Capitol surveillance footage shows state Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, allowing demonstrators into the building. (Screen grab.)
State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, has been charged with official misconduct and criminal trespass for allowing violent demonstrators into the Oregon State Capitol during a December protest.
Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson’s office announced the charges on Friday afternoon, a day before Nearman was scheduled to speak at a Second Amendment rally in Salem’s Riverfront Park.
The charges stem from an incident in December when Nearman opened a door on the Capitol’s west entrance allowing demonstrators into the building, which has been closed since last spring as a pandemic precaution. Demonstrators tried to force their way into the building but were held back in the vestibule by police officers.
Police declared a riot after officers were attacked with pepper spray by demonstrators. Later in the day, a group of demonstrators attempted to break into the building and assaulted journalists. Multiple people involved with the attack were later arrested and face charges.
After a surveillance video was released in January showing Nearman allowing demonstrators in the building, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, stripped the lawmaker of his committee assignments and called for his resignation.
Saying the move was out of the “Trump playbook and very much caters to white supremacist motivations,” Kotek also required him to give advance 24-hour notice when he intended to enter the Capitol building.
She renewed that call Friday following the announcement of criminal charges.
"Rep. Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger and created fear among Capitol staff and legislators. I called on him to resign in January and renew my call in light of today’s charges," Kotek said on Twitter.
In a statement sent to Salem Reporter, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, held off on calling for Nearman's resignation.
“State legislators are the voices of their community," she said. "They are not above the law. The charges have been filed in Marion County Circuit Court and I trust the judicial process to be fair and objective. At this time, we continue to support the recommendations from the conduct committee as he continues his legislative duties.”
Nearman, who was first elected in 2014 to a district representing Polk County, has resisted calls to resign and has insisted that he has been treated unfairly by Kotek.
He now faces charges of first-degree official misconduct in the first degree, a Class A misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to 364 days in jail. He also faces a second-degree criminal trespassing charge, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
Nearman is being represented by Salem attorney Jason Short, who did not immediately respond to a phone call Friday afternoon.
He will be arraigned on May 11 in Marion County Circuit Court.
This story has been updated with comment from House Republican Leader Christine Drazan.
Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled Paige Clarkson’s name. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.
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