WASHINGTON -- Infowars host Owen Shroyer, who promoted baseless claims of 2020 election fraud on the far-right internet platform, pleaded guilty on Friday to joining the mob of Donald Trump supporters who rioted at the U.S. Capitol.
Shroyer, who didn’t enter the Capitol but led rioters in chants near the top of the building's steps, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally entering a restricted area. The charge carries a maximum sentence of one year behind bars.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly scheduled a Sept. 12 sentencing hearing for the 33-year-old Shroyer, who has hosted a daily show called “The War Room With Owen Shroyer” for the website operated by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Shroyer stood in front of a crowd with a megaphone and yelled that Democrats are “tyrants.”
"And so today, on January 6, we declare death to tyranny! Death to tyrants!" he shouted.
Near the top of steps on the Capitol’s east side, Shroyer, who’s from Austin, Texas, led hundreds of rioters in chants of “USA!” and “1776!” He later said in an affidavit that he stood with Jones as Jones tried to deescalate the situation.
But, prosecutors wrote in a court filing, "Harkening to the last time Americans overthrew their government in a revolution while standing on the Capitol steps where elected representatives are certifying a Presidential Election you disagree with does not qualify as deescalation."
Hundreds of people have been charged with storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, disrupting a joint session of Congress for certifying the 2020 presidential election victory by Biden, a Democrat, over Trump, a Republican. Shroyer, who was charged in August 2021 with four misdemeanor counts, is among a few defendants who neither went inside the Capitol nor were accused of engaging in violence or destruction.
Shroyer's attorney has accused prosecutors of trampling on Shroyer's constitutional rights to “protest, speak freely and report the news.” Defense attorney Norm Pattis said Shroyer attended Trump's “Stop the Steal” rally as a journalist who intended to cover the event for his Infowars show.
"The First Amendment permits and protects the rights of individuals to assemble and engage in demonstrations that confront and criticize the government, even when those demonstrations become rowdy or unruly," Pattis wrote.
Prosecutors said the First Amendment doesn’t protect the conduct for which Shroyer was charged.
“Shroyer’s claimed status as a journalist does not immunize him from criminal prosecution," prosecutors wrote.
Shroyer, who has worked at Infowars since 2016, said he went to Washington, D.C., with Jones and others who worked for the website. Jones hasn't been charged with any Jan. 6-related crimes.
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 insurrection, Shroyer called in to a live Infowars broadcast and internet program and said, “Everybody knows this election was stolen.”
"Are we just going to sit here and become activists for four years or are we going to actually do something about this, whatever that cause or course of cause may be?” he added, according to prosecutors.
Shroyer said in an affidavit that he accompanied Jones and his security detail to Capitol grounds on Jan. 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.
Phone records showed that leaders of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group were in contact with Jones and Shroyer before and during the Jan. 6 riot, according to the House committee that investigated the attack. Enrique Tarrio, who was the Proud Boys' national chairman, texted with Jones three times and Shroyer five times during the riot, and Proud Boys chapter leader Ethan Nordean exchanged 23 text messages with Shroyer in the two days before Jan. 6, the committee said.
Tarrio, Nordean and two other Proud Boys leaders were convicted in May of seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors said was a violent plot to stop the transfer of power from Trump to Biden after the 2020 election.
Shroyer is one of two Infowars employees arrested on Capitol riot charges. Samuel Montoya, who worked as a video editor for Jones' 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.
Also on Friday, a Colorado man who marched to the Capitol with members of the Proud Boys and was one of the first rioters to enter the building was sentenced to four years in prison for attacking police officers with a chemical spray as they tried to hold off the mob of Trump supporters.
Robert Gieswein, of Woodland Park, Colorado, was wearing a helmet, a flak jacket and goggles and was carrying a baseball bat when he stormed the Capitol. Gieswein, then 24, marched to the building from the Washington Monument with the Proud Boys but wasn’t a member of the group.
Gieswein repeatedly sprayed an “aerosol irritant” at police officers and pushed against a line of police, according to a court filing accompanying his guilty plea to assault charges.
“You were a foot soldier in one of the most disturbing riots our nation has seen in years,” U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden told Gieswein, who gets credit for the more than two years that he already has served in custody.
Federal authorities have said Gieswein appeared to be an adherent of the Three Percenters militia movement and ran a private paramilitary training group called the Woodland Wild Dogs.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Over 600 of them have pleaded guilty, while over 100 others have been convicted after a trial.
Follow the AP's coverage related to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege.