He and two friends brought guns from Las Vegas to DC, after repeatedly stating their desire to occupy the Capitol by force. Armed with a knife, Sandlin pushed his way to the front of the crowd, went inside, and led a confrontation with officers guarding a building’s entrance and the floor of the Senate. Sandlin tried to remove a helmet from one officer and pushed another; he stole a book from a senator’s desk; he tried to take an oil painting and he smoked marijuana in the Rotunda. As they fought, he told the officers to run or die.
“I felt like a human punching bag, receiving continuous blows from the rioters and being pinned against the wall,” one of those officers said in a court statement. “That day of my life continues to be the worst I have ever had and still marks me today.”
Explaining her sentence, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich said Sandlin “endangered the lives of several officers” and then “celebrated.”
Subsequently, Sandlin attempted to erase the evidence; Prosecutors said they only had access to his video of the riot because Sandlin shared his laptop’s encryption key during a recorded jail call.
Sandlin apologized to officers, lawmakers and election officials, saying they “should never feel the threat of political violence.” He said he knew President Biden had won the 2020 election and he no longer supported Donald Trump.
Friedrich, a Trump appointee, said she wasn’t sure if she should believe Sandlin given that he spent more than a year after his arrest claiming he was the victim of a “witch hunt.” “perpetuated by a biased Department of Justice.
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Last fall, Sandlin falsely told documentarian Alexandra Pelosi — the daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — that police murdered two Trump supporters who died during the riot. As recently as October, a conservative blog appealed for funds for Sandlin, saying he “needs your help to fight tyranny and a corrupt DOJ.” Sandlin had a court-appointed, taxpayer-funded attorney, Jerry Smith.
“Despite his change of heart, it’s really hard to know where his head is right now,” Friedrich said. The judge said she would order Sandlin to forfeit what was left of the $21,000 he raised online.
Smith said that someone who “has bought into these bigoted, insane conspiracy theories about stealing elections” that have been “bolstered by politicians, including the President of the United States” would need “some time to be deprogrammed”. According to Smith, Sandlin’s conversion came during trial prep when they viewed videos from inside the Capitol. Sandlin chose to plead guilty to assaulting the police; On Friday, he looked pained when the videos were released in court.
“He’s not trying to position himself as an alt-right darling going forward,” Smith said.
Two other men pleaded guilty on Friday to obstructing Congress, after admitting to throwing smoke bombs at police, smoking cigarettes inside the building and stealing a marker they used to scribble their trademark “Murder the Media” on a Capitol door.
Nicholas Ochs, 36, of Honolulu, and Nicholas DeCarlo, 32, of Fort Worth, are both affiliated with the far-right Proud Boys movement. Neither expressed contrition; prosecutors noted that DeCarlo commemorated their vandalism in a framed photo in his apartment.
Ochs, an Army veteran, and DeCarlo, a high school dropout, said they went to the Capitol to promote their new media venture and were swept away by the crowd.
“Professional journalists do not throw smoke bombs to help a crowd break into a secure government building,” U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell said. “They knew what they were doing, they weren’t gullible, not manipulated.”
She sentenced them both to four years in prison. Like Friedrich, Howell ordered the defendants to waive $7,500 in fines of the thousands of dollars they raised online pretending to be political prisoners.
Less than 10% of the $15,677 collected by Ochs was for his legal fees, while DeCarlo collected $7,000 while represented by court-appointed counsel, prosecutors said.