Facing prison time and dire personal consequences for storming the U.S. Capitol, some Jan. 6 defendants try to make the most of their participation within the deadly riot, using it as a platform to drum up money, promote business endeavors and boost social media profiles.
A Nevada man jailed on riot charges asked his mother to contact publishers for a book he was writing about “the Capitol incident.” A rioter from Washington state helped his father hawk clothes and other merchandise bearing slogans akin to “Our House” and pictures of the Capitol constructing. A Virginia man released a rap album with riot-themed songs and a canopy photograph of him sitting on a police vehicle outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Those actions are sometimes complicating matters for defendants once they face judges at sentencing as prosecutors point to the profit-chasing activities in in search of tougher punishments. The Justice Department, in some instances, is attempting to claw back money that rioters have made off the riot.
In a single case, federal authorities have seized tens of hundreds of dollars from a defendant who sold his footage from Jan. 6. In one other case, a Florida man’s plea deal allows the U.S. government to gather profits from any book he gets published over the subsequent five years. And prosecutors want a Maine man who raised greater than $20,000 from supporters to give up a number of the money because a taxpayer-funded public defender is representing him.
Many rioters have paid a steep personal price for his or her actions on Jan. 6. At sentencing, rioters often ask for leniency on the grounds that they have already got experienced severe consequences for his or her crimes.
They lost jobs or entire careers. Marriages fell apart. Friends and relatives shunned them and even reported them to the FBI. Strangers have sent them hate mail and online threats. And so they have racked up expensive legal bills to defend themselves against federal charges starting from misdemeanors to serious felonies.
Web sites and crowdfunding platforms arrange to gather donations for Capitol riot defendants attempt to portray them as mistreated patriots and even political prisoners.
An anti-vaccine medical doctor who pleaded guilty to illegally entering the Capitol founded a nonprofit that raised greater than $430,000 for her legal expenses. The fundraising appeal by Dr. Simone Gold’s group, America’s Frontline Doctors, didn’t mention her guilty plea, prosecutors noted.
Before sentencing Gold to 2 months behind bars, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper called it “unseemly” that her nonprofit invoked the Capitol riot to boost money that also paid for her salary. Prosecutors said in court papers that it “beggars belief” that she incurred anywhere near $430,000 in legal costs for her misdemeanor case.
One other rioter, a Recent Jersey gym owner who punched a police officer through the siege, raised greater than $30,000 in online donations for a “Patriot Relief Fund” to cover his mortgage payments and other monthly bills. Prosecutors cited the fund in recommending a positive for Scott Fairlamb, who’s serving a jail sentence of greater than three years.
“Fairlamb mustn’t have the option to ‘capitalize’ on his participation within the Capitol breach in this manner,” Justice Department lawyers wrote.
Robert Palmer, a Florida man who attacked cops on the Capitol, asked a friend to create a crowdfunding campaign for him online after he pleaded guilty. After seeing the campaign to “Help Patriot Rob,” a probation officer calculating a sentencing suggestion for Palmer didn’t give him credit for accepting responsibility for his conduct. Palmer conceded that a post for the campaign falsely portrayed his conduct on Jan. 6. Acceptance of responsibility can assist shave months and even years off a sentence.
“Whenever you threw the fireplace extinguisher and the plank on the cops, were you acting in self-defense?” asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan.
“No, ma’am, I used to be not,” Palmer said before the judge sentenced him to greater than five years in prison.
A gaggle calling itself the Patriot Freedom Project says it has raised greater than $1 million in contributions and paid greater than $665,000 in grants and legal fees for families of Capitol riot defendants.
In April, a Recent Jersey-based foundation related to the group filed an IRS application for tax-exempt status. As of early August, an IRS database doesn’t list the muse as a tax-exempt organization. The Hughes Foundation’s IRS application says its funds “principally” will profit families of Jan. 6 defendants, with about 60% of the donated money going to foundation activities. The remainder will cover management and fundraising expenses, including salaries, it adds.
Rioters have found other ways to complement or promote themselves.
Jeremy Grace, who was sentenced to 3 weeks in jail for entering the Capitol, tried to profit off his participation by helping his dad sell T-shirts, baseball caps, water bottles, decals and other gear with phrases akin to “Our House” and “Back the Blue” and pictures of the Capitol, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Grace’s “audacity” to sell “Back the Blue” paraphernalia is “especially disturbing” because he watched other rioters confront cops on Jan. 6. A defense lawyer, nevertheless, said Grace didn’t break any laws or earn any profits by helping his father sell the merchandise.
Federal authorities seized greater than $62,000 from a checking account belonging to riot defendant John Earle Sullivan, a Utah man who earned greater than $90,000 from selling his Jan. 6 video footage to at the very least six corporations. Sullivan’s lawyer argued authorities had no right to seize the cash.
Richard “Bigo” Barnett, an Arkansas man photographed propping his feet up on a desk within the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has charged donors $100 for photos of him along with his feet on a desk while under house arrest. Defense lawyer Joseph McBride said prosecutors have “zero grounds” to stop Barnett from raising money for his defense before a December trial date.
“Unlike the federal government, Mr. Barnett doesn’t have the American Taxpayer footing the bill for his legal case,” McBride wrote in a court filing.
Texas real estate agent Jennifer Leigh Ryan promoted her business on social media during and after the riot, boasting that she was “becoming famous.” In messages sent after Jan. 6, Ryan “contemplated the business she needed to arrange for because of this of the publicity she received from joining the mob on the Capitol,” prosecutors said in court documents.
Prosecutors cited the social media activity of Treniss Evans III in recommending a two-month jail term for the Texas man, who drank a shot of whiskey in a congressional conference room on Jan. 6. Evans has “aggressively exploited” his presence on the Capitol to expand his social media following on Gettr, a social media site founded by a former Trump adviser, prosecutors wrote before Evans’ sentencing, scheduled for this coming Tuesday,
Just a few rioters are writing books in regards to the mob’s attack or have marketed videos that they shot through the riot.
A novel provision in Adam Johnson’s plea agreement allows the U.S. government to gather profits from any book he gets published over the subsequent five years. Images of Johnson posing for photographs with Pelosi’s podium went viral after the riot. Prosecutors said they insisted on the supply after learning that Johnson intends to jot down a memoir “of some sort.”
Ronald Sandlin, a Nevada man charged with assaulting officers near doors to the Senate gallery, posted on Facebook that he was “understanding a Netflix deal” to sell riot video footage. Later, in a call from jail, Sandlin told his mother that he had met with right-wing writer and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and was in touch with podcaster Joe Rogan. He also asked his mom to contact publishers for the book he was writing in regards to the “Capitol incident,” prosecutors said.
“I hope to show it into movie,” Sandlin wrote in a March 2021 text message. “I plan on having Leonardo DiCaprio play me,” he wrote, adding a smiley face emoji.
For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege