'Pizzagate' shooter gets 4-year prison sentence, lawyers urged judge to deter vigilantism
Edgar Maddison Welch, the North Carolina man persuaded to storm a Washington, D.C., pizza place by an internet rumor that it hid a Democrat-run pedophile ring, was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday, the Washington Post reports.
Welch apologized to the victims and the people of Washington, D.C., for his entering Comet Ping Pong with a loaded AR-15 military-style rifle. He requested an 18-month sentence before eventually begin given four years, just below the four-and-a-half years prosecutors sought.
"Pizzagate" began as an internet conspiracy theory before it ended in gunshots in the D.C. pizzeria. In March 2016, protesting families came from as far as Canada and California to march in Washington to demand the truth about Comet Ping Pong be outed. The internet rumors alleged that Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, were running a child sex-slavery ring out of the establishment. Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta, sometimes dined there.
James Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong's owner, appeared in court to attest to the "physical terror" Welch's invasion caused. He added that he hoped that "one day in a more truthful time we will remember this day as an aberration."
Welch wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown that he was "truly sorry" for endangering the safety of those present and that he now realized how "foolish and reckless" his decision was.
Prosecutors told the judge that a "significant sentence is required" to deter others from seeking vigilante justice "based only on their YouTube feed," according to the Post.
Welch hatched his plan to enter Comet Ping Pong after watching videos furthering conspiracies about the pizzeria, the Post reported. Several friends warned Welch not to act or do "something stupid."