CNN and NBC reportedly each paid an activist affiliated with Black Lives Matter and Antifa $35,000 for footage of the death of a Trump supporter in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
John Sullivan, a 26-year-old from Utah who describes himself as a social justice activist and founder of the group Insurgence USA, has been charged with illegally entering the Capitol, civil disorder and violent or disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Details of the payments CNN and NBC made to the activist were made public in court documents filed on Tuesday. His lawyers disclosed the payments as part of Sullivan’s argument that he was acting as a journalist rather than a rioter.
“Defendant is legitimately self-employed as a documentarian and it is oppressive to require that he not be allowed to continue his primary area of employment for an extended period of time,” Steven R. Kiersh, Sullivan’s attorney, wrote in a court filing. His lawyers argue that he should be allowed to continue using social media, from which he is currently barred.
Federal prosecutors cited the video Sullivan recorded inside the Capitol in their charges against him. In the video, he called for burning down the building and egged on others who had broken into the halls of Congress.
“We accomplished this s**t. We did this together. F**k yeah! We are all a part of this history,” he said in the video. “Let’s burn this s**t down.”
Sullivan garnered widespread attention after he published footage of Ashli Babbitt’s death. Babbitt, along with numerous other supporters of former President Donald Trump was allegedly there to protest the certification of the Electoral College votes. Four other people died during the Jan. 6 riot, including a Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, who died from complications related to the violence.
Sullivan’s lawyers filed invoices in the court showing that CNN and NBC paid the activist $35,000 to air his footage. Records also show that he received $5,000 from a company called Left/Right Productions, and an additional $2,500 from Australian broadcaster ABC.
Following the shooting, Sullivan went on air with CNN’s Anderson Cooper to talk about the footage.
The federal magistrate judge overseeing his case ruled on Tuesday that Sullivan may continue to use social media, including Facebook and Twitter, but that he must cut ties with Insurgence USA, reports Politico.
According to profiles from the New Yorker, members of the Black Lives Matter movement have distanced themselves from Sullivan and condemned his aggressive tactics. Despite his apparent ostracization from the larger movement, conservatives have continued to cite his presence at the riots as evidence that Antifa fomented the violence and played a large role in the events on Jan. 6.