W.Va. man facing jail time for Jan. 6 surge says he followed Trump’s call and crowd’s flow

Former Parkersburg Councilman Eric Barber, set to be sentenced this week for surging into the U.S. Capitol, testified to Congress’s January 6 Committee that he’d felt urged to come by the president of the United States.

“He personally asked for us to come to D.C. that day. And I thought, for everything he’s done for us, if this is the only thing he’s going to ask of me, I’ll do it,” Barber said in testimony released on video last week in the first hearing of the January 6 Committee.

Eric Barber

Barber will learn the consequences of responding to that invitation at 10 a.m. Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

He has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors. One is a count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol Building. The other is theft, an accusation that Barber stole a charging station belonging to a CSPAN employee.

In exchange for his guilty plea, additional charges originally filed against Barber are being dropped. He also gives up his right to a jury trial, where he might have testified in his own defense.

His court appointed defense attorney, Ubong Akpan, argues in a sentencing memorandum that Judge Christopher Cooper should consider some leniency because Barber committed no violence, quickly regretted his decision to enter the Capitol, cooperated with investigators including the January 6 Committee — and because he, like others, believed he’d been asked to the Capitol by the president.

Akpan asks for probation and home detention for Barber, rather than jail time.

“Mr. Barber had no plan, intention or thought to take over the government on Jan. 6,” Akpan wrote. “He was not part of a militia group seeking to overthrow the government. He did not encourage violence. He followed the commands of law enforcement on January 6th and cooperated with law enforcement thereafter, and has demonstrated remorse.”

Hundreds of people face charges from the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. They are being processed in a court system still operating under coronavirus precautions.

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.

In comments before the January 6th Committee today, Congresswoman Liz Cheney pointedly said that “hundreds of our countrymen have faced criminal charges. Many are serving criminal sentences because they believed what Donald Trump said about the election and they acted on it. They came to Washington, DC at his request.”

One of those is Eric Barber, 43, who lost his job as an HVAC technician after Jan. 6.

“Mr. Barber traveled alone to the Capitol,” Akbar wrote in the sentencing memorandum. “He attended the rally alone and found commonality with several others in attendance. He regretfully went along with the crowd.”

Akbar’s sentencing memorandum sets the scene by describing incendiary comments made in speeches leading up to that day’s events:

Lara and Eric Trump encouraged the crowd to march on the Capitol and “stand up for this country and stand up for what’s right,” Akbar wrote. Donald Trump Jr. told supporters, “You have an opportunity today: You can be a hero, or you can be a zero.” Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, called for “trial by combat.”

And at 1:10 p.m. that day, the president told supporters, “And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more.”

When the speeches concluded, Barber joined the crowd heading toward the Capitol.

“I had a pretty significant lapse in judgement, then went ahead and, you know, went with the wave of bodies,” Barber told investigators.

He entered at 2:26 p.m. through the Senate wing windows, near the doors. Early on after entering, he pocketed a charger from a C-SPAN station and took it home, leading to the theft charge.

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.

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.”

That happened about 2:37 p.m.

Prosecutors say he 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. Barber’s lawyer says that happened because he got lost.

That was about 2:58 p.m.

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.

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.

Barber told investigators that when he saw a trail of destruction at the Capitol, he became increasingly regretful.

“I mean, being there was bad enough. I’m not saying I took pride,” he said. “I was thankful after the fact that I didn’t do the things that I saw being done there and… that I had a little bit better in me than — obviously I wasn’t supposed to be there.”

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