CHARLOTTE, NC (Michael Gordon/The Charlotte Observer) - A North Carolina man who mounted an armed siege of a Washington, D.C., pizza joint after being convinced it hid a child sex ring tied to Hillary Clinton apologized for his "foolish and reckless" actions in a letter to his judge.
Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 22 for assault and firearms charges stemming from his bizarre Dec. 4 takeover of Comet Pizza.
In a hand-written note included in a filing to U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the 28-year-old said he is "truly sorry for endangering the safety of any and all bystanders who were present that day. Unfortunately, I can't change what I did, but I think I owe it to the families and the community to apologize for my mistakes."
One of those errors in judgment was believing an outlandish, online conspiracy theory that the Comet, a popular family restaurant, secretly harbored a child sex ring that was linked to Clinton and other Democratic leaders.
Prosecutors have asked that Welch receive a 4 1/2-year sentence, calling on the court to help disarm "malicious and misguided" Internet rumors that might lead their audiences to violence.
"A significant sentence is required to deter other people from pursuing vigilante justice based only on their YouTube feed," assistant U.S. attorneys Demian S. Ahn and Sonali D. Patel wrote. "The fact that no one was shot was entirely the product of good luck."
After watching YouTube videos that aimed to corroborate the so-called "Pizzagate" rumor, Welch drove from Salisbury to Washington in early December.
"Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacrificing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many," Welch wrote in one of several text messages to friends, according to the Washington Post. In another message, he said he was "standing up against a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own back yard."
During his drive, Welch also texted his girlfriend a Bible verse about being anointed by God and recorded a message in which he expressed the hope that his two daughters would one day understand what he had done, according to the Post.
On Dec. 4, he entered the pizza place with a fully loaded AR-15 military-style rifle and a pistol. Prosecutors say Welch fired several shots at a locked door, and pointed his gun momentarily at a restaurant employee. No one was injured, no sex ring was found, and Welch soon surrendered to police.
In a filing Tuesday, federal defender Dani Jones asked the judge for an 18-month sentence for her client, saying Welch "deeply regrets his actions .. and the trauma and fear" he caused.
In his clear, cursive style, Welch expressed similar contrition in his note.
He wrote that he "came to D.C. with the intent of helping people," and that he felt "very passionate about the possibility of human suffering, especially the suffering of a child."
"It was never my intention to harm or frighten innocent lives, but I realize now just how foolish and reckless my decision was."
In a letter to the judge, Welch's mother described her son has always been a helper and a rescuer.
"He is a unique and tenderhearted soul," Terri Welch wrote. "He is not violent, extreme, or dangerous, just perhaps misguided in his approach on something he thought was going to help others."