SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man who faces federal criminal charges for his alleged actions during the U.S. Capitol riot sold video of the incursion to major news outlets for thousands of dollars.
CNN and NBC each paid John Sullivan $35,000 for footage he captured outside and inside the building on Jan. 6, including the deadly shooting of protester Ashli Babbitt by a U.S. Capitol Police officer, according to a recent filing in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The nonexclusive agreement with CNN was specifically for “eyewitness video of the shooting at Capitol Hill on 01/06/2021 for use from Jan. 6 to Jan. 13.
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.”
Defense attorney Steven Kiersh filed invoices for the agreements Tuesday as part of a memorandum concerning conditions for Sullivan’s release from jail pending trial.
“On Jan. 6, CNN was contacted by a reputable agent regarding an eyewitness video from the Capitol Hill riots. The company entered into a one-week agreement for use of 44-seconds of key content, which was attributed to the witness on air. When his role in the event was later called into question, the company informed staff to cease all use of the video,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement to the New York Post.
NBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Also Tuesday, a federal magistrate judge in Washington eased some of the restrictions initially placed on Sullivan after he was released from jail in Utah.
Sullivan, 26, was arrested in Tooele County on Jan. 14. He is charged in a six-count federal indictment with obstruction of an official proceeding; civil disorder; entering and remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
A federal magistrate judge in Utah restricted his internet and social media use and barred him from working for Insurgence USA, a social justice group he founded that calls itself anti-fascist and protests police brutality.
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.
Sullivan, who entered the Capitol wearing a gas mask and wielding an iPhone on a stabilizing stick, told the Deseret News and KSL last month that he was only there to document the event.
After making his way inside the Capitol during the riot, Sullivan said he witnessed the shooting of Babbitt, and the Twitter account for Insurgence USA retweeted video from someone with Sullivan that shows the shooting and the aftermath.
“I have video of it,” he said on the night of the incursion, describing in detail seeing the flash of the gun, the bullet strike Babbitt, and Babbitt’s reaction as she died on the floor. “I am hesitant to post it. ... It’s something I have to take in. I hope that people get a grasp of that situation. Whoever shot her, maybe should be held accountable. I guess that’s up to the law to decide.”
Prosecutors contend Sullivan was not a bystander but a “brazen, vocal” participant in the riot.
“The defendant, according to his own video footage, apparently exhorted others to ‘burn this (expletive) down,’ ‘break that (expletive),’ and — amid the smashing of the speaker’s lobby doors — ‘Go! Go! Get this (expletive)!’ He celebrated the breach of the Capitol as ‘revolutionary history.’ He boasted of how ‘it’s only a little jail time ... I do this all the time,’ assistant U.S. attorney Candice Wong wrote in court documents.
Kiersh described Sullivan as a “decent, honest young man” who has been “utterly” mischaracterized by the government and that comments attributed to him have been taken out of context.
He argued Sullivan should not be kept from earning income through Insurgence USA, saying the company is not deemed to have been involved in criminal activity.
“Defendant is legitimately self-employed as a documentarian and it is oppressive to require that he not be allowed to continue his primary area of employment for an extended period of time,” he wrote in court documents.
Kiersh also contended that restricting his use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms would effectively ban him from communicating with friends, interacting with his family, writing his thoughts, keeping up with the news, checking on the weather or reading a newspaper.
He argued that the government’s effort to limit Sullivan’s ability to communicate the way the vast majority of Americans communicate is oppressive and unconstitutional.
At a hearing in Washington on Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather lifted the prohibition on Twitter, Facebook and other encrypted social media platforms, according to Politico.
The judge, however, said Sullivan “is to no longer work for Insurgence USA,” will have his internet use monitored by probation officials, and will be banned from using any social media platforms to incite riots, violent protests, armed conflict or violence.
Sullivan remains on home detention but is no longer required to wear a location monitor.
Sullivan has become one of the more prominent individuals charged in the Capitol riot because of interviews he did with news outlets like CNN and a vigorous debate about whether he’s an Antifa provocateur, Politico reported. Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer, and others have pointed to Sullivan as evidence that leftists were part of the mob that stormed the Capitol. Liberal activists have denounced those claims as disinformation.
Sullivan’s politics remain unclear. He has described himself as a Trump opponent and Black Lives Matter supporter. But BLM activists in Utah have disowned him, saying he seemed intent on provoking violence at protests.
Sullivan is also currently facing criminal charges in Utah of organizing a protest in Provo last summer that resulted in one motorist being shot.
Charging documents say Sullivan recorded several hours of that June protest and is seen in the recordings “kicking vehicles and threatening drivers.” He later admitted to police that he knew who the gunman was who shot a 60-year-old Provo man in the elbow after protesters blocked his vehicle, but Sullivan failed to report it to authorities, according to the charges.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of riot, a third-degree felony, and criminal mischief, a class B misdemeanor, and has a court hearing in that case next month.