A North Carolina man charged with firing an assault rifle inside a Washington restaurant that conspiracy theorists had falsely claimed housed a child sex ring remained jailed Monday as he weighed a plea offer from federal prosecutors that expires next Monday.
Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, North Carolina, appeared in court briefly Monday as his court-appointed attorney and federal prosecutors asked for more time to negotiate the deal and avoid trial on federal and District of Columbia charges related to the Dec. 4 incident at the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant.
Welch has yet to accept a plea deal that federal prosecutors made Jan. 24, Assistant U.S. Attorney Demian Ahn told U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Monday.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Dani Jahn, Welch’s lawyer, told Brown that plea talks “have been quite fulsome” but more time is needed to consider the offer. Ahn told the court that the offer expires next Monday. Welch is scheduled to appear in court again on March 15.
Welch was arrested and charged after he allegedly drove from Salisbury to Comet Ping Pong to investigate a bogus conspiracy theory that linked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to an alleged child sex-trafficking ring inside the eatery.
He has pleaded not guilty to a federal count of transporting a firearm and ammunition across state lines and District of Columbia charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm during a commission of violence. If convicted, Welch could spend a maximum of 35 years in prison.
According to court papers and police reports, Welch stormed the restaurant while wielding an AR-15 rifle and packing a .38 revolver, weapons that were confiscated after his arrest.
Welch “searched for evidence of hidden rooms or tunnels, or child sex-trafficking of any kind” inside the restaurant, FBI Special Agent Justin Holgate said in an affidavit.
Frustrated by a locked door, Welch fired his rifle to try to open it, Holgate said in the affidavit. “When that proved unsuccessful, he climbed furniture to look into the closed-off room,” Holgate reported, adding that Welch “found that it was unoccupied.”