Social media influencer sentenced to home detention in Jan. 6 case
A social media influencer has been sentenced to three months of home detention for a charge stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Brandon Straka, 45, who founded a pro-Trump social media campaign that works to steer Democrats away from their party, was sentenced to home detention, three years of probation and a $5,000 fine, according to The Associated Press.
He pleaded guilty to one charge of disorderly conduct in October. He was initially also charged with impeding law enforcement during civil disorder, but prosecutors dropped that count. Prosecutors had recommended that he receive four months in home detention, according to the AP.
Straka is the founder of the “#WalkAway Campaign,” which he started after his video, titled “Why I left the Democrat Party,” spread rapidly online in 2018.
Witness video taken during the Jan. 6 attack showed him “within several feet of the entrance to the U.S. Capitol.” He was accused of encouraging protesters to grab a shield from a police officer, according to court documents.
Prosecutors also alleged that Straka was active on Twitter during the Jan. 6 riot. The FBI received public tips of screenshots of Straka’s posts from that day, in which he wrote, “I arrived at the Capitol a few hours ago as Patriots were storming from all sides. I was quite close to entering myself as police began tear gassing us from the door. I inhaled tear gas & got it in my eyes. Patriots began exiting shortly after saying Congress had been cleared.”
He was not, however, accused of breaching the Capitol itself or taking part in violent or destructive conduct, the AP noted.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said she believes it is “deeply disturbing” that Straka used his large reach on social media to encourage the Jan. 6 attack and defend the riot, according to the AP. He reportedly has almost 500,000 followers on his personal Twitter account.
“Election challenges are fought in the courts, not by storming the Capitol,” Friedrich said.
The defendant, however, said he and his followers do not condone violence, according to the AP, claiming that the community he created is “about love.”
“It’s not who they are, and it’s not who I am, which is why they love our movement,” Straka said. “My relationship with my fans and followers is not just about politics. It’s about love.”
More than 725 individuals have been arrested in connection to the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement around the one-year anniversary of the riot. The DOJ at the time said roughly 165 people had pleaded guilty to a variety of charges.
The Hill has reached out to Straka’s lawyer for comment.
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