Former Parkersburg Councilman Eric Barber has reached an agreement on a plea deal in his Jan. 6 case.
Barber participated in a status hearing today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“I understand we have a potential plea agreement?” asked U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, who then set a plea hearing date for 3 p.m. Oct. 14.
Lawyers in Barber’s case had alluded last month to ongoing plea talks but needed more time to examine the terms. Today, the lawyers indicated they are ready to proceed.
Not much else could be heard during today’s status hearing, which provided public access through teleconference. Voices were muffled, and then the call dropped entirely.
A guilty plea by Barber would mark the second by a West Virginia defendant in a Jan. 6 case, following Gracyn Courtright of Hurricane. Courtright last month pleaded guilty to “Knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without unlawful authority,” in exchange for dropping three other misdemeanors. She has a sentencing hearing in November.
Similarly, Barber’s plea could reduce the number of misdemeanors he faces.
Barber faces federal charges of entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct and theft. He has remained free on $10,000 unsecured bond.
A mob storming the U.S. Capitol that day disrupted the constitutional duty of counting Electoral College votes and prompted the evacuations of representatives, senators and Vice President Mike Pence. One woman was fatally shot while trying to climb into the chambers, three others died from “medical emergencies” and more than 100 police officers were injured.
Several West Virginians face charges from that day’s events. They include George Tanios, a Morgantown sandwich shop operator accused in the assault of three Capitol police officers with pepperspray, former state Delegate Derrick Evans of Wayne County, who resigned after being charged, and college senior Courtright of Hurricane.
Investigators began examining Barber’s conduct in Washington, D.C., after multiple people provided tips.
The investigators examined Barber’s own livestream video and social media posts, interviews he provided to local newspaper and television reporters about being in Washington, D.C. that day, as well as video from inside the Capitol depicting a man in a green helmet who looked like Barber.
One of the interviews came in a Jan. 7 Parkersburg News & Sentinel article headlined “Parkersburg man shares experience from U.S. Capitol.” Some of Barber’s own photos of the protests outside the U.S. Capitol accompanied the story.
The article said, “While he said he looked in a window and couldn’t see much because of so many people inside, Barber said he did not enter the building.”
But shortly after that, as images spread of the people inside the Capitol, local people identified a man who looked a lot like Barber wearing a green combat-style helmet and a military-style field jacket.
In a YouTube video called “Shooting and Storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.,” the same man in a crowded doorway says “They’re giving us the building?” He then taps the helmet with both hands and begins moving toward the front as the crowd chants, “Break it down, break it down.”
FBI agent Andrew Cooper, who provided an affidavit, began examining images from Barber’s Facebook page to identify him. He also placed a call to the Parkersburg Police Department, where local officers were already aware of the claims about Barber. Through all those comparisons, Cooper concluded that the man was, in fact, Barber.
The FBI agent also requested security footage from inside the Capitol and received six videos of the man moving through Statuary Hall and the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6.
“Of note, I observed Barber taking selfie photographs in the Rotunda and stopping at the C-SPAN media station located in Statuary Hall and searching through equipment that was on the stand.”
The agent determined the man searched through the items at the media stand and appeared to unplug an item, taking it with him. The C-SPAN field technician who had been operating the media stand when the Capitol was evacuated said he had left his personal power station used to charge an iPad there, and it wound up missing.
“Your affiant believes this confirms the video footage that Barber stole the powerstation located at the media station,” the agent wrote.
That’s what led to the theft charge against Barber.