LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A federal judge fined a U.S. Capitol rioter arrested in Las Vegas an additional $20,000, noting he raised money online for what he said were “legal fees” but adding some money went to personal expenses and to other Jan. 6 inmates.
Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced Ronald “Ronnie” Sandlin, 35, to 63 months in prison last Friday. Friedrich also ordered Sandlin to also pay a $2,000 fine.
As part of a plea agreement, federal prosecutors asked a judge to sentence Sandlin to no more than the 63 months. Sandlin’s attorney had requested a lesser sentence of 41 months. Following his more than 5-year prison term, Sandlin will have a 3-year period of supervised release, Friedrich ordered.
Sandlin raised more than $21,000 on the website, GiveSendGo, for money intended to pay his legal fees, prosecutors said.
“Ronnie needs your help to fight tyranny and a corrupt DOJ,” a post on the fundraiser said. “He will be using the funds for legal fees.” Sandlin’s attorney was court-appointed, and he did not have to pay anything – taxpayers did.
“He presumably achieved such success in his donation campaign by claiming ‘racist’ treatment during his detention proceedings and requesting help to ‘fight tyranny and a corrupt DOJ,’” prosecutors wrote in documents filed before Friedrich issued her ruling. “[A]s noted previously, he has no legal fees to speak of — given that he has enjoyed the services of a court-appointed attorney since Day One of this case –and thus his donation campaign appears to be based on false pretenses.”
Sandlin’s attorneys said the money was spent on incarceration-related services at a rate of $22 per day.
“Mr. Sandlin has used the money on his accounts for his commissary and canteen, for making phone calls, and for using the tablets that are made available to inmates so they can send and receive messages, chat with people, and stream approved movies and TV shows,” his lawyer wrote in a filing before the judge’s decision. “It should be noted that the tablets have been very important in providing inmates some relief from the extreme boredom and isolation that has resulted from being incarcerated during the pandemic.”
Prosecutors said Sandlin spent nearly $14,000 of the money.
“Even if his use of these funds was legitimate, U.S. taxpayers should not have to foot the bill of his basic incarceration expenses, the costs of his prosecution, and his legal defense fees when Mr. Sandlin can in fact afford to reimburse them partially just so that he can create the most comfortable environment for himself (e.g., watching Netflix) while incarcerated,” they wrote.
Sandlin’s lawyer also said Sandlin gave some money to other Jan. 6 defendants for their jail-related expenses, documents said.
Friedrich noted Sandlin could pay the fine as he “has the ability to earn money in the future to satisfy the balance.”
The FBI arrested Sandlin outside of Nathaniel “Nate” DeGrave’s apartment near the Las Vegas Strip on Jan. 29, 2021 – three weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection. The 8 News Now Investigators interviewed both men from jail last year.
Inside the Capitol, Sandlin attempted to rip off an officer’s helmet before reaching the U.S. Senate Chamber. While leaving the building, Sandlin took an oil painting off a wall before leaving it behind, prosecutors said.
Sandlin was also seen on video smoking weed inside the building. He is heard on the video saying, “People are smoking weed in here. Thank you, patriot. We made history in here,” according to court documents.
Sandlin told 8 News Now he came to Washington, in part, due to his belief in widespread voter fraud. Even before Jan. 6, leaders of both parties, including then-Attorney General Bill Barr, a Republican, said the former president’s claims of fraud were lies.
Sandlin, an internet marketer, lived in Las Vegas for several years before moving to Tennessee to be closer to family in 2020. He said he intended to return to Las Vegas soon after. Sandlin had written on social media in January 2021 that he had planned to drive to Washington from Memphis. According to court documents, a post from Sandlin said he was asking for money through a GoFundMe page.
Sandlin said he believed something could be done to overturn the election by going to the Capitol, possibly by swaying lawmakers’ decision to certify the vote, he told the 8 News Now Investigators last year.
Prosecutors allege in September, Sandlin and several other inmates at the jail where he was imprisoned pending sentencing threatened a corrections officer with a chair after that officer pepper sprayed another Jan. 6 inmate, documents said.
During a detention hearing in federal court last year, Sandlin asked a judge to “have mercy on” him. The judge noted Sandlin owes $500,000 in back taxes.
Five people died in the riot or in the immediate days after, including an officer for the Capitol police. Federal prosecutors have filed charges stemming from the breach against more than 800 people, so far. Damage to the Capitol building was estimated to be around $3 million.
No community where Sandlin is known to have resided, including Las Vegas, can find a record of him voting this past presidential cycle, the 8 News Now Investigators reported in 2021.