Jan. 6 Prisoners Recorded A Podcast From Jail With A Camera Someone ‘Accidentally’ Gave Them

Reed Christensen, Jonathan Mellis, and Edward Badalian in the "DC Gulag Podcast." (Photo: TPM Illustration/Rumble)
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Some of the people who were convicted for their actions during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol have insisted the unit where they were held before sentencing in the Washington D.C. jail is an abusive “gulag.” It’s also ground zero for a burgeoning media empire that appears to violate jail policy and features broadcasts starring people who were convicted for their role in storming the Capitol as former President Trump’s loss in the 2020 election was being certified. 

A pair of the so-called “J6ers” have hosted a “DC Gulag podcast” where they have interviewed their fellow inmates while promoting various aspects of their agenda including false conspiracy theories about the 2020 vote and the idea they are waging a noble political struggle. Despite the obvious issues with these claims, hero worship of the people who attacked the Capitol has become a persistent feature of MAGA politics. And, thanks to an unusual setup, some of the prisoners themselves are embracing that spotlight.

Inmates are generally restricted from accessing the internet and communicating with the outside world, a situation that has raised questions for years about how to properly balance security concerns and freedom of speech. In their premiere episode, which was released earlier this month and filmed last year, one of the podcast hosts, Jonathan Mellis, now an inmate at FCI Ashland in Kentucky, explained how they were able to get their unique show online.

“What I think the establishment didn’t count on is us being able to have laptops to view our discovery that accidentally have a camera attached to it so that we can actually get to know some of us while we’re in here,” Mellis explained.

Daniel Ball, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, which prosecuted the podcast’s hosts, declined to comment on the podcast.

“The housing of inmates at the D.C. jail is the responsibility of the D.C. Department of Corrections. I would recommend reaching out to them for response of the specifics of your question,” Ball said in an email.

Setareh Yelle, chief of strategic communications for the D.C. DOC, responded with an emailed statement that suggested the broadcasts were a violation of the jail’s policy.

“Residents are required to receive additional legal resources, including a laptop, at the request of their defense attorneys, specifically for reviewing voluminous or electronic discovery – any other use by residents is in violation of the current DOC policy,” Yelle wrote.

The “podcast” was published on Rumble, a video streaming site popular with the far right. It was posted by an account affiliated with the website “We Are Good Men,” a site containing content supporting the people imprisoned in D.C. on Jan. 6 charges, including streams of nightly vigils held on their behalf. The listed contact for “We Are Good Men,” which refers to the prisoners as “patriots,” did not respond to a request for comment. 

Two episodes of the podcast have been posted online in the past 11 days. Text in the videos indicates they were taped last November. Both episodes were hosted by Mellis and another man, Edward Badalian.

Mellis’ attorneys did not respond to a request for comment about the podcast. He pleaded guilty to one count of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon in December 2023 over his action on Jan. 6. Mellis was sentenced to 51 months in prison. In court documents and press releases, the Justice Department said Mellis used a wooden stick that was “approximately four feet long” to attack law enforcement officers who were guarding one of the entrances to the Capitol building. According to a criminal complaint filed in February 2021, Mellis was filmed by police body cameras declaring he wanted to “knock … masks off” the officers and “attempting to strike the officers’ necks between their helmets and body-armor where they are not protected.” He also made posts on social media describing the Jan. 6 attack as “storming the castle.” 

Surveillance footage of Jonathan Mellis outside of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo: TPM illustration/U.S. District Court for the District Of Columbia)

Badalian was also found guilty of multiple charges including conspiracy last September. He was sentenced to 51 months in prison. According to the indictment filed by federal prosecutors, Badalian helped create a Telegram group chat called “PATRIOTS 45 MAGA Gang.” In the chat, prosecutors said Badalian posted about his desire to “violently remove traitors.” As members of the chat made plans to demonstrate at the Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors said Badalian informed them he had acquired “respirators, masks, snow goggles, knee pads and baseball helmets for the group.” 

Kira West, an attorney who reportedly volunteered to defend several of the Jan. 6 suspects, was identified as Badalian’s “lead attorney” in court documents. Reached by TPM on Monday, West said she could not comment on the podcast as she was “just the pro hac vice counsel.” West referred TPM to another attorney who represented Badalian, Robert Helfend. While West said she was unaware of the podcast, she was also evidently amused by it. 

“That’s hilarious,” West said after TPM explained the situation. “I can tell you Rob Helfend has no idea.”

Helfend did not respond to a request for comment. 

For the first two episodes of the podcast, Badalian and Mellis interviewed two other men who have been convicted and are now serving time for their actions on Jan. 6, Reed Christensen and Matthew Krol. Christensen, who was found guilty last September of having pushed and hit law enforcement officers immediately after they gave him “aid” from pepper spray, discussed a book he wrote that he has used to raise funds while in prison. Krol, who was found guilty last December of taking a police baton from officers and using it to hit them, discussed his experience being involved in the U.S. militia movement and the art he has made while imprisoned. 

“I use coffee and M&Ms for the coloring and I had to make my own paint brush out of my hair,” Krol said on the podcast. 

Attorneys who have represented Krol and Christensen did not respond to requests for comment. 

As of last March, Just Security reported there were 20 inmates being held in the D.C. jail on charges related to serious criminal offenses committed in conjunction with the Jan. 6 attack. Despite their violent and illegal actions, the J6 inmates have become something of a cause celebre on the right with supporters rallying and raising money for their defense. Trump is also openly considering issuing pardons to some of the Jan. 6 prisoners if he wins a second term this year. 

Members of Congress visited the D.C. jail in March 2023. Republicans who were part of the delegation decried the conditions there. Democrats who toured the facility said those claims were inaccurate and that the conditions for the Jan. 6 inmates were actually better than elsewhere in the jail. 

The podcasters filmed the episodes behind a desk decorated with a flag, books, and a picture of Trump. While the setup and their ability to tape might undermine the argument that they are poorly treated political prisoners, the podcast does allow them to air their messages to the Rumble masses, including elevating false conspiracy theories about Trump’s loss and the idea their actions were driven by a “manly adventurous spirit.” 

A dramatic introduction to the broadcasts suggests the prisoners are “innocent patriots” who have been “falsely accused” and “persecuted.” With images and dramatic narration, the intro compares them to the civil rights leaders Huey P. Newton, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. 

“If there is anyone who can understand this struggle, it is our Black brothers and sisters around the country,” the podcast narrator declares. “The same system that has been taking out your leaders and oppressing your people is doing the same thing to Donald Trump.”

It is unclear how many episodes of the podcast have been taped. The future of the broadcast is also an open question as the wheels of justice turn and J6 convicts move on from the D.C. jail. While the episodes released so far were taped last November, both of the hosts, Mellis and Badalian, as well as their guests were subsequently moved to other federal prisons following their sentencing. 

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Notable Replies

  1. Well this is just ducky.

  2. Excellent article. Thanks

  3. This is why throughout history if you attack the capitol or crown and fail, you get executed. So this kind of shit can’t happen.

  4. Avatar for tpr tpr says:

    I guess treason is no longer just “a matter of dates.” It’s Not Treason If You’re A Republican.

  5. Minimally, they shouldn’t get credit for time served.

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