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Capitol rioter John Sullivan pleads not guilty, wants $90K back from DOJ

The Justice Department seized more than $90,000 in proceeds Sullivan made from selling Capitol riot footage.

WASHINGTON — A Utah man who captured some of the most gripping footage of the Capitol riot, including the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt, was arraigned Wednesday on multiple charges stemming from his own involvement.

John Earl Sullivan, 26, was arrested in January a little more than a week after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Sullivan, who streams online under the name “Jayden X,” has claimed he is a video journalist. The Department of Justice has said the evidence from January 6 shows he was there as a provocateur and actively participated himself in the riot, including breaking a window.

On Wednesday, Sullivan appeared virtually before a U.S. district court judge to plead not guilty to eight counts against him, including obstruction of an official proceeding, civil disorder and aiding and abetting.

The Justice Department says in Sullivan’s own footage, captured via a hand-held camera, he can be seen breaking through multiple police lines and entering the Capitol building through a broken window near the Senate Chamber. Once inside, the DOJ says Sullivan appeared to celebrate with the mob each time they charged through rooms, and volunteered his own knife to help break down doors into the House Chamber.

In court filings, the DOJ says Sullivan made more than $90,000 by selling that footage – which includes the only publicly released video of the fatal shooting of Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt. Babbitt was shot by a U.S. Capitol Police officer while attempting to breach a barricade into the Speaker’s Lobby.

Last week, Sullivan’s attorney filed a motion asking the court to reverse the government’s seizure of those funds, arguing that his client needs them to pay his rent and that they are not the proceeds of criminal activity.

On Friday, the Justice Department rebutted Sullivan’s arguments, saying two magistrate judges signed off on the seizure and noting that a federal grand jury had ruled there was probable cause that the funds were forfeitable. In a filing, the DOJ said the value of Sullivan’s footage was “substantially the result of his proximity as a front-line participant in the storming of the Capitol, including in the aggressive onslaught on the Speaker’s Lobby doors that culminated in the shooting.”

Judge Sullivan accepted Sullivan’s not guilty pleas on Wednesday, but made no ruling about his motion to return the video proceeds. Sullivan is scheduled for his next status hearing on July 29 at 1 p.m.

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