WASHINGTON — A right-wing activist who spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally before the Capitol riot pleaded guilty Wednesday to joining the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6.
Brandon Straka, 43, appeared before U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich to enter his plea in the case. Straka was arrested in January on multiple charges, including impeding law enforcement during civil disorder – a felony which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. However, last month the Justice Department reduced that to one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.
In a short hearing Wednesday, Straka admitted he entered the Capitol with the intent to disrupt the certification of Electoral College votes and that he encouraged other rioters to steal police shields. His plea agreement includes an expectation of cooperation with the ongoing investigation into the Capitol riot, as well as giving law enforcement access to his social media.
Disorderly conduct in a Capitol building is a Class "B" misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison. He will be back in court on December 17 to learn what, if any, time he will spend behind bars.
Straka, a right-wing activist who’s amassed more than a half-million followers on Twitter, founded the #WalkAway social media campaign during the 2018 midterm elections. He describes himself on Twitter as a “former liberal” on a “mission to #RedPill humanity” – a reference to the Matrix series commonly used in conservative circles to describe actions to convert others to their cause.
According to a rally permit from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Straka was also a speaker at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Freedom Plaza on Jan. 5, and, the Department of Justice says, he claimed in now-private tweets that he was supposed to speak on Jan. 6 as well.
Straka is one of dozens individuals named in a records request by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack. His name appears in a section targeting documents and communications related to the “recruitment, planning, coordination, and other preparations” for the “Stop the Steal” rallies leading up to January 6.
Straka is the only “Stop the Steal” speaker charged so far in connection with the Capitol riot, although the charges against him stem not from his actions at the rally, but later in the day at the Capitol building itself.
In an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in January, federal investigators say they received a tip with a YouTube video of Straka on the Capitol steps yelling to others in the crowd to “Take the shield!” from a Capitol Police officer. The affidavit notes that tear gas is then released in the area, and that the video does not show Straka entering the Capitol building.
According to the affidavit, Straka had posted tweets and videos to YouTube documenting his activities at the Capitol, but that those have since either been deleted or made private. However, tipsters provided screenshots of Straka’s tweets from Jan. 6, which allegedly include him writing:
- “I’m completely confused. For 6-8 weeks everybody on the right has been saying ‘1776!” & that if congress [sic] moves forward it will mean a revolution! So congress moves forward. Patriots storm the Capitol – now everybody is virtue signaling their embarrassment that this happened.”
- “Also- be embarrassed & hide if you need to- but I was there. It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republican because literally nobody cares about them. Everyone else can denounce them. I will not.”
- “Perhaps I missed the part where it was agreed this would be a revolution of ice cream cones & hair-braiding parties to take our government back from lying, cheating globally interested swamp parasites. My bad.”
According to the affidavit, the video of Straka’s speech on Jan. 5, which lasted about 5 minutes, also included multiple references to “patriots” and the “revolution.”
Ninety defendants have now pleaded guilty in connection with the Capitol riot – most recently Klete Keller, a five-time Olympic swimming medalist who pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon to one felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
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