WASHINGTON — A social media influencer who spoke at a pro-Donald Trump rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5 pleaded guilty Wednesday to disorderly conduct during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Brandon Straka, 44, a former New York City hairstylist, admitted in plea papers to recording himself during the Capitol breach in front of a mobbed entrance, urging a crowd to wrest away a riot shield from a police officer and shouting: “Take it! Take it!”
At another point, according to plea papers, Straka stood behind a crowd of people trying to push their way in, yelling, “Go! Go!”
Straka, who launched the #WalkAway social media campaign, promoted himself as a gay former liberal and has encouraged voters to leave the Democratic Party.
He amassed more than 550,000 Twitter followers and became a Fox News contributor after posting a viral video in May 2018 describing why he left the Democratic Party.
Straka pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison. Prosecutors dropped a felony count of impeding police during civil disorder. In a plea agreement, Straka promised to cooperate by turning over social media and other evidence and to participate in a law enforcement interview.
Straka is one of several Jan. 5 rally speakers and MAGA influencers to be arrested, and one of the first to plead guilty.
At a “Stop the Steal” rally at Freedom Plaza that day in Washington, Straka was a scheduled speaker where he addressed attendees as “patriots” and urged them to “fight back,” referring several times to revolution, the FBI said.
“We are sending a message to the Democrats, we are not going away, you’ve got a problem!” Straka said, according to the FBI.
Straka admitted his guilt in court and in a signed statement of facts. But on Facebook this week he addressed 357,000 followers as “Dear Patriots,” thanked them for their patience, and urged them to tune out “negative press … likely coming down the pike” as he took the first meaningful step toward concluding “the perils of the situation I am in.”
“Hang on tight,” Straka wrote on the site, where he has asked for financial support and plugged a forthcoming “grand relaunch” of his campaign. “Let it come, and let it go. It means nothing. It’s just pointless noise. The best is yet to come. We’re almost there.”
U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington set sentencing for Dec. 17 and allowed Straka to remain under supervision in his native Nebraska, where he was arrested in January.