U.S. seizes funds of John Earle Sullivan, Capitol riot suspect who sold Jan. 6 footage to media

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The U.S. has seized thousands of dollars in media proceeds from accused rioter John Earle Sullivan, who sold the rights to his Jan. 6 narrated video inside the Capitol to NBC News, CNN and four other outlets.

The seizure was disclosed in a court filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by a prosecutor opposing Mr. Sullivan’s motion to release the money. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Candice C. Wong said that Mr. Sullivan received $90,875 for rights to his widely posted self-narrated video.

It included the stark scene of Ashli Babbitt being fatally shot by an unidentified Capitol Police officer as protesters tried to smash their way into the House Speaker’s Lobby. Of that sum, the government has seized $62,813, the court filing said. The seizure was authorized by two sealed warrants signed in April by a judge magistrate. 

Mr. Sullivan, a Utah resident active on social media under the name “Jayden X” as a Black Lives Matter supporter and leader of Insurgence USA, bragged afterward that filming the Babbitt killing would earn him “millions of dollars” in video rights.

Mr. Sullivan, 26, is the lone left-wing activist identified to date amid a sea of some 800 Trump supporters who invaded after President Trump delivered his “Stop the Steal” rally speech. Protesters were trying to stop a joint session of Congress from certifying President Biden’s electoral college win.

Mr. Sullivan has a history of attending BLM demonstrations and encouraging violence. 

In Provo, Utah, police charged him with threatening a woman driver and damaging her car during a June 29 George Floyd protest. He came to Washington in August and at a BLM rally urged protesters to drag Mr. Trump out of the White House, according to court filings. 

Ms. Wong argued that Jan. 6 film proceeds were the direct result of illegal activity — invading the Capitol building through a broken window and encouraging Trump supporters to burn it down.

She included quotes from Mr. Sullivan’s video as he first urged protesters to invade, then roamed the Capitol’s hallways and catacombs wielding his camera and a knife. 

“There are so many people. Let’s go,” he says at one point. “This sh-t is ours! F—k yeah,” and “We accomplished this sh-it. We did this together. F—k yeah! We are all a part of this history,” and “Let’s burn this sh-t down.” 

And, “I brought my megaphone to instigate sh-t. I was like, guys we’re going inside, we’re f—king sh-t up…. I’m gonna make these Trump supporters f—all this s-it up.”

Ms. Wong argued in her filing the video is the product of Mr. Sullivan’s crimes. He posed as a journalist as a license to incite violence.

“There is evidence that the defendant came to the U.S. Capitol prepared to both film and instigate mayhem [and] that he exploited his posture of recording to cajole and resist officers inside the Capitol and to make his way to the front lines of confrontation,” her filing says.

“Shortly after leaving, he boasted of his intent to make ‘millions of dollars’ from his footage of the ‘revolution’ he had just witnessed and participated in,” the filing says. “There is strong evidence that the defendant was no mere bystander but rather an active participant––wielding a gimbal and recording device alongside his tactical gear.” 

Steven R. Kiersh, Mr. Sullivan’s attorney, asked the judge to release the seized funds. He said the seizure violates Mr. Sullivan’s constitutional rights since he has not been convicted.

“Defendant notes that he needs the funds in the seized bank account in order to pay his rent and household necessities,” Mr. Kiersh said. “Additionally, the proceeds of the seized bank account are not the product of criminal activity alleged in the indictment.”

On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed a new eight-count indictment against Mr. Sullivan with two new charges. They include that he lied to the FBI when he denied he carried any weapon inside the Capitol when in fact he had a knife.

Mr. Sullivan is free pending trial but his social media activities are restricted.

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