WASHINGTON — “Pizzagate” shooter Edgar Maddison Welch was sentenced to four years in prison at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday.
Welch plead guilty to transporting firearms across state lines and assault with a deadly weapon in March.
On Dec. 4, 2016, Welch drove from his hometown of Salisbury, N.C., to Comet Ping-Pong in Northwest Washington, D.C. to investigate and stop the Internet conspiracy theory of a child sex-ring run by Hillary Clinton and John Podesta out of the restaurant’s basement. He was carrying a loaded AR-15 rifle and a revolver, firing the rifle multiple times at a closet before finding no evidence of young children being abused and surrendered to police.
Three days prior to the attack, Welch watched several hours of conspiracy YouTube videos and texted his girlfriend and two friends that they needed to do something about the rumors. His girlfriend, who was in the courtroom Thursday along with Welch’s family, urged him against “doing something stupid.”
He texted that he was “standing up against a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own back yard.”
During Welch’s drive, he recorded a video saying goodbye to his family if anything happened to him and texted his friend asking him to make sure his children were taken care of if he didn’t return to North Carolina.
It was “entirely the product of good luck” that no one was physically harmed in Welch’s attack on Comet Ping-Pong, said the prosecution.
The prosecution asked for a sentencing of 4.5 years in prison — six months less than the maximum possible sentencing due to Welch’s cooperation and guilty plea.
His defense attorney Dani Jahn asked for a sentence of 18 months. She stated that Welch was acting out of concern for the children in the alleged “sex-ring.” Welch, a father of two girls, was an EMT and volunteered for three weeks in Haiti to help orphaned children after the 2010 earthquake.
Jahn said that once Welch found there were no children being harmed, he was cooperative with authorities and remorseful for his actions. Welch spent nearly eight weeks in solitary confinement after his arrest due to widespread public scrutiny. Jahn argued that this period should be taken into account for sentencing because of its exceptionally harsh nature for a first-time offender and a devoted father.
Several victims made statements regarding the emotional and mental trauma Welch caused them. They expressed they were “almost sorry” for Welch being fooled by the Internet rumors. Many of them stated they were diagnosed with depression and PTSD.
The prosecutors pointed out the difficulties Planet Ping-Pong’s employees had getting over the event because they were forced to return to the site of the shooting for work every day.
“Neither me or any of my peers did anything to deserve this,” said one employee.