Nov 16, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Utah man who filmed Ashli Babbitt's shooting convicted over Jan. 6

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.

Scenes from the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A Utah man who claimed he was acting as a citizen journalist when he joined Jan. 6 rioters and filmed scenes inside the U.S. Capitol, including the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt, was convicted Thursday.

The big picture: John Earle Sullivan, who prosecutors said earned more than $90,000 from selling his video footage of the Capitol breach, was convicted of all charges, including felony obstruction of an official proceeding and civil disorder, per a Justice Department statement Thursday.

Driving the news: Prosecutors alleged that Sullivan was wearing a ballistic vest and gas mask when he joined rioters storming the U.S. Capitol and recordings showed him yelling expletives including "we're about to burn this s--t down!," "we're f--king s--t up" and "I'm gonna make these Trump supporters f--k all this s--t up," per court documents.

  • The 29-year-old from Salt Lake City told the mob as he filmed them trying to break open doors to the House Chamber and then also at the Speaker's Lobby that he had a knife, prosecutors said. Congress members, staff and journalists were inside the House of Representatives at the time.
  • Sullivan offered the knife to rioters at entrance to the House Chamber, according to the prosecutors.
  • Video evidence shows him climbing through a broken window at the Capitol building and eventually reaching the Speaker's Lobby, where he can be heard encouraging a mob breaking glass panes in the door and telling police officers to "go home" before Babbitt climbs through and is shot.

What they're saying: Sullivan testified at his trial Wednesday that he was trying to blend in with the mob, WUSA9 reported.

  • "Part of blending in is being a neutral observer," Sullivan said, per WUSA9. "What is being a neutral observer but being one of them?"
  • However, prosecutors said Sullivan "admitted to law enforcement" that he "has no press credentials and the investigation has not revealed any connection between the defendant and any journalistic organizations prior to the events" of Jan. 6. 2021.
  • Juror Jon Stewart told the Washington Post Thursday that Sullivan was with a mob that knocked down a metal barricade and "a journalist wouldn't kick down the fence."

What's next: Sullivan will be sentenced at a later date.

Go deeper: Capitol rioters seek to profit from Jan. 6 participation

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