LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Las Vegas man accused of taking part in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 claims he was there to film a documentary and did not seek to cause any violence. He also says he’s considering running for mayor of the city “…in the next couple years.”
The FBI took Nate DeGrave, 32, into custody at his apartment near the Las Vegas Strip at the end of January. He was taken to a Washington, D.C., jail, where he has been since. DeGrave is originally from western Pennsylvania.
“I’ve lost a lot since I’ve been in here,” he told WFXR’s sister station, KLAS.
Documents released earlier this year revealed investigators were given an anonymous tip that led them to DeGrave. On his Instagram page, DeGrave says he is the CEO of a celebrity event planner and adult model management company.
Speaking from jail, DeGrave does not dispute he went inside the Capitol building but disagrees with what investigators said he was doing. In his first interview with the media, throughout a 30-minute conversation, he said court documents have painted him in an unfair light.
“We’re not violent people,” DeGrave said about himself and fellow Jan. 6 arrestees. “We’re not extremists. We’re not domestic terrorists.”
DeGrave and Ronald “Ronnie” Sandlin, 34, of Tennessee, are accused of planning to interfere with the peaceful transition of presidential power, beginning last December. The FBI arrested Sandlin outside of DeGrave’s apartment the same day of DeGrave’s arrest.
On Dec. 23, 2020, Sandlin posted on Facebook asking who else was traveling to Washington. DeGrave replied that he was considering joining him, according to prosecutors.
“It’s time the American people rise and stand up for this country,” DeGrave wrote, according to prosecutors. “We’re tired of the corruption.”
A photo posted on DeGrave’s Facebook page, which has since been deactivated, showed a photo of former President Donald Trump in his apartment with the caption, “My idol in my living room.” DeGrave said during the interview it was common for Americans to have a picture of the president, former or current, in their homes.
DeGrave voted in the 2020 election.
“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.”
On the day of the riot, DeGrave, Sandlin, and a third man, Josiah Colt, of Idaho, met in a hotel room in Maryland and recorded videos for social media, prosecutors said. In one video, Colt mentioned a “debate we’ve been having for days now: Should we carry our guns or not?”
DeGrave replied that “for the camera’s sake, we’re not going to carry,” prosecutors said, adding that the trio was wearing protective gear, including gas masks, helmets and body armor. In a photo taken in the Senate Chamber, DeGrave is wearing a black helmet. Prosecutors repeatedly have said it is tactical gear; DeGrave said he was wearing a motorcycle jacket.
“The government has you saying a week before on Facebook that you wanted to bring bullet-proof gear,” Charns told DeGrave.
“You know I say a lot of things on social media,” DeGrave replied. “I think it’s more important to look at the actions I take and not the words I say.”
Shortly after arriving on Capitol grounds, DeGrave and the two other men followed the crowd into the Capitol. While inside, DeGrave and Sandlin pushed several U.S. Capitol Police officers guarding an exterior door to the Capitol rotunda, prosecutors said.
But DeGrave said there is no evidence of him pushing any law enforcement officer and that rather than taking part in the insurrection, he said his actions show he was shooting a documentary.
“We wanted to sell that footage for a lot of money,” he said. “I knew that things were going to happen inside the Capitol. We followed the crowd inside hoping to get that all on film.”
Surveillance images from inside the Capitol show DeGrave standing with his fists raised, though it’s unclear why. Sandlin is carrying a camera. During an April court hearing for Sandlin, prosecutors mentioned Sandlin had attempted to sell footage of the riot before he was arrested in January.
“I was unarmed inside the Capitol,” DeGrave said. “I never brought a weapon inside the Capitol at any point.”
A judge denied bond in DeGrave’s case earlier this year. DeGrave said he is spending most of his days alone in a cell.
Approaching one year later, DeGrave said he is looking forward to another election.
“I do think that there are also better and more effective ways at creating change, and I have been flirting with the idea of running for mayor of Las Vegas in the next couple years,” DeGrave said.
The Las Vegas mayoral election is scheduled for 2024.
Some of the rioters arrested for their roles on Jan. 6 have taken plea deals. The FBI continues to try to identify others 10 months later.
A judge has not set a date for DeGrave’s trial. He faces federal charges that include conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, and assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers, among others.
DeGrave’s friends have set up a fundraising page for him. The fundraiser has a goal of $500,000 and had raised $0 as of Sunday.
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