A pro-Trump influencer who founded the so-called “WalkAway Campaign” encouraging voters to leave the Democratic Party pleaded guilty on Wednesday to storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Brandon Straka, who was also a speaker and organizer for “Stop the Steal,” pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor offense of his criminal information: disorderly conduct inside a Capitol building.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, accepted his guilty plea following a hearing on Wednesday afternoon. She said that he signed a plea agreement on Aug. 31, which calls for cooperation with any additional investigation. His conviction carries a maximum six-month sentence, though others have gotten less jail time.
In late September, an Air Force veteran and his friend who pleaded guilty to the same charge received 45-day sentences.
According to an affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, the FBI identified Straka through videos and photographs that he posted to the “Stop the Steal” organizer’s social media accounts. One was a 58-minute video that Straka posted on his Twitter account.
Authorities quoted him saying “patriots had entered the Capitol” and “Wow, so they’re going to basically storm and try to get into the chamber so that they can demand that we get the investigation that we want.”
“I’m completely confused. For 6-8 weeks everybody on the right has been saying ‘1776!’ & that if congress moves forward it will mean a revolution! So congress moves forward. Patriots storm the Capitol – now everybody is virtual signaling their embarrassment that this happened,” Straka allegedly wrote in another social media post. “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 Republic because literally nobody cares about them. Everyone else can denounce them. I will not.”
Though prosecutors say Straka never entered the Capitol building, he allegedly goaded others to assault a police officer there and steal his riot shield.
“At around the 3:45 mark of the video, an officer from the United States Capitol Police holding a protective shield could be seen in the crowd. As individuals pushed past the officer toward the entrance of the U.S. Capitol, the officer held his shield up in the air,” the FBI wrote, summarizing the footage. “At around the 3:59 mark of the video, Straka stated, ‘Take it away from him.’ Straka and others in the crowd then yelled, ‘Take the shield!’ As several people in the crowd grabbed the officer’s shield, Straka yelled, ‘Take it! Take it!,’’ the complaint stated. “The crowd successfully pulled the shield away from the officer as the officer appeared to be trying to move back toward the entrance of the building. The officer then went back into the crowd to get his shield back. Several people pulled on the shield as the officer grabbed it, thus pulling the officer deeper into the crowd.”
Straka, who described himself as a “former liberal,” founded the WalkAway Campaign in May 2018, encouraging others to leave the Democratic party in favor of former President Donald Trump. He wrote a Fox News editorial about his decision to vote for Trump titled “#WalkAway Founder Brandon Straka: Hillary got my vote in 2016, here’s why I’m voting for Trump in 2020.”
[image via FBI affidavit]
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