A federal judge rebuked gay Trumper and January 6 defendant Brandon Straka for comments he has made in the media about his plea agreement.
“Though I do view Mr. Straka’s criminal conduct as very serious, it’s been mitigated somewhat by his early plea and by his willingness to assist the government by providing complete and truthful information,” District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich said in January.
Get the Daily Brief
The news you care about, reported on by the people who care about you.
At the time, the 43-year-old had said he felt “deeply sorry and shameful” for his actions.
But in the weeks since records detailing his cooperation with federal investigators were inadvertently unsealed and reported in the media, Straka has been downplaying his cooperation and contradicting some of what he told investigators.
“To me, making the choice to sit down and answer questions was a no-brainer – nobody I know committed any crimes and I have no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing from anybody,” he wrote in an open letter. “There is NOTHING WRONG with talking to the DOJ and telling them your friends are innocent.”
The court records showed that Straka provided valuable information that could help prosecute over a dozen other rioters, including anti-vaccine advocate Simone Gold. Prosecutors said that Straka gave them voicemail messages that she left him that were “valuable in the government’s prosecution.”
On social media, though, Straka mentioned Gold as someone he “barely knew” so he couldn’t have helped prosecutors in her case.
“One of the names of the list was Simone Gold (now a friend of mine), and Simone was arrested and charged BEFORE I was. At the time of January 6th we barely knew each other,” he wrote in his Gettr open letter.
Straka had previously posted about his plea deal on Twitter. “I’ve been asked, ‘Why would you take a plea deal?’ Many who know me well feel certain I didn’t do things I was accused of,” he wrote on March 8.
In his plea, Straka admitted to encouraging the January 6 mob to take a police officer’s riot shield. But in March, he posted that “I signed a plea deal, written by the government, that says I did that,” adding that it was “completely contrary to who I am and what I would do in any given situation.”
“Do you believe that every person who takes a plea deal did the things they’re accused of?” Straka posted on May 3. He was sentences to two months in jail as part of the plea agreement.
“It’s been brought to my attention that Mr. Straka has been making questionable comments about the truth of his plea and the nature of his cooperation,” Friedrich said at a hearing earlier this week. “I want to know, should I be expecting a motion to withdraw his plea? Because I would gladly hold a hearing.”
“It makes me question every statement he made to me at the time of sentencing. Every single one. He’s losing more credibility by the moment,” she said of Straka’s comments. “What he needs to appreciate is he is potentially incriminating himself.”
“He faces exposure for making false statements to federal law enforcement officers,” Friedrich told Straka’s lawyer. “So I suggest you advise him to show the discretion that he did not show before January 6.”
Straka gained notoriety for creating the #WalkAway movement that encouraged groups that usually vote for Democrats – like LGBTQ people – to “walk away” from the Democratic Party and vote for Republicans. He was not only present at the Capitol on January 6, but he spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally the day before, encouraged thousands of people on social media to continue storming the Capitol the day of, and proudly bragged about it after.
On January 6, Straka was present near the Capitol the day of and wrote on Twitter to his half a million followers that day, “Patriots at the Capitol – HOLD. THE. LINE!!!!” while rioters were breaking into and roaming inside the building. Still, he maintains he did not enter the Capitol building.
Multiple people also caught Straka on video – which the FBI obtained after videos were posted to YouTube – that allegedly showed him outside the Capitol, shouting “We’re going in!” and “Go! Go!”
Another video allegedly showed shows Straka urging other rioters to attack a Capitol Police officer and rip away his protective gear. According to charging documents, Straka shouted: “Take it away from him.” Other people in the crowd then yelled, “Take the shield!”