Government seizes $90K from rioter-journalist who filmed Capitol riot
May 24, 2021
The Department of Justice has seized $90,000 worth of criminally generated profits from activist John Earle Sullivan, who filmed himself encouraging protesters to storm the Capitol on January 6. He later sold the footage to CNN, NBC and the Washington Post, among other media outlets.
Sullivan was originally arrested on January 14, meaning the media paid him the bulk of the money after criminal charges had been filed against him, and apparently after the media understood the videos were made during the commission of several crimes.
“According to the court filings, Sullivan portrayed himself as an independent journalist who was reporting on the chaos but actually encouraged other participants to ‘burn’ the building and engage in violence,” Reuters reported.
Sullivan previously participated in Black Lives Matter protests in Utah, his home state, but local organizers there have disavowed any connection to him.
Sullivan faces eight criminal counts stemming from the event, including weapons charges, according to Reuters.
The prosecutors describe Sullivan in court documents as someone who alternately posed as a rioter and then as a journalist, a role that has blurred in the past dozen months.
“I brought my megaphone to instigate shit,” Sullivan said, according to the government. “I was like, guys we’re going inside, we’re fucking shit up…. I’m gonna make these Trump supporters f—all this shit up…. But I mean you’ll see. I have it all, I have everything, everything on camera, everything I just told you, and I mean everything. Trust me when I say my footage is worth like a million of dollars, millions of dollars. I’m holding on to that shit.”
Law and Crime reported that another video shows him “expressing excitement” that he was able to record the final moments of Ashli Babbitt’s life, according to the documents filed by the government in U.S. District Court.
Sullivan has argued that he was legitimately documenting the riots and therefore was a member press, a defense used by other rioters.
The U.S. government is arguing that Sullivan would not have realized any money were it not for the illegal acts he committed during the riot.
“In sum, there is ample probable cause supporting the traceability of the defendant’s proceeds to the crime,” prosecutors said. “By targeting the defendant’s $90,875 in gross profits, this case encapsulates the core purpose of forfeiture — to ‘help to ensure that crime does not pay.’”
The government says during the riot Sullivan, “wearing a ballistics vest and gas mask, entered the U.S. Capitol through a window that had been broken out, pushing past U.S. Capitol Police once inside.”