Accused Capitol rioter and Black Lives Matter supporter John E. Sullivan quickly inked deals to sell rights to his self-narrated invasion video to CNN and NBC News, new court filings show.
Mr. Sullivan, who was indicted in D.C. while already facing criminal charges stemming from a violent demonstration in Provo, Utah, became somewhat of a rioting celebrity after he patrolled the halls of Congress and called for burning down the Capitol.
He was interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper not as a perpetrator but as an eye-witness. On Jan. 6, the day of the riot by “Stop the Steal” Trump supporters, Mr. Sullivan and CNN signed a $35,000 contract to broadcast his video. Two weeks later, NBC News also ponied up $35,000.
Mr. Sullivan captured Ashli Babbitt’s death as she attempted to crash through a door window leading to the Speaker’s lobby and was shot by a U.S. Capitol Police officer. Scores of invaders documented their incursions on cell phone videos posted on various Internet platforms.
Defense attorney Steven R. Kiersh filed the CNN and NBC invoices in U.S. District Court to bolster Mr. Sullivan’s claim that he was a “documentarian” that day recording history. Mr. Kiersh said Mr. Sullivan’s group, Insurgence USA, is his employment.
“Defendant is a decent, honest young man who has been utterly mischaracterized by pleadings filed in this Court and comments attributed to him have been taken out of context.” the lawyer said.
Mr. Sullivan, whose Internet profiles are anti-Donald Trump and pro Black Lives Matter and Antifa, wore “Make America Great Again” garb as he urged protesters to push back police and invade Congress. He rooted for Trump supporters to scale a wall, then entered the Capitol through a broken window, according to an FBI affidavit.
The affidavit quoted him as yelling, “There are so many people. Let’s go. This shit is ours! F—k yeah,” and “We accomplished this sh-t. We did this together. F—k yeah! We are all a part of this history,” and “Let’s burn this shit down.”
A grand jury indicted Mr. Sullivan on charges of obstructing an official proceeding, entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct and demonstrating in the Capitol building.
The FBI notes that at an August protest in D.C. Mr. Sullivan told the crowd, “We about to burn this sh-t down,” and “we got to rip Trump out of office … f—king pull him out of that sh-t … we ain’t waiting until the next election … we about to go get that motherf—ker.” He then led the crowd in a chant: “it’s time for a revolution.”
Defense attorney Kiersh filed an 8-page memorandum urging U.S. Magistrate Robin Meriweather to reject prosecutors demands he stay off social media.
“Defendant strenuously opposes any restrictions regarding his use of the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media,” Mr. Kiersh said. “The requests by the United States to limit defendant’s ability to communicate the way the vast majority of Americans communicate is oppressive, over broad and unConstitutional.”
In the end, Magistrate Meriweather on Tuesday refused the prosecution’s request for a social media blackout. But the magistrates did order him to stop operating Insurgence USA.
Politico firsts reported the Sullivan filings.
“Insurgence USA is not charged with any offense in this matter,” Mr. Kiersh argued. “Insurgence is not deemed to have been involved in any criminal activity. Defendant is legitimately self-employed as a documentarian and it is oppressive to require that he not be allowed to continue his primary area of
employment for an extended period of time.”
Assistant U.S Attorney Candice C. Wong filed a motion Feb. 4 to have Mr. Sullivan detained in jail pending trial.
“The defendant was a brazen, vocal participant in the disruption and disorder surrounding the events on January 6, 2021,” she said. “Since his release on stringent conditions on January 15, 2021 he has repeatedly flouted court-imposed conditions.”
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at email@example.com.
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