Conservative journalist Jonathon Owen Shroyer has been sentenced to 60 days in prison for what some are calling ‘speech crimes.’ The charges against Shroyer stem from events that took place on January 6, 2021, in DC.
The DOJ alleged that Shroyer knowingly entered or remained in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and engaged in violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds.
Shroyer, a Texas-based talk-show host associated with the website Infowars, has been a vocal critic of the 2020 Presidential Election results. In the days leading up to January 6, he made several public statements suggesting the need for action against the certification of the Electoral College vote.
Videos from Infowars showed Shroyer rallying crowds with chants such as “1776!” and proclaiming that Americans are ready to fight to restore and save the republic.
On the day of the Capitol breach, Shroyer was seen leading a crowd towards the Capitol building. Video footage and photographs place him in the restricted area of the U.S. Capitol, both on the west and east sides. That said, Shroyer was never linked to any acts of violence or vandalism inside the Capitol. However, his presence in the restricted area and his prior statements have been central to the case against him because of past conduct.
In December 2019, Shroyer was arrested for disrupting a House Judiciary Committee meeting. In February 2020, he entered into a Community Service Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) which included conditions to stay away from the U.S. Capitol and its grounds. This DPA was still active on January 6, 2021.
Shroyer’s defense argued that he was present at the Capitol in his capacity, as a journalist, covering a significant event. They contend that his statements, while provocative, fall within the bounds of protected speech. The defense also highlighted Shroyer’s compliance with authorities since the charges were filed, including voluntarily providing his phones for evidence and participating in a proffer session with federal agents.
However, the prosecution has framed Shroyer’s actions as going beyond mere reporting. They argued that his speeches and calls for action contributed to the atmosphere that led to the breach of the Capitol. The fact that Shroyer was under a prior court order not to enter Capitol Grounds, due to a deferred prosecution agreement from an earlier case, further complicated his position.
Last week the DOJ recommended a 120-day prison term for Shroyer. They claimed that in the months leading up to January 6, Shroyer disseminated election disinformation to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of viewers. They cited instances where he warned that if Joe Biden became president, there would not be “a million peaceful marchers in D.C.”
While he did not enter the Capitol building, the DOJ argued that his influence was evident as many of those who listened to him did. In the aftermath of the events, Shroyer blamed “Antifa” and expressed pride in the day’s occurrences. The DOJ’s memorandum stated that “Shroyer helped create January 6.”
In the weeks leading up to January 6, Shroyer’s rhetoric ‘intensified’ according to the DOJ. He was seen addressing crowds in Washington, D.C., urging them to fight for Trump and declaring that “we are the new revolution.” On January 5, he stated that Americans were ready to fight and expressed concerns about the implications if the certification of the election wasn’t halted.
“So, despite all the things that they’ve done to try to destroy our morale, despite all the things they’ve done to gaslight us, confuse us, and try to keep us locked inside, we’re here more powerful, more loud, and we’re fightin’ mad,” Shoyer said on January 5, according to the memorandum.