/Representative Mike Nearman of Oregon, Who Let in Protesters, Is Charged – The New York Times

Representative Mike Nearman of Oregon, Who Let in Protesters, Is Charged – The New York Times


A Republican state legislator from Oregon who was captured on surveillance video allowing demonstrators to enter the State Capitol in December was charged on Friday in connection with the breach of the building, which led to a conflict between officers and protesters.

The lawmaker, Representative Mike Nearman, 57, was charged with official misconduct in the first degree and trespassing in the second degree, according to court documents.

Marion County prosecutors said in court documents that Mr. Nearman, “being a public servant, 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.”

On Dec. 21, while legislators were in session, Mr. Nearman calmly walked out a side door, allowing several demonstrators, many of them unmasked and holding American flags or pro-Trump signs, inside the State Capitol, in Salem. The moment was captured by widely circulated video surveillance of the breach.

Mr. Nearman kept walking as the protesters went inside and were quickly confronted by local and state police officers, who were shoved by some of the demonstrators as they struggled to get into the building.

The footage showed protesters knocking off the hats of police officials and striking at officers, some of whom wore riot gear.

At least five people were arrested during the breach, according to The Associated Press. One man was charged after he blasted police officers with bear spray.

More than 30 people made it into the vestibule and about 150 protesters were gathered right outside the door, according to the state’s legislative administrator.

Mr. Nearman, a former software engineer who lives just north of Independence and was elected in 2014, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Saturday. It was unclear if he had a lawyer.

Mr. Nearman, a conservative Republican who has called for voters to prove their citizenship to cast a ballot, sued Gov. Kate Brown in October over coronavirus restrictions she had put in place. He was also among a dozen Oregon legislators who urged the state attorney general to join a Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in four states.

A woman who answered the phone at a number listed on Mr. Nearman’s website declined to comment.

“We can’t talk,” she said. “We have Covid.”

On Friday, Speaker Tina Kotek of the Oregon House of Representatives, a Democrat, renewed her call for Mr. Nearman to resign.

“Rep. Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger and created fear among Capitol staff and legislators,” she said on Twitter.

Representative Christine Drazan, the Republican minority leader, said in a statement that legislators “are not above the law.”

“State legislators are the voices of their community,” she said. “The charges have been filed in Marion County Circuit Court and I trust the judicial process to be fair and objective.”

“I don’t condone violence, nor do I participate in it,” Mr. Nearman said in January, according to The Salem Statesman Journal. “I hope for due process, and not the mob justice to which Speaker Kotek is subjecting me.”

In a statement in January, Ms. Kotek said Mr. Nearman had been stripped of his committee assignments. That announcement came five days after hundreds of rioters crashed through barricades in Washington and stormed into the United States Capitol.

Ms. Kotek said Mr. Nearman’s actions on Dec. 21 allowed “rioters” trying to break into the Legislature’s third special session to enter the State Capitol.

“Representative Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger,” Ms. Kotek said. “The consequences could have been much worse had law enforcement not stepped in so quickly. His actions have created immense fear among legislators and Capitol staff.”

She said she sent him an invoice for $2,000 to cover the damage the demonstrators caused.

On Jan. 11, Mr. Nearman, wearing a mask, read a prepared statement on the floor and agreed to rescind his badge access to the Capitol.

He also agreed that he would give 24 hours’ notice to the legislative administrator and the Legislative Equity Office so that “arrangements can be made to allow me to enter into the building and to provide notice of my presence to all Capitol occupants.”

“I will not allow any nonauthorized personnel into the Capitol,” Mr. Nearman said.

Ms. Kotek said the safety measures imposed on Mr. Nearman “will allow notice to be provided to all Capitol occupants so they can adjust their plans if they do not feel safe working in the building while he is present.”

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