Utah activist found guilty for crimes related to Jan. 6 insurrection

John Sullivan was booked into the Tooele County Jail on Jan. 14, 2021 on federal charges of being on restricted property, civil disorder and violent entry or disorderly conduct in connection with riots at the U.S. Capitol.

John Sullivan was booked into the Tooele County Jail on Jan. 14, 2021 on federal charges of being on restricted property, civil disorder and violent entry or disorderly conduct in connection with riots at the U.S. Capitol. (Tooele County Sheriff's Office)

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WASHINGTON — A Utah activist who filmed the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol was convicted Thursday on seven federal counts for his conduct during the insurrection.

A District of Columbia jury found John Earl Sullivan, 29, of Salt Lake City, guilty of obstructing official proceedings, obstructing officers during a civil disorder, entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon, disorderly conduct in a restricted building with a weapon and unlawful possession of a weapon on Capitol grounds. In addition to those five felonies, the jury found Sullivan guilty of misdemeanor disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Sullivan wore a ballistic vest and gas mask as he stormed the Capitol and filmed the crowd pushing through several police barriers on the west side of the Capitol. A statement from the office said he entered the building through a smashed window near the Senate Wing Door and roamed inside the building with others "who had unlawfully entered."

"Sullivan ignored law enforcement commands to leave and told the officers to stand down, so they would not get hurt. Sullivan encouraged other rioters, explaining he was 'ready' because he had 'been in so many riots," the attorney's office statement said.

On Jan. 6, Sullivan filmed protesters at the speaker's lobby and crowds trying to break into the House chamber while House Representatives were inside. The attorney's office said Sullivan encouraged the other rioters to be violent and to keep breaking windows near the speaker's lobby.

Sullivan said he witnessed and filmed the shooting death of protester Ashli Babbitt and claimed she was the first to try to get inside the House chamber.

"There was a glass wall, and she, the woman, was the first person to actually try to get inside," Sullivan told KSL in 2021. "All you see is hands come out the doorways with their guns. ... You don't see their face, nothing. And I literally yell at everybody else, 'There's a gun! There's a gun! Don't go in there!' And a shot goes off. And she gets shot as soon as she goes through."

Sullivan, who is the founder of Insurgence USA, a group that calls itself anti-fascist and protests police brutality, was detained by Washington police for about an hour-and-a-half on Jan. 7, a day after he talked to local and national media about what he witnessed on Jan. 6.

He was handcuffed the entire time and said police questioned him about being inside the Capitol and witnessing the shooting death of one of the protesters. He was initially not arrested.

A week later, the FBI issued a warrant for Sullivan's arrest and he was booked into Tooele County Jail on Jan. 14 for investigation of being in a restricted building or grounds, committing civil disorders, and involvement in violent entry or disorderly conduct.

Sullivan said in 2021 that while he is not a Trump supporter, he wasn't there to join the protest, only to listen and document, and he saw no one else who aligned with his ideology in the crowd. But charges state Sullivan can be seen in a video posted on YouTube "telling a crowd, over a microphone, 'We about to burn this (expletive) down,' and 'We ain't waiting until the next election ... we about to go get that (expletive).' Sullivan then can be seen leading the crowd in a chant of, 'It's time for a revolution.'"

Sullivan was released from jail the week after, with a long list of conditions, including limited internet access and being required to wear a location monitor.

A federal probation officer filed a petition in U.S. District Court on Jan. 27, alleging Sullivan violated conditions of his release from jail pending trial. Prosecutors in Washington, where the case is being tried, sought to send him back to jail pending trial, contending he is a threat to the community.

In February 2021, it was discovered Sullivan sold video of the Capitol riot to major news outlets for thousands of dollars.

CNN and NBC each paid Sullivan $35,000 for footage he captured outside and inside the building on Jan. 6, including the deadly shooting of Babbitt by a U.S. Capitol Police officer, according to a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington.

In addition, Australian Broadcasting Corp. paid Sullivan $2,375 for his video. The court filing also includes the copy of an unsigned agreement with Left/Right LLC, a New York-based production company, for $5,000 to use footage of the siege at the Capitol in a program tentatively titled, "The Circus: The Greatest Political Show on Earth."

In May 2021, Reuters reported U.S. authorities confiscated roughly $90,000 from Sullivan, the total he gained from selling the footage. Prosecutors then filed additional criminal charges against him, totaling eight criminal counts.

Sullivan pleaded not guilty in Washington's federal court to the eight charges against him on Jan. 4, 2022.

Sullivan was also arrested in 2020 on criminal charges related to a protest he organized in Provo where one person was shot in the elbow.

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Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrectionU.S.UtahSalt Lake CountyPolice & Courts
Cassidy Wixom covers Utah County communities and is the evening breaking news reporter for KSL.com.


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