Plea offer made to Salisbury man who fired shots inside DC pizzeria

Published 1:37 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2017

By Spencer S. Hsu

The Washington Post 

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors said they have offered a plea deal to a Salisbury man accused of commandeering a Washington pizza restaurant with an assault-style rifle on Dec. 4, but they did not disclose terms of the deal at a brief federal court appearance Tuesday.

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, pleaded not guilty on Dec. 16 to a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition and two counts on D.C. offenses: assault with a dangerous weapon and possessing a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Demian Ahn said the offer was made orally Monday and followed in writing Tuesday. The federal firearms and D.C. assault charges each carry a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison. The D.C. firearms count carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Welch, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, did not speak, but Assistant Federal Defender Dani S. Jahn said during the hearing that prosecutors should continue to turn over evidence in the case. “Mr. Welch needs to understand the nature and extent of information against him to make a decision,” Jahn said.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji B. Jackson set a Feb. 10 hearing, directing prosecutors by month’s end to “get as much material as possible to defendant.”

In charging documents, an FBI agent said it appeared Welch contemplated “a violent confrontation” at the restaurant, citing text messages, calling records and information retrieved from his phone.

Police said Welch was consumed with the viral fake-news story known as “Pizzagate,” which falsely linked Hillary Clinton to a child sex-trafficking ring. The conspiracy theory said the ring operated in the basement of Comet Ping Pong, where Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, occasionally dines.

Welch prompted a panicky evacuation by customers that Sunday afternoon when he walked into the restaurant with a .38-caliber Colt revolver and a Colt AR-15 rifle strapped across his chest, police said.

Welch fired the assault-style weapon two or three times inside the restaurant, police said.