By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A North Carolina man pleaded guilty on Friday to opening fire in a Washington pizzeria that fake news reports claimed housed a child sex ring linked to 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Edgar Welch, 28, of Salisbury, was accused of firing at least three shots from an AR-15 rifle inside the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in December and pointing the gun at an employee after showing up to investigate the online conspiracy rumors. No one was hurt.
Welch pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm with intent to commit an offense and a local charge of assault with a dangerous weapon.
He could face up to two years in prison on the federal charge and a maximum five years for the assault charge. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson scheduled sentencing for June 22.
A local charge of possessing a firearm during a crime of violence was dropped as part of Welch's plea.
Welch told police he had driven from North Carolina to Washington to investigate a bogus conspiracy theory known as "pizzagate." Posts to social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and the Reddit online message board falsely claimed Comet was the home of a child sex ring run by Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The claims were part of a proliferation of false news reports during the U.S. presidential election campaign, often disseminated through websites purporting to be news outlets and quoting bogus sources.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins)