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Capitol riot suspect with Las Vegas ties seeks release from jail

WASHINGTON — A man with Las Vegas ties who filmed himself smoking marijuana in the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection is seeking release from District of Columbia jail claiming he poses no flight risk and that guards are abusing prisoners involved in the riot.

Ronald Sandlin, a Tennessee resident born in Tampico, Mexico, is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Thursday in Washington to determine whether he should be granted pretrial release.

Sandlin was arrested in Las Vegas in January on federal charges involving the insurrection and jailed in Washington.

Prosecutors said Sandlin is a flight risk because of the charges, $500,000 he allegedly owes to the IRS and because he was born in another country. They urged that he not be released on bail.

In a hearing this week, Sandlin told District Judge Dabney Friedrich, “I’ve never been a violent person.”

“I’m no John Gotti,” Sandlin said, referring to the New York organized crime boss convicted in 1992 of committing five murders, racketeering and tax evasion.

Serious charges

Sandlin is charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct and obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection that left four people dead, including a Capitol Hill police officer.

In his plea for release, Sandlin and his lawyer agreed in advance to drug testing and no contact with witnesses. Sandlin also spoke of fear of retaliation for speaking about abuse by guards, according to a Washington Post report.

Ryan Samsel, a Pennsylvania resident, is also a defendant held at the D.C. jail and accused of assaulting a female police officer during the riot. She was knocked unconscious in the attack.

Samsel claims jail guards beat him, broke his nose and dislocated his jaw. The guards’ alleged assault on Samsel was first brought to the attention of authorities by Sandlin.

Several prisoners, including Sandlin, are concerned they may suffer reprisals from guards.

The D.C. Department of Corrections has referred the allegations to the U.S. Department of Justice for investigation.

Hundreds arrested

More than 375 people have been arrested and charged in the Jan. 6 attack that followed a rally for former President Donald Trump, who claimed the presidential election was stolen from him in key states.

Rallygoers then attacked the Capitol as the House and Senate were in session to certify the Electoral College vote. Capitol Police shuttled lawmakers into safe rooms as mobs defaced the building, invaded offices and hunted for elected officials.

Two police officers assaulted in the attack have filed lawsuits claiming Trump ordered the insurrection and prompted the violence with false claims of election fraud.

The House voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection. He was acquitted by the Senate.

Sandlin traveled to Washington to take part in the insurrection and posted pictures and video on social media, including footage of himself smoking a joint in the Capitol Rotunda during the melee.

He was arrested Jan. 8 in Las Vegas outside the home of Nathaniel DeGrave, who also faces similar charges in connection with the riot.

Since the arrest, prosecutors said Sandlin has been in contact with right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and claims to be seeking a deal with Netflix for his footage of the insurrection.

Prosecutors in their argument against pretrial release voiced concerns that Sandlin was seeking a book or film deal and could jump bail to increase his infamy to enhance profits from media ventures.

Sandlin’s lawyer told the court that his client poses no flight risk, has a loving family and has had no contact with his birth mother in Mexico. Sandlin told the court that he was done with politics.

“I just want this ugly chapter in my life to be over as quickly as possible,” he said.

Friedrich is expected to rule on the motion for pretrial release Thursday.

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

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