OR Lawmaker Faces Charges After Video Showed Him Opening Capitol Door To Protesters

Screenshot/The Oregonian
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An Oregon lawmaker now faces criminal charges after opening the doors of the Oregon statehouse to far-right protesters in December. 

Rep. Mike Nearman (R) faces misdemeanor charges of official misconduct in the first degree and criminal trespass in the second degree, according to a criminal information filed Friday. Nearman’s arraignment is scheduled for May 11. 

The charges come months after state police began investigating the Dec. 21 incident, in which Nearman exited the Capitol and, in so doing, allowed a throng of far-right protesters in through the same doorway. As lawmakers held a special legislative session inside the Capitol, protesters beelined toward the doorway Nearman had opened, clashing with police.

The scene at the statehouse that day, caught on surveillance camera footage that was later released to local outlets pursuing public records requests, was one of several state-level precursors to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Elsewhere around the legislative building, protesters broke glass doors in an attempt to breach the building.

According to the misconduct charge against him, Nearman “did unlawfully and knowingly perform an act which constituted an unauthorized exercise of his official duties, with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another.”

House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) stripped Nearman of his committee assignments and called for his resignation in January. She renewed that call Friday after news broke of the criminal charges. 

In January, Nearman gave up his 24/7 building badge access and said he would give the legislature 24 hours’ notice before he arrived at the building. 

The representative’s court record does not list an attorney for the defendant, and a call and email to Nearman’s office went unanswered Monday morning. 

In a January statement after he was stripped of committee assignments, Nearman did not apologize for his actions, but rather claimed Kotek, the House speaker, was subjecting him to “mob justice.” He alluded to the fact that the legislature had been closed to the public since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I don’t condone violence nor participate in it,” Nearman said. “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.”

At least three people who participated in the Salem protest were subsequently involved in the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, Oregon Public Broadcasting noted. One man who faces a grand jury indictment in the Capitol attack, Richard Harris, appears to have been the same person who attacked a journalist just outside the Oregon Capitol in December, OPB reported.

At least one person who breached the Oregon Capitol in December used bear mace on police, law enforcement said at the time. 

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