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Judge punts decision on whether Utahn charged in U.S. Capitol riot violated release conditions

John Earle Sullivan
Utah County Jail

SALT LAKE CITY — Government prosecutors say a Utah man charged with participating in a pro-Trump rally that turned into a violent attack at the U.S. Capitol “blatantly” disregarded the conditions a federal judge set for his release from jail pending trial last month.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Daphne Oberg decided not to hear the allegations Monday because John Earle Sullivan is scheduled to appear Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C., which will assume jurisdiction of the case. She said it makes sense for the judge who will oversee the case in Washington to address the issue.

A federal probation officer who filed a petition in Salt Lake City alleging Sullivan violated the terms of his release will now file the petition in Washington. The petition lists four dates on which Sullivan allegedly failed to comply with the terms of his release, specifically regarding internet use.

Assistant U.S. attorney Bryan Reeves argued that Oberg should hear the matter because the alleged violations happened in her jurisdiction and under her orders. Reeves said Sullivan “blatantly and flagrantly” disregarded the judge’s authority.

“The level of contempt and brazenness is overwhelming,” he said.

Reeves didn’t get into specifics, other than saying Sullivan appeared on InfoWars, a far-right conspiracy theory and fake news website. He said Sullivan showed no remorse for anything he did or said during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Mary Corporon, Sullivan’s attorney, said the restrictions on internet use weren’t clear to Sullivan but provided him limited access.

Sullivan, 26, founded Insurgence USA, a social justice group that calls itself anti-fascist and protests police brutality.

Federal agents arrested Sullivan on Jan. 14 in Tooele County. Oberg released him the next day with a long list of conditions, including the wearing of a location monitor. He is charged with being on restricted property, civil disorder and violent entry or disorderly conduct.

Oberg said if the hearing in Washington set for Thursday is for some reason not held, she will hold a hearing next Monday to decide whether Sullivan violated the pretrial release conditions. Jail time is among the sanctions that could be imposed should she find the allegations true.

According to charging documents, Sullivan attended a rally in Washington held by supporters of President Donald Trump outside the Capitol. The group “expressly stated that their purpose was to stop or disrupt” the certification of the Electoral College vote of the 2020 presidential election, the charges say.

Furthermore, federal investigators say that Sullivan could be frequently heard encouraging the crowd inside the Capitol.

Sullivan has said he was only there to document the event. But even though he “claimed to be an activist and journalist that filmed protests and riots,” he also admitted “that he has no press credentials and the investigation has not revealed any connection between Sullivan and any journalistic organizations,” according to charging documents.