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Sealed material to be shared in case of Jan. 6 Capitol defendant from Arkansas

Jan. 6 case files part of ‘discovery’ by Bill Bowden | January 21, 2022 at 3:35 a.m.
Richard Barnett (Washington County sheriff’s office & special to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette/AFP via Getty Images/Saul Loeb)

A federal judge in the District of Columbia will allow prosecutors to disclose sealed materials as "discovery" to a Jan. 6 Capitol defendant from Arkansas and his attorney. But those materials will still be subject to a protective order keeping them from public view.

Discovery is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they will present at trial, according to the American Bar Association.

"Discovery enables the parties to know before the trial begins what evidence may be presented," according to the organization. "It's designed to prevent 'trial by ambush,' where one side doesn't learn of the other side's evidence or witnesses until the trial, when there's no time to obtain answering evidence."

Richard "Bigo" Barnett, 61, of Gravette faces seven charges in connection with the U.S. Capitol incursion, including one accusing him of being in the Capitol with a dangerous weapon -- a stun gun. Barnett was photographed with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office suite.

Prosecutors filed a motion Tuesday requesting an order allowing them to disclose items protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) and sealed materials as discovery in the case.

They also asked that the order be made applicable to "co-defendants who may later be joined."

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper granted all three requests in an order Thursday.

"The government may provide in discovery materials protected by Rule 6(e) and sealed materials pursuant to the protective order governing discovery," according to a minute order entered in the docket Thursday.

Rule 6(e) establishes rules for grand jury secrecy.

Regarding sealed records, Rule 6(e) states: "Records, orders and subpoenas relating to grand-jury proceedings must be kept under seal to the extent and as long as necessary to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of a matter occurring before a grand jury."

On Oct. 1, prosecutors filed a motion for a protective order governing discovery in Barnett's case. With hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants and thousands of hours of surveillance and police video, the evidence "may contain sensitive information," they wrote.

Courts sometimes use protective orders when necessary to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, according to the motion.

Although a different protective order was entered earlier in the case, the new one reflects the updated designations of "sensitive" and "highly sensitive" that were "relied upon by the voluminous Capitol, breach-wide discovery productions now anticipated by the government," according to the motion.

"In this case, there is good cause to enter the attached proposed protective order," according to the motion. "The entry of the order will facilitate the government's ability to provide voluminous discoverable materials expeditiously, while adequately protecting the United States' legitimate interests."

After receiving no objection from Barnett's attorney, Cooper granted the order on Oct. 19.

Barnett's next court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1.

At his previous hearing on Nov. 23, Cooper said that by Feb. 1 it would be time to set a date for either a trial or change-of-plea hearing. Barnett has pleaded innocent.

"I think it will be time at that point to fish or cut bait," Cooper said.

Also Thursday, attorneys on both sides requested a 60-day continuance in the case of another Jan. 6 defendant from Arkansas -- Jon Thomas Mott, 38, of Yellville.

Mott was scheduled for a teleconference status hearing today.

Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted the continuance late Thursday afternoon. Lamberth set Mott's next court hearing for March 18.

Mott is charged with four misdemeanor offenses.

Since Nov. 19, the government has provided Mott with a considerable amount of discovery material, according to the court filing. Additional discovery was to be provided on or before today.

"Parties seek a 60-day continuance of this matter and to excluding the time within which the trial must commence under the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3161 et seq," according to the joint motion. "Parties believe this time will allow for further production and review of discovery and will facilitate resolution of this case short of trial."

The Jan. 6 riot escalated from a "Stop the Steal" rally. Supporters of former President Donald Trump entered the Capitol and attempted to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote indicating that Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election.

Two other Arkansans also were arrested in connection with the riot: Peter Francis Stager, 42, of Conway and Robert Snow, 78, of Heber Springs.

All four Arkansans charged in the Capitol breach have pleaded innocent. Trials haven't been scheduled yet for any of the Arkansas defendants.

Stager, who is accused of using a flagpole to beat a police officer outside the U.S. Capitol, has his next court hearing set for Feb. 7. He is the only Arkansas defendant still in custody. He remains incarcerated in the District of Columbia jail.

Snow, who is charged with the same four misdemeanors as Mott, has his next court hearing set for March 15.

Print Headline: Judge lets Barnett see sealed records


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