LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Two years since the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, one man arrested in Las Vegas for his role is beginning his sentence in federal prison; the other is awaiting a judge’s decision on his fate.
The FBI arrested Ronald “Ronnie” Sandlin, 35, outside of 31-year-old Nathaniel “Nate” DeGrave’s apartment near the Las Vegas Strip on Jan. 29, 2021 — three weeks after the riot. The 8 News Now Investigators interviewed both men from jail in 2021.
Sandlin later pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; and assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers, in September. DeGrave pleaded guilty for his role in the riot in June 2022.
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.
Last December, Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced Sandlin to 63 months in prison. She also $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.
DeGrave is awaiting sentencing.
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 for the trip on a GoFundMe page.
Sandlin said 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.
“I think that you know when you say, that ‘You’ve got to fight for your country, otherwise we’re going to have [inaudible], that we’re going to go to the Capitol, I mean, he’s one of the most powerful persons in the world,” Sandlin told the 8 News Now Investigators about former President Donald Trump.
“It was a political rally,” he said. “There’s going to be political hyperbole, you know, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ We got caught up in the moment. We got caught up in a mob mentality.”
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.
“The videos show one thing, but that’s not always the full truth,” Sandlin said. “If people actually talk to us, I think that they would realize that we’re normal Americans and we have a lot more in common with each other than differences.”
“We’re not violent people,” DeGrave said in 2021 about himself and fellow Jan. 6 arrestees. “We’re not extremists. We’re not domestic terrorists.”
“I fully believed that the election would be overturned by [Vice President Mike] Pence and I knew that it was going to be historical,” DeGrave said. “I was excited, but at the same time, I was very concerned for my safety.”
Seven people died in the riot or in the immediate days after, including an officer for the Capitol police, the Jan. 6 committee found. Federal prosecutors have filed charges stemming from the breach against more than 900 people, so far. Damage to the Capitol building was estimated to be around $3 million.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed special counsel Jack Smith last fall to oversee the department’s investigations into the former president and the lead-up to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.