A man who fired a rifle inside a Washington, D.C. restaurant while investigating the preposterous “Pizzagate” internet rumor that a Satanic child-sex ring was being run by the Clintons was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday.
Edgar Maddison Welch drove hundreds of miles from his home in North Carolina with an AR-15 rifle and a .38-caliber revolver last December to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, which was falsely listed as a location of the non-existent sex ring first discussed in October on fringe internet message boards and sites that promote false news stories before the rumor hit Reddit in the lead-up to Election Day.
Convinced that the ring was real, Welch, then 28, entered the restaurant wielding the rifle and carrying the handgun on his hip. Terrified employees and customers “fled the building, fearing for their lives,” according to court documents, while Welch searched in vain for child sex slaves. Though Welch fired the rifle several times, he didn’t fire it at any people, and no one was injured. He peacefully surrendered to police.
“The defendant committed serious crimes that terrorized a community and traumatized Comet employees and customers alike,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Demian Ahn wrote in a sentencing memo. “There are victims who require crisis counseling, employees who feel unsafe in their jobs, and children whose memories are imprinted with the danger of that day.”
In an apology note he hand-wrote earlier this month, Welch said he “came to D.C. with the intent of helping people I believed were in dire need of assistance, and to bring an end to a corruption that I truly felt was harming innocent lives.”
“I wish there were a way that I could offer something other than an apology,” he told the courtroom Thursday. “I realize mere words can’t undo what happened… but I am sorry.”
Welch had pleaded guilty to an assault charge and a firearms charge in March.