12 September 2023

Infowars host Owen Shroyer given two months behind bars in US Capitol riot case

12 September 2023

Infowars host Owen Shroyer has been sentenced to two months behind bars for joining the mob’s riot at the US Capitol, which prosecutors said he “helped create” by spewing violent rhetoric and spreading baseless claims of election fraud to hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Shroyer hosts a daily show called The War Room With Owen Shroyer for the website operated by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Prosecutors said Shroyer used his online platform – and later a megaphone outside the Capitol on January 6 2021 – to amplify lies that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump, who was the Republican incumbent.

Shroyer did not enter the Capitol, but he led a march to the building and led rioters in chants near the top of the building’s steps.

He is among only a few people charged over the riot who neither went inside the building nor were accused of engaging in violence or destruction.

The 34-year-old pleaded guilty in June to illegally entering a restricted area – a misdemeanour punishable by a maximum sentence of one year behind bars.

Shroyer did not need to set foot inside the Capitol because many of his followers did, prosecutors argued.

They said Shroyer spread election disinformation and “thinly veiled calls to violence” on January 6 to Infowars viewers in the weeks leading up to the attack.

“Shroyer helped create January 6,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Prosecutors had sought four months behind bars for Shroyer, of Austin, Texas.

Shroyer told US District Judge Timothy Kelly that he was not part of any plan for violence or other illegal activity on January 6.

He also said he was not trying to stir up the crowd with his chants.

Context is everything. I do not believe that you were trying to distract the crowd or turn the crowd away from the Capitol

“It was to get the attention and draw the crowds away,” Shroyer said.

Judge Kelly told the Infowars host that there was nothing patriotic about joining a mob that interfered with the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Mr Trump to Joe Biden.

He said Shroyer “amped up” the mob on the Capitol steps with his amplified words.

“Context is everything,” the judge said.

“I do not believe that you were trying to distract the crowd or turn the crowd away from the Capitol.”

A date for Shroyer to report to prison was not immediately set.

His lawyer, Norm Pattis, said he planned to appeal against the sentence.

In December 2019, Shroyer was arrested in Washington after he disrupted a House Judiciary Committee hearing for then-president Mr Trump’s impeachment proceedings.

He later agreed to stay away from Capitol grounds, a condition of a deal resolving that case.

In the weeks before the Capitol riot, Shroyer “stoked the flames of a potential disruption of the (January 6) certification vote by streaming disinformation about alleged voter fraud and a stolen election” on his show, prosecutors wrote.

In November 2020, he warned that “it’s not going to be a million peaceful marchers in DC” if Mr Biden, a Democrat, became president.

An Infowars video promoting “the big D.C. marches on the 5th and 6th of January” ended with a graphic of Shroyer and others in front of the Capitol.

A day before the Capitol riot, Shroyer called in to a live Infowars broadcast and internet programme and said: “Everybody knows this election was stolen.”

Shroyer, who has worked at Infowars since 2016, said in an affidavit that he accompanied Mr Jones and his security detail to Capitol grounds on January 6.

“I walked with Mr Jones up several steps and stood near him as he addressed the crowd from a bullhorn urging them to leave the area and behave peacefully,” Shroyer said.

Mr Jones has not been charged with any January 6-related crimes.

Outside the Capitol, Shroyer stood in front of a crowd with a megaphone and yelled: “The Democrats are posing as communists, but we know what they really are: they’re just tyrants, they’re tyrants. And so today, on January 6, we declare death to tyranny! Death to tyrants!”

Shroyer also led hundreds of rioters in chants of “USA!” and “1776!”

After January 6, Shroyer used his show to promote conspiracy theories about the riot, trying to shift the blame to left-wing “antifa” activists and even the FBI, prosecutors said.

After his arrest, Shroyer raised nearly 250,000 dollars (£200,000) through an online campaign described as his defence fund.

Mr Pattis has said Shroyer attended Mr Trump’s Stop the Steal rally as a journalist who intended to cover the event for his Infowars show.

Mr Pattis has repeatedly accused prosecutors of trampling on Shroyer’s free speech rights.

“Mr Shroyer, and every person capable of speaking in the United States, has a right to utter the speech Mr Shroyer used. That the government would suggest otherwise is a frightening commentary on our times,” Mr Pattis wrote in a court filing on Sunday.

Prosecutors said the First Amendment does not protect the conduct for which Shroyer was charged.

Shroyer and others “stoked the fires of discontent” about driving a mob of individuals to descend on Washington, DC on January 6.

“Shroyer cannot light a fire near a can of gasoline, and then express concern or disbelief when it explodes,” they wrote.

Shroyer is one of two Infowars employees arrested on Capitol riot charges.

Samuel Montoya, who worked as a video editor for Mr Jones’s website, was sentenced in April to four months of home detention.

Montoya entered the Capitol and captured footage of a police officer fatally shooting a rioter, Ashli Babbitt.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes, and over 650 of them have pleaded guilty.

More than 600 have been sentenced, with over half receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 22 years.

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