Plea deal on table in ‘Pizzagate’ case

The man indicted for firing an assault rifle inside Comet Ping Pong is expected to enter a plea, Friday. (File, WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors have offered a plea deal to the North Carolina man charged with carrying an assault rifle into a D.C. pizza restaurant, firing the weapon and causing panic inside the business.

Edgar Welch, 28, appeared in court briefly Tuesday morning. Prosecutors mentioned that a deal had been extended to Welch, although the terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Jackson set another court hearing for Feb. 10.  In the meantime, she said, prosecutors must continue turning evidence over to the defense.

Welch pleaded not guilty last month to a number of charges. He is facing a federal count of interstate transportation of a firearm with the intent to commit a crime. He’s also facing two local charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

Welch was arrested Dec. 4 after police say he fired an AR-15-style rifle inside the Comet Ping Pong restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest.

Prosecutors say Welch was motivated by a fake online story known as “Pizzagate.” The story, circulated on social media, claimed Comet Ping Pong was a front for a child sex ring connected to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president.

Court documents state it appeared Welch had been studying the story and planning for a “violent confrontation” for several days before the incident. Welch spent hours watching YouTube videos about the conspiracy theory and also visited the restaurant’s website before texting two friends, according to evidence from his cellphone, the documents stated.

According to the documents, Welch texted a friend Dec. 2 asking whether he had any Army buddies nearby and whether they were “down for the cause,” which included “raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacraficing (sic) the lives of a few for the lives of many.”

“Pedo ring” is shorthand for pedophile ring.

During the Dec. 4 incident at the pizzeria, Welch told police he “searched for evidence of hidden rooms or tunnels, or child sex trafficking of any kind,” according to the documents. When he discovered a locked door, he “became suspicious and attempted to force it open with a butter knife and then by shooting the lock.”

There were no injuries, and Welch surrendered to police officers gathered outside the restaurant after he found no evidence of child sex trafficking.

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