As former Parkersburg Councilman Eric Barber prepared to drive five hours to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, he brought along a Kevlar helmet with every intention that he would need it.
“I was going to be super hard and go punch a Antifa terrorist in the face,” he told FBI investigators after his March 3, 2021, arrest.
Instead, Barber concluded, his participation in the Capitol surge with hundreds of others made him one of the bad guys.
“And I end up being the terrorist,” he told investigators. “Plot twist, huh.”
Barber’s perceptions of what happened that day, along with the conclusions of federal prosecutors, are in a sentencing memorandum filed this week in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The bottom line of that filing is that federal prosecutors are asking for Barber to serve a total of four months in prison for two counts, along with 60 hours of community service, three years of probation and $552 in restitution for his share of damage to the Capitol.
Barber, a packager in an automobile parts shop, is scheduled for sentencing June 1. He has pleaded guilty to two federal misdemeanors: parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, and theft. While he was inside the Capitol, he pocketed a charger from a C-SPAN station and took it home.
Barber is not accused of acts of violence, but prosecutors say his presence in the mob, his knowledge that he shouldn’t have been there, his stated willingness to engage in a fight and his brazen comments about that day to local media all add up.
“Even if he didn’t personally engage in violence or property destruction during the riot, before entering the Capitol on January 6, Barber encouraged and celebrated the violence of that day. He was captured on video saying ‘They’re giving us the building,’ indicating he was fully supportive of the crowd taking control of the Capitol,” the prosecutors wrote.
The filing enumerates those points. Prosecutors say he:
(1) prepared for violence by wearing a Kevlar ballistic helmet to Washington, D.C.;
(2) heard the crowd yelling “Hang Mike Pence” and saw gallows with the wood frame;
(3) followed the crowd and climbed through a broken window to enter the Capitol;
(4) witnessed Capitol police officers being sprayed with a fire extinguisher;
(5) witnessed destruction of windows and broken glass inside the Capitol;
(6) penetrated the U.S. Capitol through the Rotunda and Statuary Hall and attempted it make it further into the Capitol where officers had barricaded or locked the door;
(7) entered the hallway of the suite of offices assigned to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and he was escorted out by police and then he walked around and entered the suite again;
(8) posted a video he recorded outside the Capitol via Facebook, in which he stated that Capitol Police were standing around with their hands in their pockets doing nothing while windows were being broken;
(9) stole a power station from a C-Span media station;
(10) participated in a media interview in which he lied about not entering the Capitol; and
(11) has a substantial criminal history, including a conviction for breaking and entering.
In the FBI interview and in his own plea agreement, Barber agreed to the general outline of those accusations. “I was like, you know, this is……different than I thought it was going to be. About halfway through it is when I realized, this is, this is more serious than just some people being rowdy at a protest,” he said in the FBI interview.
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.
Of the thousands of protesters in Washington, D.C., that day, about 800 went into the Capitol, police have said.
Several more 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, Jeffery Finley of Martinsburg, the leader of West Virginia’s chapter of the Proud Boy right-wing militant group, and college senior Courtright of Hurricane.
Courtright has already concluded a one-month stay in federal prison in Philadelphia.
Evans pleaded guilty earlier this month to a civil disorder charge. A sentencing hearing has been set for 12:30 p.m. June 26.
Finley’s sentencing has been set for 2 p.m. July 19.
Tanios has trial scheduled Oct. 5. Tanios is accused of collaborating in the assault of U.S. Capitol police officers with pepperspray. The trial could be delayed after a recent filing on behalf of his co-defendant, Julian Khater, indicating serious negotiations about a plea agreement.
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.
His FBI interview suggested he realized the situation had gone terribly wrong while he was walking inside the Capitol.
“People starting to be destructive, I mean, it’s our Capitol,” he told interviewers.
“You are supposed to hold something sacred says the guy that went through the building — but you know, I don’t know when it actually dawned on me that this is a bad deal, you shouldn’t be here, you know, so after that right about then I just kinda wandered around the general area sightseeing. Then I went back to the Rotunda and decided you shouldn’t be here. I went outside and just left.”