WASHINGTON (AP) — Infowars host Owen Shroyer was sentenced on Tuesday to two months behind bars for joining the mob's riot at the U.S. 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 Jan. 6, 2021 — to amplify lies that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump, who was the Republican incumbent.
Shroyer didn’t 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's among only a few people charged in the riot who neither went inside the building nor were accused of engaging in violence or destruction.
He pleaded guilty in June to illegally entering a restricted area — a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of one year behind bars.
Shroyer didn't 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 Jan. 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, 34, of Austin, Texas.
Shroyer told U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly that he wasn’t part of any plan for violence or other illegal activity on Jan. 6. He also said he wasn’t trying to stir up the crowd with his chants.
“It was to get the attention and draw the crowds away,” he said.
Kelly told the Infowars host that there was nothing patriotic about joining a mob that interfered with the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Trump to Joe Biden. Kelly 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 wasn't immediately set. His attorney, Norm Pattis, said he planned to appeal the sentence.
In December 2019, Shroyer was arrested in Washington after he disrupted a House Judiciary Committee hearing for then-President 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 (Jan. 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 D.C.” if 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 program and said, “Everybody knows this election was stolen.”
Shroyer, who has worked at Infowars since 2016, 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.
Jones hasn’t been charged with any Jan. 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 Jan. 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 through an online campaign described as his defense fund.
Pattis, the defense lawyer, has said Shroyer attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally as a journalist who intended to cover the event for his Infowars show. 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,” Pattis wrote in a court filing on Sunday.
Prosecutors said the First Amendment doesn’t 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, D.C., on January 6th.
“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 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.
More than 1,100 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. 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.