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Utah man who recorded fatal Jan. 6 Capitol shooting sentenced to 6 years

A Utah man who recorded himself inciting violence and breaking a window before filming the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt outside the House chamber during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack was sentenced Friday to six years in prison.

John Earle Sullivan, 29, was paid $90,875 for his videos before he was convicted at trial. A jury found him guilty in November of rioting and obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 election results, both felonies, and of five misdemeanor counts.

Prosecutors said Sullivan was a self-described activist with anarchist views who brought a tactical vest, a gas mask, a megaphone and a knife to the riot. Seeking a prison term of a little more than seven years, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebekah Lederer and Michael Barclay said Sullivan “shared a desire to see the government burn” and the vote certification stopped.

Defense attorney Steven Kiersh said Sullivan was born in Virginia, was adopted by a now-retired Army lieutenant colonel and his wife, and moved with them to Utah, where he trained to be an Olympic speed skater before injuries stopped him. Kiersh cited more than a dozen letters from friends and family who described Sullivan as “much different” than what the jury saw. The attorney wrote that Sullivan “led an admirable and a caring life in which he displayed a sense of responsibility, a commitment to his family, friends and community and an individual who tried to enhance the lives of those around him.”

Since his conviction, Sullivan has been held in protective custody in virtual isolation at the D.C. jail, where authorities deemed that he held opposing political views and that housing him with other Jan. 6 defendants would be a “threat to his physical safety,” his lawyer said. Kiersh asked U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth for a 30-month sentence.

Because Sullivan expressed past support for the Black Lives Matter movement, conservatives like Rudy Giuliani have claimed that he was a left-wing agitator in the mob, as they have sought to direct attention away from what motivated the overwhelmingly pro-Trump crowd. More than 1,350 people have been charged, including nearly 500 accused of attacking police, 130 of whom were armed or caused injury.

Sullivan’s interests were mixed, said prosecutors, who called him an agent of anti-establishment chaos who shared the goal of attacking Congress and the presidential transition. Using personas including “JaydenX” and Insurgence U.S.A., Sullivan built a social media following of nearly 500,000 by posting protest-related content after the 2020 police killing of George Floyd.

After he organized a July 2020 protest in Provo, Utah, that led to a motorist being shot, he was targeted by conservatives who believed he was a Black Lives Matter activist, he said. Black Lives Matter activists in Utah said Sullivan was not part of their group and urged protesters to avoid him as a troublemaker and riot chaser.

In the winter of 2020, Sullivan wrote in one social media post: “Let the electoral purge commence,” the government said. “Time To Burn It All Down,” he wrote in another post on Jan. 2, 2021. At the Capitol he was recorded saying, “We’re taking this s— to the ground” and “Let’s f— this s— up.”

Sullivan grew up in Stafford, Va., about 45 miles from Washington. His brother James is a conservative activist who has denounced John’s liberal politics. The split between the brothers was the subject of an unaired documentary called “A House Divided” by Jade Sacker, who recorded both men in Washington and some of whose video was shown at trial.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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