Ex-lawmaker who let protesters in OR Capitol gets probation

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A former Oregon lawmaker who was expelled for letting violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of official misconduct.

The Statesman Journal reports that Mike Nearman was sentenced to 18 months probation, during which he will need to complete 80 hours of community service and is banned from the Capitol building and grounds. He will also pay $200 in court fees and $2,700 to the Oregon Legislative Administration for damages done during the Dec. 21 riot.

The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor was one year in jail, a $6,250 fine or both.

As part of the agreement in Marion County Circuit Court, a count of criminal trespass was dismissed.

Last month Nearman, a Republican from Polk County, became the first member of the Oregon House to be expelled in its 160-year history. The House voted 59-1 to remove him from the Legislature for disorderly behavior.

Nearman was seen on security video opening a door to protesters on Dec. 21 as lawmakers met in emergency session to deal with economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters barged into the building, which was closed to the public because of coronavirus safety protocols, got into shoving matches with police and sprayed officers with bear spray. Some of the protesters had guns.

In court, Nearman acknowledged letting protesters into the Capitol, but said he didn’t intend to cause harm. Nearman said he did so because he believed they had a right to be in the building.

“I think that the citizens were allowed to be in the Capitol, so I was letting them in,” Nearman told the judge.

In the scuffle Dec. 21 with Salem and Oregon State police officers, six officers were injured and the building incurred thousands of dollars in damages.

“I don’t support what they did when they entered,” Nearman said.

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This story has been updated to correct that Nearman received 18 months probation, not parole.

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