was not judged by his peers. He added that one, D.C. is not a state (where the crimes and trial took place) and two, his peers consists of residents of Arkansas, which Bigo calls home, and three, D.C. residents voted at a very high rate for Biden in 2020 (It was 92%; not quite the 96% he quoted). I know this is a standard talking point lawyers use after losing a case; and, two, I generally don't listen to lawyers who wear pork pie hats (as a rule I avoid anyone wearing a pork pie hat). My question is: How successful is this strategy for setting up an appeal? Is there some sort of definition of what a peer is for a jury? Obviously, no one has a jury of exact peers, but on the other hand there has been reasonable talk about making juries more representative of society. I know the latter issue came up with the Rodney King and O.J. Simpson trials.

2. I tried to find the answer to this on the Internet but all the charts I found were somewhat out of date. The majority of the over 900 individuals charged in the 1/6 insurrection so far have pleaded guilty, but there is a sizeable chunk that have claimed innocence and are opting to fight in court. What is the conviction rate so far? My perception is that these folks continue to choose poorly and are facing a losing battle. But we all know, perception is not often in tune with reality.

As to the arguments made by defense counsel, they are largely mumbo jumbo. There are thousands of trials in D.C. each year, and clearly they are not all invalidated by the fact that the district is not a state (let's not forget, the Supreme Court meets in D.C., too). As to "jury of your peers," that just means "jury made up of fellow citizens." Per SCOTUS, a person is not supposed to be removed from a jury on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc. (though they sometimes are, albeit without it being stated openly). But the courts have no duty to empanel a jury that somehow matches the defendant's demographics.

The only slightly meritorious argument there is that the D.C. jury pool might be systematically biased against a right-wing Trumper. And defense counsel did bring that up at the beginning, and asked for a change of venue, which was denied. It's not a very good argument because, taken to its extreme, it would mean you can't try Republicans in, say, D.C. or Hawaii, and you can't try Democrats in, say, Wyoming or Alabama. But if they somehow got before just the right appeals judge (ahem, Neomi Rao), she might stand on her head and grant a new trial.

As to the numbers, there have been at least 978 people arrested and charged in connection with the events of 1/6. Thus far, 474 have entered guilty pleas. Of the remainder, it appears, according to the Department of Justice's own list, that the government has triumphed in 40 of 41 cases, which is a 97.5% conviction rate. The DoJ only updates that site about once a week, so we might have missed one or two convictions from the last few days, but that's pretty close to accurate. The only person to secure an acquittal was Matthew Martin, whose lawyers wisely chose a bench trial, and even more wisely got the case in front of Trevor McFadden, who is up there with the aforementioned Rao on the list of the four or five Trumpiest federal judges.

Anyhow, those defendants who have not taken a plea deal might want to look at that 97.5% conviction rate (typical for federal prosecutors) and think twice about going to trial. Then again, if they were capable of thinking twice, they wouldn't have attacked the U.S. Capitol. (Z)

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