Former state official Mike Nearman looks set to plead guilty to the Capitol raid

Screen capture from video footage showing Oregon State Representative Mike Nearman exiting the Capitol in Salem. Far-right protesters held the door as Nearman left and called on others to join them inside

Screenshot from video footage

Former State Representative Mike Nearman appears poised to plead guilty to charges of abusing his elected office by opening up the Oregon Capitol to far-right protesters last year.

After insistent in May that he would take his case to a jury, court records show the Nearman case is now set for a plea / sentencing hearing next week. It is not clear whether Nearman has reached a deal with Marion County prosecutors or will argue for the two misdemeanor charges against him, first degree official misconduct and second degree criminal trespassing.

Together, the two crimes carry more than a year in prison and $ 7,500, although Nearman is unlikely to receive those maximums. Neither Nearman nor his lawyer immediately responded to inquiries about next week’s hearing.

Marion County Attorney Paige Clarkson declined to comment on Tuesday, saying she could not discuss any negotiations surrounding a plea.

A four-term Republican from Polk County, Nearman became the first lawmaker in Oregon history to be expelled from the Legislature in June, after evidence emerged he plotted with supporters to open the Capitol to protesters as lawmakers met in extraordinary session on December 21. .

After Nearman allowed armed protesters to enter that morning, video shows them scuffling with police and at least one person using a sledgehammer against officers. Even after the crowd was evicted from the Capitol, some members vandalized the building and assaulted journalists.

Under the official misconduct charge, prosecutors said that Nearman “as a public official, unlawfully and knowingly committed an act which constituted an unauthorized exercise of his official duties with the intent to gain or harm. others”.

For the trespassing charge, prosecutors say Nearman, “being part of a common plan or plan,” unlawfully aided and encouraged “another person to enter and stay illegally and knowingly in and on the premises of the Oregon State Capitol “.

Nearman did not repent of his actions, repeatedly suggesting that legislative leaders violated the Oregon Constitution by locking the Capitol to the general public during the legislative session. He refused to resign at the behest of all other Republicans in the House, and shortly before his expulsion he berated his fellow lawmakers.

“You are considering expelling a member, for the first time in history, because he thinks people should have access to their Capitol, especially during the session,” Nearman said.

The former lawmaker also insisted on his criminal case, suggesting in May that he would not plead guilty.

“We’re going to see the jury… and we’ll see what the jury has to say,” Nearman told Tory radio host Lars Larson at the time. “I think they have a difficult little battle convincing these jurors that this is a good use of the space at the Marion County Jail.”

When he made those comments, however, Nearman was still unwilling to say whether he intended to allow protesters into the building. Any questions about his intention ended in early June, when a video of Nearman training supporters texted him which door they were expecting on December 21.

“We are talking about setting up Operation Hall Pass, which I don’t know anything about, and if you accuse me of knowing anything about it, I will deny it,” Nearman said in the video.

He continued, “There might be someone’s number that could be [Nearman recited his cell phone number], but these are just random numbers … this is not just anyone’s real phone. And if you say, “I’m at the west entrance” during the session and text that number over there, somebody might come out that door while you’re there.

Although text recordings for December 21 have not been released, video footage showed Nearman opened a door on the west side of the Capitol Rotunda to protesters that morning.

OPB reporter Conrad Wilson contributed to this story.


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