Prosecutors levelled two criminal charges Friday against a Republican member of the Oregon House of Representatives who let far-right rioters into the state Capitol in December.
Rep. Mike Nearman was charged with official misconduct in the first degree and criminal trespass in the second degree.
Oregon State Police struggled to force the rioters back out of the Capitol, which was closed to the public, on December 21 as lawmakers met in emergency session to deal with economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Marion County Deputy District Attorney Matthew Kemmy told Nearman’s attorney, Jason Short, in a letter Friday that his client must appear in court on May 11 or face arrest.
Rep. Mike Nearman is seen leaving the Oregon Capitol building at about 8.30am on December 21, 2020. As he leaves, he pushes open the door and far-right protesters slip past him
The protesters are seen inside the Capitol building, holding open an inner door and gesturing for fellow protesters to enter the building, too
Short was out of his office late Friday afternoon and not available for comment. Nearman did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.
Nearman had been seen on security cameras letting violent protesters into the Oregon State Capitol. They attacked authorities with bear spray.
Outside the building, some of the protesters assaulted reporters and broke glass doors on the marble sheathed Capitol. The state police investigated the case.
‘He let a group of rioters enter the Capitol, despite his knowledge that only authorized personnel are allowed in the building due to the COVID-19 pandemic,’ according to court documents.
Nearman’s actions were ‘completely unacceptable, reckless, and so severe that it will affect people’s ability to feel safe working in the Capitol or even for the legislature,’ the documents stated.
In January, after Nearman’s role became clear from the security footage, House Speaker Tina Kotek called for his resignation and stripped him of his committee assignments.
Oregon State Police are seen rushing into the vestibule to ward off protesters who are inside
Police are then seen gathering to fend off the protesters who’ve tried to enter the building
Nearman (pictured) was charged with official misconduct in the first degree and criminal trespass in the second degree
The image above shows the criminal complaint filed against Nearman by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office
‘Rep. Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger,’ Kotek said on January 11.
She referred to the deadly storming of the US Capitol that had occurred just days before, on January 6, by supporters of then President Donald Trump.
‘As we tragically saw last week during the insurrection at the United States Capitol, the consequences (here) could have been much worse had law enforcement not stepped in so quickly,’ Kotek said.
According to court records, the misconduct charge alleges Nearman, who is from the town of Independence west of Salem, ‘did unlawfully and knowingly perform an act … with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another.’
The charge is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum 364 days in prison and a $6,250 fine.
The trespass charge accused him of unlawfully letting others into the Capitol. It is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine.
Oregon Public Broadcasting was first to report Nearman being charged, later announced by the office of Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson.
In a statement that was released in January, Nearman expressed his belief that the State Capitol should be open to the public. It has been closed since lockdown measures were imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Since that time, the state legislature has been conducting its sessions virtually.
Nearman has been a vocal opponent to the statewide COVID-19 restrictions, which have been described as the strictest in the country.
‘I don’t condone violence nor participate in it,’ Nearman’s statement said.
Far-right protesters are seen clashing with police outside the Oregon Capitol Building on December 21 as they tried to enter the building which was closed to the public
Police are seeing being sprayed with mace by far-right protesters on December 21 outside the Oregon State Capitol building
Trump supporters are seen waving flags outside the Oregon Capitol building December 21
A demonstrator is seen screaming at Salem Police while trying to get inside the Capitol building on December 21 during the far-right protest
Armed supporters of former President Donald Trump are seen above in Salem, Oregon on January 6
‘I do think that when Article IV, Section 14 of the Oregon Constitution says that the legislative proceedings shall be “open,” it means open, and as anyone who has spent the last nine months staring at a screen doing virtual meetings will tell you, it’s not the same thing as being open.’
In the statement, Nearman suggested he was the victim of ‘mob justice.’
After the charges were announced, Kotek, the state lawmaker who represents Portland, reiterated the call for Nearman’s resignation.
‘Rep. Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger and created fear among Capitol staff and legislators,’ Kotek said in a statement to OPB.
‘I called on him to resign in January and renew my call in light of today’s charges.’
Republicans have been largely silent on Nearman.
‘If the investigation finds that actions taken were criminal, legislators are not above the law and will be held responsible,’ Rep. Christine Drazan, leader of the House Republican Caucus, said in a statement.
‘As we affirm the need for due process and the right of the public to fully engage in the work of the Legislature, we commit to protect public safety and hold accountable those who would willfully undermine that commitment.’