A judge on Tuesday sentenced InfoWars broadcaster Owen Shroyer — who shadowed his boss and ally Alex Jones onto Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021 — to 60 days in prison for breaching the restricted area.
U.S. District Judge Tim Kelly handed down the sentence after contending that Shroyer, who never entered the Capitol building, played a role in “amping up” the mob at a sensitive moment during the riot. Shroyer’s foray onto Capitol grounds came even though Shroyer had been ordered to stay away from the area under a court-sanctioned agreement for disrupting a House impeachment hearing in 2019.
The sentence — half of the Justice Department’s call for 120 days in prison — closes a chapter in what all sides agreed was a “unique” prosecution stemming from the mob attack on the Capitol. Shroyer was facing only misdemeanor charges for his conduct that day and pleaded guilty to breaching restricted Capitol grounds earlier this year.
Prosecutors say Shroyer shadowed Jones from the Ellipse, where former President Donald Trump addressed supporters before urging them to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the Capitol. When they arrived, they witnessed the chaos that had begun unfolding at the building. Jones, who was trailed by a large throng of supporters, a security detail and other leaders of “Stop the Steal” groups, circled the Capitol and asked police for permission to exhort the crowd to deescalate the violence.
Jones has not been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, but prosecutors said Shroyer, using a megaphone, delivered chants that further fueled the riot after breaching the protected perimeter of Capitol grounds. They also noted in court filings that Jones and his large cohort continued to traverse the perimeter of the Capitol despite police signaling they wanted people to leave the area.
Shroyer is seeking to frame his criminal case as a national flashpoint for First Amendment speech. He addressed InfoWars viewers and reporters for an hour after his sentence, saying he intends to appeal his case — to the Supreme Court if necessary — and that he has become a “martyr for free speech.”
Shroyer pointed out that prosecutors, in seeking his 120-day jail term, focused heavily on his comments in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and his chants of “1776” on the day of the riot. He contended that he was in Washington in his capacity as an opinion journalist for InfoWars. In remarks to Kelly, Shroyer also argued that when he exhorted the crowd that day, he was trying to capture their attention so he could assist Jones in trying to redirect the mob away from the Capitol.
Kelly rejected that contention, saying his review of the video of Shroyer’s actions did not appear to show Shroyer making an attempt to play a deescalating role. After leaving the courthouse, Shroyer said their disagreement over that episode stemmed from Kelly’s lack of familiarity with managing large crowds.
Kelly also said he paid minimal attention to prosecutors’ arguments about Shroyer’s speech in the lead-up to Jan. 6.
“There’s nothing wrong with the phrase ‘1776,’” Kelly said, adding that his main concern was Shroyer “amping up the crowd with a bullhorn.”
“I don’t think you were trying to distract the crowd or move the crowd away from the Capitol,” he added.
Kelly also said Shroyer’s role as a journalist — which he noted the Justice Department challenged — played no role in his ultimate sentence, saying the conduct Shroyer was charged with had nothing to do with his media role.
The case against Shroyer has been pending for more than two years and raised questions about whether Jones was under scrutiny as well. Shroyer and his attorney Norm Pattis — who also represents Jones — noted that Shroyer agreed to turn over his phone to prosecutors and sit for a proffer session after he was charged. They also noted that he agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor and be cooperative with the government after being assured it would result in a lenient recommendation from prosecutors.
Pattis said the government wanted to probe Shroyer’s phone for any links between Trump, Jones and Jan. 6 but said they didn’t uncover anything that would implicate a larger plot.