Man Who Filmed Ashli Babbitt Killing Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

John Earle Sullivan had been convicted in late 2023 of seven Jan. 6 charges. He filmed the shooting of Ms. Babbitt outside the Speaker’s Lobby at the Capitol.

John Earle Sullivan, the onetime racial-justice activist and provocateur who filmed the deadly shooting of Ashli Babbitt at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to six years in federal prison by a judge in Washington D.C.

Mr. Sullivan, 29, of Tooele, Utah, did not receive the 87 months recommended by federal prosecutors for his role on Jan. 6. But his 72-month sentence was well beyond the 30 months his defense attorney recommended.

The sentence meted out on April 26 by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth brought to a close the more than three-year prosecution of Mr. Sullivan, one of the most recognizable Jan. 6 figures. He was arrested on Jan. 14, 2021—one of the first Jan. 6 suspects taken into custody by the FBI.

Judge Lamberth sentenced Mr. Sullivan to serve two years of supervised release after his prison term and ordered him to pay $2,520 in restitution and special assessments.

Mr. Sullivan came to the Jan. 6 events in Washington trailed by filmmaker Jade Sacker, who has since published a documentary about the liberal Mr. Sullivan and his conservative activist brother James.

Although media continue to report that Mr. Sullivan dressed as a Trump supporter on Jan. 6, that wasn’t true. On Jan. 5, he posted a widely shared photo of himself to social media donned in a Trump ball cap. He did not wear Trump gear on Jan. 6.

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Mr. Sullivan was found guilty by a District of Columbia jury in November 2023 of obstruction of an official proceeding, civil disorder and aiding and abetting, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a dangerous weapon, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds, disorderly conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

Judge Lamberth denied Mr. Sullivan’s motion for release from jail pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision on the constitutionality of the felony obstruction of an official proceeding charge used against at least 353 Jan. 6 defendants.

The High Court heard oral arguments in that case on April 16 and is expected to rule by late June.

‘I’ve Got a Knife’

The weapon that brought Mr. Sullivan enhanced felony charges was a retractable dual-edge Smith & Wesson M&P tactical knife—something Mr. Sullivan boasted about to the crowd outside the Speaker’s Lobby, where Ms. Babbitt was shot at 2:44 p.m.

“Let me through, I’ve got a knife,” Mr. Sullivan said as he moved through the dense crowd, according to his video. “I’ve got a knife.”

Once he reached the left side of the Speaker’s Lobby entrance, Mr. Sullivan lobbied Capitol Police Officer Kyle Yetter to abandon his post—for his own safety.

“Bro, I’ve seen people out there get hurt,” Mr. Sullivan said. “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

As soon as Mr. Yetter, Capitol Police Sgt. Timothy Lively, and Officer Christopher Lanciano moved away from the door that they had been guarding, Mr. Sullivan urged the men around him, “Go! Go! Let’s go! Get this [expletive],” according to his video.

A short time later, Mr. Sullivan was the first to call out the presence of Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, who crept along the other side of the entrance with his Glock pistol pointed toward the crowded hallway.

“There’s a gun! There’s a gun! There’s a gun!” Mr. Sullivan shouted as the service weapon became visible on his video screen.

The exact moment Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd fired his Glock 22 pistol at Ashli Babbitt at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (JaydenX/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
The exact moment Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd fired his Glock 22 pistol at Ashli Babbitt at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (JaydenX/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Mr. Sullivan’s video showed Mr. Byrd repeatedly placing his finger on the trigger of his gun and removing it before he lunged forward and fired the weapon at Ms. Babbitt, who had just begun climbing into a broken outside window of the doorway.

In an interview filmed moments later by Infowars employee Sam Montoya, a highly agitated Mr. Sullivan said he believed he saw Ms. Babbitt die.

‘I Have the Video’

“She climbed in the window and then she got shot right here in the neck,” Mr. Sullivan told Mr. Montoya. “I got it all. I’ll post the video. I have the video. I have the video of the guy with the gun and then shoot her. …I have it all. I was right at the door.”

As it turned out, Ms. Babbitt was still alive as Capitol Police officers carried her head-first to the ground floor of the Capitol. Even as she was loaded into an ambulance, Ms. Babbitt bled profusely from the upper chest wound caused by Mr. Byrd’s bullet. She was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m. at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Jan. 6 defendant John Sullivan shows off the knife he carried at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. Department of Justice/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Jan. 6 defendant John Sullivan shows off the knife he carried at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. Department of Justice/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Mr. Sullivan was paid $90,000 by several media outlets for the use of his Jan. 6 video, money that was seized by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Prosecutors said Mr. Sullivan’s Jan. 6 conduct was a continuation of the violent rhetoric he expressed during the civil unrest in 2020 after the controversial death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Mr. Sullivan dubbed himself “Jayden X” and “Activist John,” and operated a website called “Insurgence USA.”

“Going into winter of 2020, Sullivan began to advocate for a violent dismantling of the government,” prosecutors wrote in their 45-page sentencing memorandum. “In one Instagram post, Sullivan posted, ‘We will have live updates on the location for tonight’s purge. Spread the message. Let the electoral purge commence.’

“In December 2020, Sullivan tweeted, ‘Riots are meant to bring change, so purge the world with fire,’ and, ‘An armed revolution is the only way to bring about change effectively.’”

Mr. Sullivan’s sentencing memo said his behavior on Jan. 6 was not reflective of the kind of man he is.

“Those who know him from church, from social interactions, and from his supportive family all enthusiastically commend him as a decent, honest man of integrity, good faith and devotion to those in his world,” defense attorney Steven Kiersh wrote.

“John Sullivan’s conduct on January 6, 2021, was clearly a deviation from the person that is reflected in his background,” Mr. Kiersh wrote. “His conduct on that day is not reflective of the totality of the kind, decent and generous man that he is.”

Mr. Kiersh said his client’s mental health has markedly declined since he was jailed following his jury trial. He asked Judge Lamberth to take that into consideration when crafting a sentence.

“Mr. Sullivan has been held in protective custody and in virtual isolation throughout the duration of his incarceration,” Mr. Kiersh wrote. “Undersigned counsel meets with defendant regularly at the D.C. Jail and has seen a dramatic decrease in his mental stability and his overall physical presence.

Jan. 6 defendant John Sullivan shares a kiss with filmmaker Jade Sacker in the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021. She shot Jan. 6 footage of Mr. Sullivan for a documentary. (U.S. Capitol Police/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Jan. 6 defendant John Sullivan shares a kiss with filmmaker Jade Sacker in the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021. She shot Jan. 6 footage of Mr. Sullivan for a documentary. (U.S. Capitol Police/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

“Counsel has repeatedly spoken with the D.C. Jail’s legal counsel regarding defendant’s status but has been told there is nothing that can be done to remove his protective custody housing status due to concern for his physical safety,” Mr. Kiersh said.

Mr. Sullivan was born in Galax, Virginia, in July 1994 and adopted by an Army lieutenant colonel and his wife. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout before graduating from high school in Stafford, Virginia.

He moved to Kearns, Utah, in order to pursue his dream of becoming an Olympic speed skater, according to court records. Injuries forced him to abandon his quest for the Winter Olympics.

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