DOJ Recommends #WalkAway Founder’s Punishment for January 6

Brandon Straka is continuing to publicly discuss the events of January 6 at the Capitol last year.
Wikimedia Commons/Jared Holt

The US Department of Justice is asking that the out gay founder of the #WalkAway Campaign be sentenced to four months of home detention, three years on probation, and 60 hours of community service, in addition to paying a $500 fine, for joining and promoting the rioting that took place on January 6, 2021 at the US Capitol building.

“The defendant, Brandon Straka, is a social media influencer who live-streamed his participation in the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol — a violent attack that forced an interruption of the certification of the 2020 Electoral College vote count, threatened the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election, injured more than one hundred law enforcement officers, and resulted in more than one million dollars of property damage,” the government wrote in a sentencing memorandum that was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

The memo asserted that Straka entered the US Capitol grounds sometime after 2:20 pm despite knowing that the grounds were closed and “the US Capitol had been breached.” Once on the US Capitol steps, he urged rioters to take a shield from a police officer who was being attacked by the mob, the memo says. Straka made a video of himself on the steps. He told the government that he left the US Capitol grounds after 15 minutes. There is no evidence that he ever entered the building or engaged in any violence. The memo notes that he continued to urge the crowd to fight.

“After his departure, but while law enforcement was still trying to clear the area, Straka tweeted out, ‘Patriots at the Capitol – HOLD. THE. LINE!!!!’” the memo says. That tweet was published at 5:33 pm, roughly three hours after Straka left the US Capitol grounds.

Straka was arrested on January 25 last year. He agreed to an interview with the FBI following his arrest and then spoke to the FBI again on March 25. After entering a plea agreement, he was supposed to be sentenced in December, but that date was moved after Dabney Friedrich, the judge in the case, requested video of Straka on the US Capitol grounds and asked attorneys in the case to comment on how to “avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct” in their sentencing memos. He was interviewed by the federal law enforcement a third time on January 5, 2022. Straka was described as “cooperative” in the memo.

“Straka’s participation in three interviews made at the government’s request as well as what appear to be sincere expressions of remorse serve as a strong counter to his aggravating conduct, namely, his abuse of his responsibility as a public figure not to agitate and inflame the passions of a riotous mob,” the memo says. “The government therefore believes a long sentence of home detention is sufficient to punish the defendant.”

The government asked the judge to be allowed to file information with the court under seal. As Gay City News was completing this story, Straka had not filed a sentencing memorandum, but on January 14, he filed notice that he had hired a new attorney.

Straka pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge last year. The government included tables in the Straka sentencing memo that showed that his proposed sentence was consistent with the sentences given to dozens of other January 6 defendants. The $500 restitution pays for his portion of the damage to the US Capitol building. Some defendants had to pay fines in the low thousands of dollars and the $500 restitution. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 20.

Straka became popular on the far right in 2018 when he released a video announcing that he was leaving the Democratic Party. As the founder of the #WalkAway Campaign, he would go on to make appearances on right wing new outlets, at conservative conferences, and at Trump campaign rallies.