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Pot-smoking Capitol riot defendant pleads guilty

Updated October 1, 2022 - 4:09 pm

WASHINGTON – A man who videotaped himself smoking pot inside the U.S. Capitol Rotunda during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and was later arrested in Las Vegas has pleaded guilty to two felony counts and awaits sentencing.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will not seek more than 63 months behind bars for Ronald Sandlin, 35, a Memphis, Tennessee, businessman who traveled to Washington with two other defendants who have also pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from the Capitol siege.

Sandlin was the last of the three to plead guilty to charges. His guilty plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Dabney Freidrich, who was appointed by President Donald Trump. Freidrich set a sentencing date of Dec. 9.

The plea agreement was accepted by the court on Friday.

Sandlin admitted that he organized the group of three who went to Washington on the urging of Trump to take part in the “Jan. 6 boogaloo” and stop the electoral vote count to certify the victory of Joe Biden.

The insurrection at the Capitol resulted in five deaths.

Sandlin was one of several defendants who challenged a felony count for obstruction of a proceeding, which carries a possible 20-year sentence. Friedrich was among several judges who rejected motions to dismiss that charge.

In addition to the felony count of obstructing the electoral vote proceeding, Sandlin also was charged with felony assault on officers, resisting, and witness tampering and other lesser charges.

Sandlin had driven to Washington with Las Vegas businessman Nathaniel DeGrave, 32, and Josiah Colt, 35 of Idaho, to participate in the siege of the Capitol and attend the “boogaloo,” considered extremist slang for a civil war, according to court records.

DeGrave pleaded guilty in June to charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding officers. Colt pleaded guilty in July 2021 to felony charges.

As part of the plea, DeGrave and Colt agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department investigation in the Capitol breach, according to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

DeGrave faces a statutory 20-year sentence on the conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and eight years for assault. He is in Las Vegas, awaiting sentencing.

Surveillance camera footage and videos posted on social media accounts showed the men inside the Capitol, with Sandlin and DeGrave assaulting police outside the Senate Gallery.

Colt was captured in photos inside the Senate dangling from the upper gallery over the floor after lawmakers were evacuated.

DeGrave shouted to rioters on the Senate floor to “take laptops…take everything.” Sandlin, meanwhile, shot video of himself smoking a marijuana “joint” inside the Capitol amid the chaos. He later posted the video on social media.

Sandlin, wearing a blaze orange jacket, was easily identifiable on surveillance camera footage of the riotous crowds inside the Capitol and outside the Senate Gallery on the third floor.

In court, Sandlin admitted to arranging the trio’s trip to Washington, and in planning their participation that initially included weapons and tactical gear. The three met up in Tennessee before traveling to the nation’s capital.

DeGrave, Sandlin and Colt wore tactical gear and carried bear spray on the day of the assault, according to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The men pushed through barricades and entered the Capitol from the West Terrace.

They then moved to the Senate Gallery where officers struggled with a crowd of rioters.

Following the siege, DeGrave and Sandlin posted pictures of Jan. 6, 2021, events on Facebook. They then deleted images after the investigation began. Sandlin told the court he did not remember deleting an “online” chat with the other defendants, but agreed the government could prove that the deletion happened.

Sandlin and DeGrave were arrested Jan. 28, 2021, near DeGrave’s apartment in Las Vegas.

The riots left five dead and many injured when mobs overran police barricades and broke through windows to enter the Capitol and hunt down lawmakers who were certifying election results from the states.

Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was sprayed with a chemical irritant and collapsed during his battle to keep the rioters out. He died the next day.

The D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed four other deaths as a result of the Capitol siege, including Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who stormed the Capitol with rioters and was shot by police. Two other people died of natural causes and one from accidental amphetamine intoxication.

More than 840 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the Capitol, including more than 250 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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