Utah man sentenced to 6 years in federal prison for his role in Jan. 6 US Capitol riot

John Sullivan, 29, was sentenced Friday to six years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

John Sullivan, 29, was sentenced Friday to six years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. (Tooele County Sheriff's Office)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Sandy man has been sentenced to six years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

John Earle Sullivan, 29, was also sentenced on Friday to three years of supervised release following his prison term and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution.

Sullivan was convicted in November by a District of Columbia federal jury for several crimes, including obstructing an official proceeding, obstructing officers during a civil disorder and unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds.

Sullivan, who was "fitted with a ballistic vest, gas mask and bull horn, joined rioters storming the U.S. Capitol" on Jan. 6, 2021, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The Utah man, who is the founder of Insurgence USA, a group that calls itself anti-fascist and protests police brutality, filmed his participation in the riot.

"Sullivan used various digital platforms and personas to present himself as an activist. However, on these platforms, Sullivan made his true objectives clear: to cause pure chaos and disruption to the status quo. Sullivan alternated between advertising legitimate protests and broadcasting violent anti-establishment rhetoric," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Sullivan had a bullhorn and could be heard encouraging the rioters and making statements such as, "Let's burn this … down," according to prosecutors. Once inside the Capitol, he continued to provoke the crowd with statements such as, "We gotta get this … burned," and ignored commands of officers to leave, instead telling the officers "to stand down so they would not get hurt."

Outside the main doors to the House of Representatives, Sullivan told the crowd he had a knife.

"After unsuccessful attempts to access the House floor, the crowd, including Sullivan, made their way to the Speaker's Lobby, where the evacuation of the House floor was actively underway. Sullivan, once again telling the mob he had a knife, positioned himself at the front of the Speaker's Lobby crowd as the crowd began to break the doors' glass windows. Sullivan encouraged those attempting to break the windows to 'Go, go. Let's go,'" according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Sullivan was arrested in Salt Lake City about a week later, on Jan. 14, 2021. Prosecutors say as early as 2020 "Sullivan began advocating for a violent government dismantling." He stated in one of his posts on Instagram: "We will have live updates on the location for tonight's purge. Spread the message. Let the electoral purge commence," according to federal prosecutors.

Based on that and other social media posts, Sullivan "made it clear he knew the significance of what would be occurring that day — both the certification and the rally," the attorney's office said. Sullivan made and posted a video explaining the details of the certification process for the 2020 presidential election.

Sullivan said he also witnessed the shooting death of protester Ashli Babbitt, and the Twitter account for Insurgence USA retweeted video showing the shooting and aftermath. Investigators confiscated roughly $90,000 from him after he sold the footage to several news outlets.

In the summer of 2020, Sullivan was charged with riot and criminal mischief, class B misdemeanors, after allegedly participating in a protest in Provo during which two handguns were brandished and two shots were fired toward a motorist. Court documents accused Sullivan of damaging vehicles, blocking roadways, threatening to beat a woman and kicking the door of her SUV. Those charges, however, were dismissed on March 1, 2023, "for lack of jurisdiction."

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Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrectionPolice & CourtsUtahSalt Lake County
Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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