News & Politics

Accused January 6 Rioters Complain About Conditions in DC Jail

Photograph by Evy Mages

Dozens of defendants from the January 6 riot at the US Capitol are detained in DC, NBC 4 reported in June. And some of them have filed complaints about their surroundings. They’re hardly the first people to have issues with with the DC Jail, a troubled facility where conditions have reportedly become even more difficult during the pandemic.

Some defendants have objected to their multi-month detentions there: An attorney for Doug Jensen, who prosecutors say wore a QAnon shirt and menaced Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, and who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, said he was “languishing in a DC Jail cell, locked down most of the time, he feels deceived, recognizing that he bought into a pack of lies” in a June filing. (Jensen was released on personal recognizance last month.)

Others have more specific complaints, from assault to having to share toenail clippers.

Richard Barnett

Accused of: You may remember Barnett, of Arkansas, for the famous photo that shows him with a foot on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. He also reportedly stole a piece of mail, though he told a New York Times reporter he left a quarter in exchange. The government’s statement of facts against Barnett, who goes by the nickname “Bigo,” says he left a note reading “Nancy, Bigo was here, you Bitch.”

An image from the government’s amended statement of facts regarding Barnett.

Status: Barnett was arrested January 8. He’s pleaded not guilty to all counts. He spent 109 days in detention, according to a letter his lawyer Joseph D. McBride sent to Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union on August 3, and was released on personal recognizance bond. “His crime was putting his feet on one of Nancy Pelosi’s desks at the request of a press photographer,” McBride writes.

Complaints: In the letter—which CC’s US Representatives Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Louis Gohmert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who were forced to leave the jail last month after they made an unannounced visit accompanied by camera operators for right-wing news orgs —McBride alleges three instances of what he calls Barnett’s “torture” at “DC-GITMO” as he refers to the DC Jail, including a prison guard threatening to sexually assault both Barnett and his wife, a guard mocking him when he suspected he may be having a heart attack, and a group of officers slamming his head onto concrete after he asked a guard to wear a mask. He also cites what he says were incidents involving fellow January 6 defendants Edward Jacob Lang, Scott Kevin Fairlamb (who has since taken a plea deal), and Emanuel Jackson. Neither the ACLU nor Amnesty have replied to a query from Washingtonian as to whether they’ve seen the letter or are considering action.

Dominic Pezzola

Accused of: Pezzola, of New York, is a member of the Proud Boys. He’s accused of ripping away an officer’s riot shield and using it to break a window that allowed rioters to enter the Capitol.

An image from the government’s affidavit regarding Pezzola, seen at center with a gray beard. Jensen is in front of him.

Status: Pezzola was arrested January 15 and pleaded not guilty to all counts. He remains in detention at DC’s Correctional Treatment Facility, a medium-security lockup next to the DC Jail.

Complaints: In a motion filed on July 9, Pezzola’s attorneys Martin H. Tankleff and Steven Metcalf say conditions at CTF make it impossible for him to conduct confidential discussions with his attorneys and that Pezzola must quarantine for 14 days after meeting with his attorneys. They also ask that Pezzola be given access to a laptop to regard privileged attorney-client material. (In a response filed August 6, the government says DC Department of Corrections policy already provides Pezzola with access to tablets, cell phones, and a laptop in his cell, and that the 14-day quarantine applies only to defendants who have forgone a Covid vaccination.) Pezzola’s counsel also states detainees at the DC Jail “have to share the same fingernail/toenail cutter,” that “Access to personal hygiene such as showers is nearly nonexistent,” and that “every person we have spoken to has stated they have been denied a haircut.”

Christopher Worrell

Accused of: Worrell, of Florida, is also a Proud Boy. He’s accused of using pepper spray on cops at the riot and threatening witnesses.

An image from the government’s statement of facts regarding Worrell. He’s in the brown jacket, spraying something.

Status: Worrell was arrested on March 12 and pleaded not guilty to all counts. He remains in detention at the CTF.

Complaints: Worrell’s attorney John M. Pierce says in an August 12 filing that his client has been unable to treat his non-Hodgkins lymphoma during his months in custody. Also, he has a cracked tooth and a broken hand, and needs eyedrops, Pierce writes, and the government hasn’t provided any remediation. Worrell previously attempted to be released based on medical needs, claims a judge said were “without merit.” Federal prosecutors said Worrell’s doctor was a urologist, not an oncologist, and that he kept no medical records. They say he saw an oncologist who prescribed treatment, which Worrell declined. They said he’d met with DC Jail medical staff “dozens of times.”

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.