A Jan. 6 rioter who helped lead the breach of the Senate chamber did multiple jailhouse interviews with Alexandra Pelosi, the documentarian and daughter of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors revealed late Friday.
Prosecutors say Ronald Sandlin brought a car full of weapons to Washington and, along with two co-conspirators, helped foment the breach of the Capitol in hopes of preventing the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Sandlin has been in pretrial detention since January 2021 and has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy and assaulting two officers defending the Capitol.
In a sentencing memo, the Justice Department urges U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich to impose a 63-month jail sentence for Sandlin, describing him as an instrumental figure in urging on rioters at some of the most sensitive moments of the breach. And since Jan. 6 - even after his arrest and detention - prosecutors say Sandlin repeatedly sought to profit from his actions by selling footage he took during the siege.
One of the examples prosecutors offer is his December interviews with Pelosi, saying he "participated in an interview with documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, over the course of several recorded jail calls, in which he discussed providing his footage to her as well as his conspiracy theories regarding the events of January 6."
The Justice Department provided the recorded calls to Friedrich though they were not available on the public court docket late Friday.
"It does not appear from the jail calls that Sandlin ultimately consummated a transaction with Ms. Pelosi for the footage," prosecutors noted, adding that Sandlin "also used his jail account to facilitate Ms. Pelosi's telephone interview of fellow January 6 defendant, Robert Palmer."
Palmer was sentenced to 63 months in jail nearly a year ago for assaulting officers outside the Capitol.
Pelosi, an accomplished filmmaker, is preparing to broadcast a documentary about her mother's life and government service, an HBO release called "Pelosi in the House." She has done several politically focused documentaries, including "Outside the Bubble," a 2018 film in which Pelosi attempted to document growing polarization and the rise of Trump's MAGA base.
In October, the Jan. 6 committee aired behind-the-scenes footage of her mother and other congressional leadersduring the attack on the Capitol making efforts to clear the building of rioters and resume counting electoral votes to affirm Biden's presidency.
It was not immediately clear whether Pelosi's interviews would be featured in her upcoming film or in another project. In response to a request for comment, Pelosi said she didn't want to talk about future projects while she prepared for the release of the documentary about her mother. A spokesperson for the speaker was not available for comment.
Sandlin has been a prominent figure among Jan. 6 rioters since shortly after the Capitol attack. In seeking his pretrial detention after his arrest, prosecutors noted he had also attempted to meet with far-right filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza to discuss selling his riot footage, just days after the breach. In Friday's sentencing memo, prosecutors described his conduct as among the most egregious of any members of the mob.
"Sandlin directly assaulted at least two U.S. Capitol Police officers, including by attempting to remove one officer's helmet, and abetted the assaults of four others," they noted. "He led the mob's charge against officers at two separate choke points-the Rotunda doors and the Senate Gallery-leading to the violent breach of those spaces and risking further injury to officers and members of Congress and their staff.
"In an effort to intimidate USCP officers and convince them to leave their posts," the government continued, "Sandlin ominously warned, prior to assaulting them: 'your life is not worth it … you're going to die, get out of the way.'"
Sandlin's attorney, Jerry Smith, said in a corresponding sentencing memo that Sandlin has come to accept responsibility for his wrongdoing.
"The events at the Capitol on January 6 were alarming and dangerous, and Mr. Sandlin's involvement in those events cannot be excused," he wrote. "Mr. Sandlin has come to recognize this on a fundamental level."
Smith, though, says no police officer was actually injured by Sandlin's assault and that prior to the riot, he succumbed to "disinformation" about the election during a particularly troubled and vulnerable part of his life.
"I tarnished our great nation's peaceful transfer of power and I'm truly ashamed," Sandlin wrote in a letter to the court.
Smith is asking Friedrich to impose a 41-month sentence, below the sentencing guidelines for the offenses to which Sandlin has pled.
But prosecutors say there's little evidence of genuine remorse by Sandlin. They say he has described himself - even recently - as a political prisoner. And a Sept. 5 incident reportfrom the D.C. jail suggests he used a chair in a "threatening manner" against a corrections officer after the officer pepper sprayed another inmate.
The government is also seeking to impose a $20,000 fine, noting that Sandlin raised significant sums in a GoFundMe campaign describing himself as a political prisoner. They also note he owes $500,000 in taxes.