Some Capitol rioters try to profit from their Jan. 6 crimes

Aug 13, 2022, 4:19 PM | Updated: Aug 15, 2022, 9:03 am
FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier, Wedn...

FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. Facing prison time and dire personal consequences for storming the U.S. Capitol, some Jan. 6 defendants are trying to profit from their participation in the deadly riot, using it as a platform to drum up cash, promote business endeavors and boost social media profiles. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Facing prison time and dire personal consequences for storming the U.S. Capitol, some Jan. 6 defendants are trying to profit from their participation in the deadly riot, using it as a platform to drum up cash, 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 such as “Our House” and images of the Capitol building. A Virginia man released a rap album with riot-themed songs and a cover photograph of him sitting on a police vehicle outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Those actions are sometimes complicating matters for defendants when they face judges at sentencing as prosecutors point to the profit-chasing activities in seeking tougher punishments. The Justice Department, in some instances, is trying to claw back money that rioters have made off the insurrection.

In one case, federal authorities have seized tens of thousands of dollars from a defendant who sold his footage from Jan. 6. In another case, a Florida man’s plea deal allows the U.S. government to collect profits from any book he gets published over the next five years. And prosecutors want a Maine man who raised more than $20,000 from supporters to surrender some of the money because a taxpayer-funded public defender is representing him.

Many rioters have paid a steep personal price for their actions on Jan. 6. At sentencing, rioters often ask for leniency on the grounds that they already have experienced severe consequences for their crimes.

They lost jobs or entire careers. Marriages fell apart. Friends and relatives shunned them or even reported them to the FBI. Strangers have sent them hate mail and online threats. And they have racked up expensive legal bills to defend themselves against federal charges ranging from misdemeanors to serious felonies.

Websites and crowdfunding platforms set up to collect donations for Capitol riot defendants try to portray them as mistreated patriots or even political prisoners.

An anti-vaccine medical doctor who pleaded guilty to illegally entering the Capitol founded a nonprofit that raised more 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 two months behind bars, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper called it “unseemly” that her nonprofit invoked the Capitol riot to raise money that also paid for her salary. Prosecutors said in court papers that it “beggars belief” that she incurred anywhere close to $430,000 in legal costs for her misdemeanor case.

Another rioter, a New Jersey gym owner who punched a police officer during the siege, raised more 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 fine for Scott Fairlamb, who is serving a prison sentence of more than three years.

“Fairlamb should not be able to ‘capitalize’ on his participation in the Capitol breach in this way,” Justice Department lawyers wrote.

Robert Palmer, a Florida man who attacked police officers at 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 recommendation 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 help shave months or even years off a sentence.

“When you threw the fire extinguisher and the plank at the police officers, were you acting in self-defense?” asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

“No, ma’am, I was not,” Palmer said before the judge sentenced him to more than five years in prison.

A group calling itself the Patriot Freedom Project says it has raised more than $1 million in contributions and paid more than $665,000 in grants and legal fees for families of Capitol riot defendants.

In April, a New Jersey-based foundation associated with the group filed an IRS application for tax-exempt status. As of early August, an IRS database doesn’t list the foundation as a tax-exempt organization. The Hughes Foundation’s IRS application says its funds “principally” will benefit families of Jan. 6 defendants, with about 60% of the donated money going to foundation activities. The rest will cover management and fundraising expenses, including salaries, it adds.

Rioters have found other ways to enrich or promote themselves.

Jeremy Grace, who was sentenced to three 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 such as “Our House” and “Back the Blue” and images 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 police officers on Jan. 6. A defense lawyer, however, said Grace didn’t break any laws or earn any profits by helping his father sell the merchandise.

Federal authorities seized more than $62,000 from a bank account belonging to riot defendant John Earle Sullivan, a Utah man who earned more than $90,000 from selling his Jan. 6 video footage to at least six companies. Sullivan’s lawyer argued authorities had no right to seize the money.

Richard “Bigo” Barnett, an Arkansas man photographed propping his feet up on a desk in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has charged donors $100 for photos of him with his feet on a desk while under house arrest. Defense lawyer Joseph McBride said prosecutors have “zero grounds” to prevent Barnett from raising money for his defense before a December trial date.

“Unlike the government, Mr. Barnett does not 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 prepare for as a result of the publicity she received from joining the mob at 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 at 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,

A few rioters are writing books about the mob’s attack or have marketed videos that they shot during the riot.

A unique provision in Adam Johnson’s plea agreement allows the U.S. government to collect profits from any book he gets published over the next five years. Images of Johnson posing for photographs with Pelosi’s podium went viral after the riot. Prosecutors said they insisted on the provision after learning that Johnson intends to write 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 “working out 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 author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and was in contact with podcaster Joe Rogan. He also asked his mom to contact publishers for the book he was writing about the “Capitol incident,” prosecutors said.

“I hope to turn 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

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arby's - LEHI, UT - OCTOBER 26: Exterior view of an Arby's restaurant on October 26, 2017 in Lehi, ...
Associated Press

Ex-Arby’s manager in Vancouver, Wash. sentenced after urinating in milkshake mix

A former manager at an Arby’s restaurant admitted to possessing child pornography and urinated into a milkshake mix
20 hours ago
Associated Press

1st civil trial over Portland cops’ use of force begins

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The first civil suit alleging Portland police used excessive violence against a 2020 racial justice demonstrator opened Tuesday before a jury in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Civil rights attorneys are paying close attention because the outcome could answer questions about the potential liability the city faces over similar cases, Oregon Public […]
20 hours ago
FILE - An Optus phone sign hangs above its store in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Aust...
Associated Press

Australia flags tough new data protection laws this year

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia could have tough new data protection laws in place this year in an urgent response to a cyberattack on a telecommunications company that stole the personal data of 9.8 million customers, the attorney-general said on Thursday. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the government would make “urgent reforms” to the Privacy Act […]
20 hours ago
FILE - In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, shak...
Associated Press

Friend or foe? Japan-China ties complicated after 50 years

TOKYO (AP) — Friend or foe? Or both? On the streets of Tokyo and Beijing, the ties between Japan and China remain complicated and often contradictory, 50 years after the two Asian countries normalized relations as part of the process that brought Communist China into the international fold. Chinese official media and textbooks memorialize the […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Coolio performs during the "I Love The 90's" tour on Aug. 7, 2022, at RiverEdge Park in Auro...
Associated Press

‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper Coolio dies at age 59

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coolio, the rapper who was among hip-hop’s biggest names of the 1990s with hits including “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage,” died Wednesday at age 59, his manager said. Coolio died at the Los Angeles home of a friend, longtime manager Jarez Posey told The Associated Press. The cause was not immediately […]
20 hours ago
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, center, shakes hands with South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Ch...
Associated Press

VP Harris to visit DMZ after North Korean missile tests

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is capping her four-day trip to Asia with a stop at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula as she tries to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the security of its Asian allies. The visit on Thursday comes on the heels of North […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Some Capitol rioters try to profit from their Jan. 6 crimes