FILE – Mike Nearman surveillance

In this image taken from Oregon State Capitol surveillance footage, Oregon Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, can be seen opening a door for a group of Trump supporters on December 21, 2020 where his fellow state lawmakers were gathered for a special legislative session. 

(The Center Square) – A GOP Oregon lawmaker is facing criminal charges for his documented role in the Dec. 21 invasion of the state capitol in Salem.

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Polk County, was charged on Friday afternoon by the Marion County District Attorney's office with official misconduct in the first degree and criminal trespass in the second degree for opening a door to a mob of Trump supporters at the Oregon state capitol. The building has been closed to the general public since the onset of the pandemic.

He faces Class A and C misdemeanors, which carry up to $7,500 in fines and up to 18 months in jail if combined. 

Oregon capitol surveillance footage first obtained by KOIN TV and later by The Center Square shows Nearman opening the door to the mob, violating public safety rules. Other capitol video footage obtained by KOIN shows him pausing to greet several Trump supporters as he left the area.

The Dec. 21 incident saw nearly 300 Trump supporters storm the state capitol building while protesting COVID shutdowns while a special session of the Oregon Legislature was underway. One man, Chandler Pappas, is charged with spraying mace at several police officers. Six more men face criminal trespass charges. Two journalists were assaulted at the scene.

Nearman's due in Marion County Circuit court on May 11 at 9:00 a.m. Should he fail to appear, the court can issue a warrant for his arrest.

Nearman has denied all wrongdoing in the Dec. 21 incident. He could not be reached for comment.

The GOP lawmaker was placed under investigation by the Oregon State Police in January. House Democrats were quick to criticize the pace of the inquiry on Friday, saying Nearman would face harsher punishment if he were a racial minority.

"The fact that the investigation took so long was alarming," tweeted Rep. Ricki Ruiz, D-Gresham. "If that was me letting people into the Capitol, I would have been charged and probably expelled immediately. That's just my humble opinion based on how we BIPOC get treated."

House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, declined to condemn Nearman in December, preferring to withhold judgment until the investigation's conclusion.

On Saturday, Drazan told The Center Square that the House Republican Caucus awaits the recommendations of the House Conduct Committee while Nearman continues to serve in the chamber. He is up for reelection in 2022.

"State legislators are the voices of their community," Drazan said in a statement. "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."

Nearman saw his committee assignments, keycard access to the capitol building, and other political privileges revoked by House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, in January. He has given no indication he will relinquish his seat despite calls to resign from Kotek and others. Kotek has not moved to expel him from the chamber, which would require a two-thirds majority and several GOP votes.

Nearman was one of 11 Oregon Republicans who petitioned the state attorney general to contest the 2020 presidential election results. One of his aides, Angela Roman, was tied to the right-wing Three Percenters militia group. That's according to court documents after being charged with a gun misdemeanor in 2019.

Salem has become a hotspot for large-scale protests and mass unrest since Dec. 21. Authorities anticipate more of the same this weekend.

Flyers promoting a Saturday gun rights rally in Salem lists Nearman as a guest speaker and QAnon conspiracy theorist Jo Rae Perkins. The event is being promoted by far-right Patriot Prayer found Joey Gibson.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.