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DOJ Seizes $90K From Black Lives Matter Activist Who Sold Footage Of Ashli Babbitt Shooting At Capitol Riot

Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has seized over $90,000 from the self-proclaimed Black Lives Matter activist who sold various news outlets footage he recorded showing a woman being shot by police during the U.S. Capitol riot.

John Earle Sullivan, 25, also touts himself as a “revolutionary” protest organizer and the founder of Insurgence USA, the Washington Examiner reported.

Sullivan was charged federally with being on restricted property, civil disorder, and “violent entry or disorderly conduct,” in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, the Deseret News reported.

He was hit on May 19 with additional federal counts of civil disorder, obstructing an official proceeding, disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon, entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds, aiding and abetting, false statements, and demonstrating in the Capitol, according to the Washington Examiner.

Investigators said he illegally carried a knife with him into the Capitol Building, then lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) when he was questioned about it.

Although Sullivan tried to portray himself as an independent journalist who was reporting on the protest-turned-riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors said he actively participated in the chaos and encouraged others to do the same, Reuters reported.

Sullivan also recorded footage of the confrontation between U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers and rioters outside the U.S. House of Representatives Chamber, to include the moment when 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt tried to climb into the House Chamber and was fatally shot by a USCP officer.

“My footage is worth like a million of dollars, millions of dollars!” he proclaimed to an unnamed witness after the shooting, according to court documents.

Sullivan proceeded to sell the footage to multiple news outlets, cashing in on approximately $90,000 total, Reuters reported.

The DOJ seized $1,000 from Sullivan’s Venmo account and another $89,875 from his JPMorgan Chase account last week, according to the Washington Examiner.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Candice Wong said Sullivan’s immediate reaction to the mayhem was “about cashing in, [which] supports an inference that he recognized on January 6 that the more disorder he captured around him, the better footage, and more money, he stood to get.”

“Where an indicted criminal defendant is enriched by profits that he would not have obtained but for his charged crime, there is a strong governmental interest in seizing those allegedly ill-gotten gains, and in ultimately removing the financial incentives for this behavior,” Wong alleged, according to the Washington Examiner.

Steven Kiersh, the attorney representing Sullivan, claimed the federal government violated his client’s rights by seizing the funds.

“The proceeds of the seized bank account are not the product of criminal activity alleged in the indictment,” Kiersh argued.

According to invoices submitted by Sullivan’s attorney back in February, the rioter pocketed $35,000 from CNN, $35,000 from NBC, $5,000 from Showtime, and $2,375 from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation through sales of the footage, the Washington Examiner reported.

He made another $10,000 off of the Washington Post, according to court documents.

The source of the $1,000 payment in his Venmo account is unclear.

Sullivan gave interviews to news media after the riots on Jan. 6 and bragged that he was a Black Lives Matter activist who had only gone into the Capitol building to document what was happening, the Deseret News reported.

Charging documents showed that when Sullivan, who is from Utah, was detained by police on Jan. 7, he “claimed to be an activist and journalist that filmed protests and riots” but admitted he had no press credentials.

But videos of the Capitol riot showed that Sullivan was a very active participant in the breach of the building and that he actually encouraged other rioters to break in and burn it all down, the Deseret News reported.

“There are so many people,” he yelled over a microphone in one video. “Let’s go. This [expletive] is ours! [Expletive] yeah. We accomplished this [expletive]. We did this together. [Expletive] yeah! We are all a part of this history. Let’s burn this [expletive] down.”

Sullivan wore a ballistic vest and gas mask as he entered the U.S. Capitol through a broken window and pushed past police, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

A YouTube video showed Sullivan “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,’” the Deseret News reported.

He also encouraged protesters to climb a wall to get to an entrance and offered a knife to a group of rioters who were trying to pry doors open, according to charging documents.

Charging documents said that “in at least two encounters, Sullivan can be heard on the video arguing with the officers, telling them to stand down so that they do not get hurt. Among other things, Sullivan can be heard telling officers, ‘You are putting yourself in harm’s way,’ ‘The people have spoken,’ and ‘There are too many people, you gotta stand down, the people out there that tried to do that (expletive), they got hurt, I saw it, I’m caring about you,’” the Deseret News reported.

According to the DOJ, Sullivan “positioned himself with a front seat to not one, but multiple confrontations with officers at multiple locations, and made consistently gleeful exhortations about burning and breaking things,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Investigators said they also uncovered a Jan. 5 YouTube video where Sullivan boasted about lying about being a journalist or reporter in the past, according to the news outlet.

“I think I made up, uh — what did I say I was? Oh, yeah, I was just a journalist, but I use that all the time,” he quipped.

Sullivan has previously been accused by other activists of alleged fame-seeking behavior and inciting others to break the law so he could record it, according to the Deseret News.

He currently faces criminal mischief and rioting charges in Utah in connection with a Black Lives Matter protest he helped organize last summer, the Washington Examiner reported.

Black Lives Matter Utah leader Lex Scott has tried to put distance between the anti-police group and Sullivan, calling him a “loose cannon.”

“We do not want to be associated with him,” Scott told the Washington Examiner.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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