Still photo from video of Welch telling his family he loved them, as he drove from North Carolina to Comet Ping Pong. (Evidence, provided by prosecution)
WASHINGTON The North Carolina man who fired an AR-15 assault inside D.C. s Comet Ping Pong restaurant last December as he looked into the internet conspiracy theory known as pizzagate was sentenced Thursday to four years in federal prison. Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, sparked panic inside Comet when he entered the restaurant Dec. 4 with the assault rifle strapped to his chest and fired a single shot into a locked cabinet. After watching hours of YouTube videos about the bogus conspiracy theory, Welch said he was convinced the Connecticut Avenue restaurant was harboring child sex slaves, according to court documents. No one was injured in the incident and Welch surrendered to police peacefully.
Before handing down her sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Jackson said Welch s actions left behind psychological wreckage. In addition the prison term, Welch will be placed on three years probation and also ordered to pay $5,744 in restitution for property damage he caused during the incident. Prosecutors had sought a 4 and 1/2 year prison sentence for Welch on a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition as well as a D.C. charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. Welch pleaded guilty to both charges in March as part of a plea deal.
The judge said she believed Welch honestly believed the conspiracy theories, but that he erred in taking matters into his own hands. Other people will see what you did and be inspired by it to take up arms, the judge said. Welch s lawyer asked for an 18-month sentence, noting that the father of two had admitted responsibility and expressed sincere remorse. In a handwritten letter of apology filed with the court June 13, Welch said he never intended to harm or frighten innocent lives, and that he now realizes just how foolish and reckless his actions were.
In a statement made in court before his sentencing, Welch said, Words cannot undo what s already happened. He then turned to the gallery where several employees were sitting and added, I want to make sure the victims understand how sorry I am. Prosecutors argued Welch had terrorized the community and that a strong sentence would deter other would-be vigilantes fueled by online conspiracies. Comet employees and patrons reported being traumatized by the incident. The family restaurant was forced to hire a security guard and some employees said they sought counseling.
In victim impact statements read in court Thursday, the employees expressed more sympathy toward Welch than anger.
Comet owner James Alefantis said, in a victim impact statement, he hopes in a more truthful world, Welch s actions sparked by the wild online rumors will be thought of as an aberration.
2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.
Amor Ftouhi is being held by the FBI in Flint, MI.
Photo via Facebook.
(FLINT, MI) A Canadian has been arrested in the wake of an attack at Bishop International Airport in Flint, MI, yesterday morning. A Montreal man, identified by the FBI as Amor Ftouhi, stabbed a security guard in the neck with a 12 inch knife. According to investigators, Ftouhi is cooperating with authorities after being charged with committing an act of terrorism. An FBI spokesperson said that Ftouhi entered the US on June 16. The suspect is facing up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
The security guard is reported to be in stable condition.
WASHINGTON The North Carolina man who said he was investigating internet conspiracy theories about a child sex ring when he fired an AR-15 assault rifle inside the popular Comet Ping Pong pizzeria last December is set to be sentenced Thursday morning. Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, pleaded guilty in March to a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition as well as a D.C. charge of assault with a dangerous weapon as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. Prosecutors in the case are seeking a four-and-a-half year prison term for the father of two, who drove from North Carolina to the Connecticut Avenue pizza restaurant on Dec. 4, after watching hours of YouTube videos about the bogus internet conspiracy known as pizzagate, according to court documents.
Prosecutors in the case against Edgar Maddison Welch, who carried an assault rifle into a D.C. pizzeria last year, revealed previously unpublished photos of the crime scene. (U.S. Attorney court filing)
He armed himself for a confrontation with nonexistent criminals; and he terrorized innocent families and employees who were just trying to enjoy their Sunday afternoon at a neighborhood restaurant, prosecutors said in a sentencing memo filed with Judge Kentanji B. Jackson on June 16. The prosecutors court filing also included unpublished photos of the crime scene, showing where Welch abandoned his weapons inside the restaurant. No one was injured during the ordeal, but Assistant U.S. Attorneys Demian Ahn and Sonali Patel said in the sentencing memo that a 54-month sentence was appropriate because Welch traumatized restaurant patrons and the community. A longer sentence would also deter other people from pursuing vigilante justice based only on their YouTube feed, they said.
The prosecution is also seeking three years of probation. Welch s lawyer asked the judge for an 18-month sentence. A sentencing memo filed by federal public defender A.J. Kramer called the prosecution s suggested 54-month sentence too draconian, and noted Welch had admitted responsibility, pleaded guilty and expressed sincere remorse about his conduct.
In a handwritten letter of apology filed June 13, Welch said he never intended to harm or frighten innocent lives, and that he now realizes just how foolish and reckless his actions were. In their sentencing memo, prosecutors said Comet Ping Pong was forced to hire a security guard and had to unplug its phone for two months because of crank calls after the incident. Some employees sought counseling. A tourist who was eating with his family at the restaurant told prosecutors his 6-year-old daughter suffered from anxiety being in restaurants for months after the incident. Welch, who also carried a .38-caliber revolver into the restaurant, fired the assault rifle once into a locked closet, before leaving his weapons in separate locations inside Comet and surrendering to police.
The defense s sentencing memo acknowledged Welch s actions were terrifying but that he was motivated by a sincere belief that children were being held against their will in Comet s basement. The defense s court filing contains letters written by Welch s mother and other family members attesting to his character, Christian faith and volunteer work, including a three-week stint helping rebuild an orphanage in earthquake-stricken Haiti in 2010. Welch lost custody of his two daughters, ages 7 and 4, and hasn t seen them since Christmas, Welch s lawyer said. Welch does not intend to ever return to the D.C. area and instead plans to focus on rebuilding his relationships with his children as well as other family members and friends who have been harmed in a variety of ways by his actions, his lawyer said in the filing.
Also, because of the extensive press coverage about the incident, Welch has already faced a public shaming, Kramer said.
The charges Welch pleaded guilty to carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but the judge has broad leeway in imposing the sentence and could choose anything from no prison time to the full 20 years.
WTOP s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.
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