A Texas man who worked for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website, Infowars, was sentenced on Wednesday to four months of home detention for joining a mob’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Samuel Montoya, 37, was employed as a video editor for Infowars when he stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and captured footage of a police officer fatally shooting a rioter, Ashli Babbitt.
Before a judge announced his sentence, Montoya called himself “a member of the media” and said he regrets his “approach to filming and reporting on the events that day.”
“Nothing like what happened at the Capitol that day should ever take place again,” Montoya said. “I truly hope my apology offers a bit of closure to my fellow countrymen as we recover and heal together.”
U.S. District Judge John Bates said Montoya “doesn’t get a free pass … just because he considered himself a journalist.”
“He was more than just a reporter,” the judge said before sentencing Montoya. “He was not just an observer. He was a participant.”
Montoya pleaded guilty in November to one count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison.
Prosecutors recommended sentencing Montoya to 45 days of imprisonment. Bates instead sentenced Montoya to 3 years of probation, including 120 days of home detention and 60 hours of community service, and ordered him to pay a $1,500 fine plus $500 in restitution. The judge said it was a “close call” in deciding to spare him from incarceration.
A video that Montoya recorded for Infowars showed him celebrating the attack and joining other rioters in breaking through a line of police officers in the Capitol’s Crypt.
“We’re storming!” he said.
Montoya invoked his participation in the riot when he mounted an unsuccessful congressional campaign in the 35th district of Texas last year. His campaign website was capitolsam.com and included a section called “Arrest and Political Persecution.”
Two days after the riot, Montoya appeared on an Infowars show hosted by Owen Shroyer and described the scene of Babbitt’s shooting.
The officer shot Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran from San Diego, as she climbed through a broken door leading into the House Speaker’s lobby. The officer was cleared of wrongdoing by both federal prosecutors and Capitol police.
Montoya was arrested in April 2021. Shroyer also was arrested on Capitol riot-related charges. The case against Shroyer hasn’t been resolved.
Infowars founder and host Alex Jones claimed he told Montoya to stay in Texas to work on the site’s broadcasts while Jones and others went to Washington, D.C., for the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, according to prosecutors.
“Jones said that Montoya went to D.C. on his own, and that Jones had instructed his staff not to go inside the U.S. Capitol,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis Loeb wrote in a court filing.
Jones used Infowars to promote former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. Jones hasn’t been charged with any Jan. 6-related crimes.
In October, a Connecticut jury ordered Jones and his company, Free Speech System, to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to compensate families of children and educators killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The families said Jones broadcast lies about the school shooting that subjected them to harassment and threats.
Jones’ company hired Montoya in 2018. He was laid off in November after the company filed for bankruptcy, according to his attorney.
Approximately 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot. More than 600 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trials decided by a jury or judge. Roughly 450 have been sentenced, with over half getting terms of imprisonment ranging from seven days to 10 years.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the Capitol riot at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege