Iowa mom and son fight subpoena for phone records in Capitol riot probe

By: - February 18, 2022 11:41 am

Footage from a closed-circuit television camera inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, allegedly shows Salvador Sandoval Jr. of Iowa, the hooded figure circled in red, assaulting police officers. Sandoval’s mother, Deborah Sandoval, allegedly distributed to others a photo of herself at the Capitol (inset) during the riot. (Photos from U.S. District Court records)

An Iowa mother and her son, accused of participating in last year’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, are asking a federal judge to quash a congressional subpoena for their phone records.

Likening the subpoena to “a banner headline in the National Enquirer,” Deborah Sandoval of Des Moines and her son, Salvador Sandoval Jr. of Ankeny, are suing the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol in federal court in an effort to secure an injunction blocking the release of their phone records.

The two were arrested 12 months ago. Both face charges that include violent entry and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds and entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority. Deborah Sandoval also faces a charge of impeding or disrupting the orderly conduct of government, and her son faces a charge of obstructing, impeding or interfering with law enforcement.

The Sandovals have pleaded innocent to the charges. Trial dates have yet to be scheduled.

In a petition filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Salvador Sandoval Jr. seeks to block the enforcement of what his attorney, William Kutmus of West Des Moines, calls “an overly broad subpoena” from the House Select Committee. Kutmus claims the subpoena was issued to the telecommunications provider T-Mobile “without legal authority in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

According to the lawsuit, the subpoena requires T-Mobile to provide the committee with information related to Deborah Sandoval’s T-Mobile account which also includes her son’s cellular telephone as part of a family account. The subpoena allegedly seeks “connection records and records of session times and durations,” as well as all calling, messaging and data-connection records associated with the phones.

“The Select Committee is engaged in a fishing expedition, which is constitutionally prohibited from such activity through the separation of powers,” the lawsuit claims. “The zeal of the Select Committee’s breadth and invasion into private matters pursuant to the subpoena is as bizarre as a banner headline in the National Enquirer.”

The committee has yet to respond to the petition.

‘Got pepper-sprayed in the face’

The riot staged by supporters of former President Donald Trump led to five deaths, including that of a Capitol police officer. Trump was subsequently impeached on an article charging him with “incitement of insurrection,” but was acquitted by the Senate, which failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed. Seven Republican senators voted to convict the former president.

More than 500 people have been criminally charged in connection with the riot.

According to court records, an FBI investigator who serves on the bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed a long-time acquaintance of Deborah Sandoval who routinely communicated with her on social media. The investigator reviewed conversations between the two that took place just prior to January 6, 2021, in which Deborah Sandoval allegedly announced her plans to go the Capitol, stating, “This is history in the making – Saving America.” After the riot, Deborah Sandoval allegedly sent her acquaintance pictures of herself outside the Capitol during the riots.

Deborah Sandoval also is alleged to have distributed a video taken from inside the U.S. Capitol “crypt” — a large circular room surrounded by neoclassical columns directly beneath the Capitol rotunda. According to a sworn statement by the FBI investigator, the video shows dozens of individuals “draped in Trump flags and wearing Trump hats, helmets, and gasmasks.” Other video that was pulled from a CCTV, or closed-circuit television, camera allegedly shows Deborah Sandoval, holding her phone in her hand while walking about, appearing to shoot video of the activities of rioters.

The FBI investigator also alleges he secured a copy of videos that Salvador Sandoval Jr. shot of himself inside the Capitol, including one in which he allegedly states, “We’re at the State Capitol, or the U.S. Capitol.” In a second video clip, he allegedly says, “Got pepper-sprayed in the face and mouth … Got out ’cause I could hear a break and there’s still people inside.” The video then pans to the Capitol building exterior where dozens of individuals draped in Trump flags are seen chanting “USA, USA, USA!”

According to the FBI investigator’s sworn statement, the CCTV footage from inside the Capitol shows that the younger Sandoval not only entered the building “but was also engaged in assaulting law enforcement officers … The CCTV footage shows Salvador Sandoval Jr. pushing two different law enforcement officers who are clearly identified as Metropolitan Police Officers via insignias on their jackets and helmets. Salvador Sandoval Jr. also grabbed the shield of a third Metropolitan Police Officer, pulled it toward himself, but was unsuccessful in prying it free from the officer’s grasp.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story indicated more than 200 people have been criminally charged in connection with the Capitol riot. To date, the number of people charged totals more than 500. 

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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