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Oregon state Rep. Mike Nearman arraigned over letting protestors inside capitol building

Security footage caught Nearman exiting the state capitol through a side door, leaving it open long enough for far-right protesters to get inside.

SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon state lawmaker accused of allowing volatile protesters access to the capitol building in Salem was not present for his arraignment hearing Tuesday morning in a Marion County courtroom.

Republican Rep. Mike Nearman is charged with first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespassing, both misdemeanors, for allegedly allowing the chaos inside the building. 

A Marion County judge accepted the charges Tuesday morning, with Nearman's attorney handling the brief hearing. No plea was entered on the state representative’s behalf. Another hearing was set for June 29 at 1 p.m.

Nearman represents parts of Yamhill, Polk and Benton counties.

He was seen on security cameras exiting the state capitol through a side door on Dec. 21, leaving it open long enough for far-right protesters to get inside. 

It was a tumultuous day in Salem. A crowd of people, some carrying firearms and bear spray, converged on the capitol during a one-day special session. Lawmakers were inside to deal with the very issue that had the capitol closed to the public: the pandemic. The session was livestreamed for public viewing.

The group that assembled waved flags and made noise, but some also smashed windows and mixed it up with law enforcement.

Last week on conservative Lars Larson's radio show, Nearman wouldn't discuss specifics of the case, but did say this:

“The two things that I've been charged with, neither one are felonies. Both are misdemeanors. And the Oregon State Police spent four months investigating me, so I don't know, do you think these guys have anything better to do?”

Nearman also disclosed that he was suffering from "a really bad case" of COVID-19.

KGW political analyst Len Bergstein was sorry to hear about Nearman’s illness but had no empathy for what he sees as a right-wing assault on public institutions, especially the U.S. and state capitols, including in Salem.

“Politicians feel like more important work is done outside the capitol, stirring up the politics of outrage than doing the hard work of passing laws and policies inside the capitol," said Bergstein. "I think the Nearman situation stands for the notion that you'd rather go outside and stir it up."

Stripped of his committee seats by Democratic leadership, and with many calls that he resign, Nearman has said he won't.

More than a dozen supporters showed up outside the court building on Tuesday. They claim the U.S. and Oregon constitutions say Nearman did nothing wrong by opening the door.

“So the reason we're here to is to support a representative of ‘we the people’ who tried to give us access to the legislative process,” said a woman who did not want to be identified by name.

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