A federal judge sentenced former Parkersburg Councilman Eric Barber to 45 days in jail for surging into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Barber also received a 7-day sentence for swiping a C-SPAN charging station that day, but that punishment was suspended. And Barber received 24 months of federal probation.
Finally, Barber received an admonishment from the judge.
“You’re too old and you’re too accomplished and you’re too smart to get involved in nonsense like this,” Judge Christopher Cooper told Barber near the end of his sentencing today.
“This is not about the First Amendment. You are free to express your views. You’re free to support any political candidate or positions or issues that you want. I encourage that. But enough of this nonsense, OK?”
Barber, 43, was being sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after pleading 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 C-SPAN employee.
He has to pay $500 restitution as his share of damage to the Capitol that day, and he has to pay back C-SPAN a little less than $60 for the charger that he took home.
Barber was not accused of violence that day, but prosecutors noted that he wore a Kevlar helmet and went to Washington, D.C. to “go punch a Antifa terrorist in the face,” referring to the loosely-knit antifascist activists sometimes accused of violence themselves.
Prosecutors underscored that Barber entered the Capitol as sirens blared and broken glass was apparent, entering not only the areas that are commonly open to the public but also entering a restricted hallway outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Prosecutors said Barber wound up in that hallway twice — the second time after being told to leave. Barber said he was lost.
But Barber and his public defense attorney emphasized that he had expressed remorse about what happened that day to local media, to investigators, to Congress’s January 6th Committee and to the judge.
Judge Cooper took note of all those factors.
“It’s troubling that you still seem to have a mindset of ‘There’s a bully out there. I need to prime for the fight.’ You did not go for self-defense, but you went with the helmet, ready to punch somebody or affirmatively engage in violence,” Cooper said.
“You clearly recognize the dangerousness of the situation and the potential for violence when you went in through a broken window and obviously saw what was going on around you and heard the alarm. You also went in private parts of the building, which I think is a distinguishing factor, not just the Rotunda or Statuary Hall that would have been open to the public.”
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.”
Barber spoke at length today and told the judge he regrets going there.
“My remorse has been sincere, and, I think, was immediate and I think that differs me from a lot of defendants,” Barber told the judge.
Barber went on to say time in jail would disrupt his employment and place a financial burden on his family. He acknowledged run-ins with the law, including a felony just as he became an adult, but described his time on Parkersburg City Council starting in 2018 as a kind of community service that he views with pride.
“The impact that the crimes I committed on January 6 has had on me has been significant,” Barber said. “I’ve lost significant standing in my community. standing that I worked really hard to earn. But all of that’s thrown away.”
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 on Monday, 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.”