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‘Pizzagate’ shooter sentenced to four years in prison

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, appeared in a federal court in Washington yesterday. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson sentenced Welch to four years for firing several shots in the pizza restaurant last December. There were no injuries. The North Carolina man pleaded guilty in March to transporting firearms across state lines and assault with a dangerous weapon.

On Dec. 4, Welch travelled from his home in North Carolina to the Comet Ping Pong restaurant in Washington. He entered the establishment with an AR-15 rifle and a handgun. He told customers and staff he was there to investigate the allegation children were being held as sex slaves in the basement of the restaurant. He fired his weapons into a closed storage room. After it became apparent there were no child sex slaves in the restaurant, Welch surrendered peacefully to authorities.

During the 2016 election campaign, the emails of John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, were hacked into and published by Wikileaks. In these emails, there were references to cheese pizza or c.p. Some on the Internet interpreted c.p. as standing for child pornography and other short forms, presumably for food, were also seen as being code words for sex trafficking. James Alefantis, the owner of the pizza restaurant, was also mentioned in these emails. The conspiracy theory spread quickly on Twitter, 4chan, and Reddit and was then picked up by several fake news sites. Welch then decided to go to the restaurant and rescue the imprisoned children.

In sentencing Welch, Brown Jackson described Welch’s plan as “ill conceived” and noted Welch made the long trip even though others told him not to. She said if he truly believed children were in danger, he should have contacted law enforcement. Although no one was injured the judge found he “literally left psychological damage.” She also noted it was sheer luck none of the patrons or employees were injured or killed.

Comet Ping Pong’s owner told the court he has suffered financially and emotionally as a result of Welch’s actions and has had to hire security guards. He said some of his employees suffer from depression and nightmares and are undergoing counselling.

Welch, whose family was present in court, apologized for his actions and said he realized his words cannot undue his actions.

The prosecution had asked for a sentence of four and one half years while Welch’s lawyer asked for a sentence of one and a half years. The judge sentenced Welch to a term at the high end of the guidelines to send a message to others.

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