D.C. court judge delays ‘pizzagate’ hearing for North Carolina man

A judge delayed a preliminary hearing Thursday for Edgar Maddison Welch, the North Carolina man charged with firing a rifle in a Washington pizzeria while investigating a fake news account that the eatery harbored a child sex ring.

The public defender for Welch, 28, sought the delay to grant more time for her to investigate the case and to allow Welch’s parents to travel to Washington from Salisbury, N.C. He’ll be back in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Tuesday.

“Mr. Welch has several family members and friends who would like to be present for the hearing,” attorney Ieshaah Murphy wrote in her motion seeking the delay.

Welch has been held without bond since his arrest Sunday on four weapons-related charges outside the Comet Ping Pong restaurant in northwest Washington. Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Welch sat silently during Thursday’s brief court appearance.

Police said Welch told them that he came to the pizza restaurant to personally investigate “pizzagate,” an internet conspiracy theory holding that people affiliated with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign operate a pedophile sex ring from the establishment. Police have debunked it as untrue.

Police said Welch fired an AR-15 rifle inside the restaurant before pointing it at an employee. No one was injured in the incident, which has drawn attention to the negative consequences of false reports on social media.

Welch, in an interview with The New York Times, said he drove from North Carolina to Washington to rescue the endangered children, but found no one to be saved.

“The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” Welch told The Times.

He said he first heard about “pizzagate” through word of mouth and learned more about it online after recently having internet service installed in his home.

He said that looking at evidence from a variety of sources led him to believe that “something nefarious was happening.”

Welch told the paper that “I regret how I handled the situation.”

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas