One year later: Where cases stand against 8 Utahns charged in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol siege

Jan 6, 2022, 6:55 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – One Utahn told authorities he was there as a journalist, but he egged on the mob overtaking the U.S. Capitol one year ago before filming the death of a woman shot by police, prosecutors say.

Another tapped out texts from inside the building where lawmakers scurried to hide, boasting that “we stormed the Capitol!” according to police.

A third, prosecutors say, wrestled over a barricade with police before throwing the metal fence toward officers.

They’re among the eight Utahns charged in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 – a former police officer, a clothing designer and a real estate agent among them. They’re a tiny share of the roughly 700 people arrested nationally in the siege. But that hasn’t stopped two of the defendants from the Beehive State from drawing significant national attention.

Authorities confiscated about $90,000 from John Earl Sullivan, money he brought in by selling footage of Ashli Babbit being fatally shot by Capitol police during the siege, prosecutors say. They contend he illegally obtained the footage.

Sullivan, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges including disorderly conduct, obstructing an official proceeding and giving false statements to agents. His video of a woman fatally shot by police would later make its way around the world in broadcasts and online.

Sullivan said he was an independent journalist, but actually urged others to “burn” the building and get violent, court documents say. He was incorrectly labeled an Antifa activist by Trump ally Rudy Giuliani and others. Sullivan is the founder of a protest group, Insurgence USA.

Another Utahn, Landon Kenneth Copeland, 44, drew widespread attention when he launched into an expletive-laden rant during a remote court hearing in May in Washington, D.C.

The judge in his case ordered a mental health review and found he is competent to face charges that he grabbed a riot shield during the Capitol attack, shoved another crowd member into the police line and threw a “metal bike rack fence barricade” toward officers after a tug-of-war over the bike rack.

An attorney for Copeland has said he is an Iraq War veteran who has severe PTSD. Copeland is being held in the Washington County Jail, according to jail records.

Just one of the eight Utahns has a conviction on the books, mirroring the national rate. About 150 defendants have pleaded guilty, just about 20% of the total.

But the court cases may not have the effect that federal prosecutors hope.

An expert on extremism told KSL he does not believe that any justice meted out will deter groups from carrying out similar attacks in the future. That’s because they’re receiving encouragement from powerful politicians, said University of Utah professor Amos Guiora.

“I don’t think that punishing, incarcerating these eight and others like them will have real significance. It’ll have significance for them, for their lives, but the significance won’t go beyond that,” said Guiora.

He says more concerning than the actions of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol is what he calls complicity by some members of Congress, and those who continue to push baseless claims of widespread election fraud.

“There is this lockstep complicity,” Guiora said, pointing to any member of Congress who has not publicly condemned false election claims.

He was horrified by the images he saw on TV that day, but the aftermath has been more troubling, he said. Neither Trump nor any allies have been criminally charged for inciting the mob, Guiora noted.

In lower-profile cases, three Utah defendants are working on a potential plea agreement with prosecutors, according to court filings.

Janet West Buhler, 57, a clothing designer from Kaysville; Michael Lee Hardin, 50, a former police officer also from Kaysville, and Willard Jake Peart, a realtor of Toquerville, each have a “plea agreement” hearing scheduled for some time this month.

Hardin, a former Salt Lake City police officer, is accused of sending texts saying, “we stormed the Capitol!” and calling Donald Trump “the rightful president.”

Authorities say Buhler, a clothing designer, is Hardin’s stepmother-in-law. A relative’s coworker helped the FBI identify her inside the Capitol that day.

Peart, 40, is accused of telling FBI agents in an interview that he attended the Trump rally and walked to the Capitol and didn’t intending to go inside but changed his mind once he saw others doing so. In the Capitol, he wrapped himself in a Trump flag, prosecutors say, and joined rioters in chanting.

The only Utahn with a conviction on the books is Jacob Kyle Wiedrich, 24. He pleaded guilty to demonstrating in the U.S. Capitol, court records show. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to ask a judge to throw out the remaining charges, court documents show. He faces up to six months behind bars and up to a $5,000 fine when he is sentenced on Jan. 19.

Wiedrich admitted to entering the building without permission and yelling at officers, court records show, posting video on Snapchat where he says, “this is our (expletive) house!” and “We ride for Trump! We die for Trump!”

Two more Utahns, Brady Knowlton, 41, of Washington County, and Gary Wilson, whose age KSL couldn’t verify, but who is from the Salt Lake City area, also are charged in the siege. Knowlton yelled at officers outside the building, saying, “you took an oath!” court records say. The two were seen outside the building with a Colorado man accused of grabbing an officer’s baton and kicking him in the chest.

When the three entered a second-floor hallway, they confronted officers before leaving the building.

“All you gotta do is step aside,” Knowlton is accused of telling the officers. “You’re not getting in trouble. Stand down. For the love of your country.”

Wilson added: “We came all the way from our jobs to do your job and the freaking senators’ job,” court documents say.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you. 

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: How cybercriminals use social engineering to get us to hand over our sensitive info

You can have the strongest, most secure password in the history of cybersecurity, but the bad guys know there is one weakness they can use to hack into your system - you!
6 months ago
Delric Ellington and Kael Ellington talk about a stray bullet that entered their Salt Lake City hom...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

Amid increase in youth shooting deaths, Utah pediatricians push for tougher gun laws

The number of Utah children and teens killed by gunfire reached a record high in 2020, in part because of a spike in homicides. Two Utah pediatricians are calling on the state to pass what they see as solutions to the troubling trend.
6 months ago
Albee Bostrom and Sissy McDade turned their love of thrift store shopping into a business: Thrift H...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Second-hand shopping, selling surge as Utahns try to beat rising prices

Data shared with the KSL investigators shows Utahns are trying to bring in more money and reduce spending as they try to bust inflation.
6 months ago
Bry Hansen visits his son's grave in South Jordan. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

The number of Utah kids and teens dying by gunfire hit a record high in 2020

The state hit a devastating milestone in 2020, recording the highest-ever number of shooting deaths among Utahns 18 and younger.
6 months ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: What can you do if you pay someone to do work but they disappear with your money?

Imagine paying a deposit only to have them take your money and ghost you.
6 months ago
Photo illustration (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Your credit card can up your interest rate without telling you

If your credit card company raises your interest rate even just a little bit, it could have a significant impact on how long it takes you to get out of debt. A relatively new law means your credit card company can do just that and they do not even have to give you the heads up.
6 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
One year later: Where cases stand against 8 Utahns charged in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol siege