Key Atomwaffen member to be sentenced
Plus, five other members of Atomwaffen were arrested in a roundup spanning four states.
Hi, and welcome to The Informant, a publication covering hate and extremism in America, written and edited by me, Nick R. Martin.
There’s been a lot that’s happened since we last checked in with each other, so today’s intelligence briefing is a big one, and a lot of work went into it. Honestly, maybe more work than is reasonable for a single edition. But I do it all for you.
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— BAD DAY FOR ATOMWAFFEN… Let’s start off with Wednesday’s big development. Five members of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division were arrested by the FBI in a roundup spanning four states: Texas, Florida, Arizona and Washington. The members who were arrested included the group’s one-time national leader, John Cameron Denton, 26, who was charged with taking part in a “swatting” conspiracy. All of the arrested allegedly targeted journalists or activists as part of coordinated harassment campaigns. It marked the largest bust of the group since its formation in 2015.
I’m going to spend the coming days taking a closer look at the court documents, but for now here are a few links to give you an overview of what went down:
Key Atomwaffen member to be sentenced
— FRIDAY SENTENCING… The Virginia leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division could spend a year and a half in prison if federal prosecutors get their way on Friday.
Andrew Jon Thomasberg is scheduled to be sentenced in Alexandria, Virginia, after pleading guilty to two federal crimes: lying on an application to purchase a gun, and possessing guns while being an illegal user of drugs. He was arrested in September and has been held behind bars ever since.
THE MEMO… Last week, prosecutors filed a memo explaining their rationale for the 18-month bit. It was chock full of disturbing details about Thomasberg’s neo-Nazi rhetoric that appeared in text messages, including some to fellow Atomwaffen member Brian Baynes, who was also arrested as part of the investigation. According to the memo, Thomasberg talked about shouting slurs about black and gay people in public and boasted that he was willing to engage in a mass shooting similar to the one perpetrated by a white supremacist in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015. “I’ve lost all fucks,” he wrote, according to the memo.
The memo also highlighted Atomwaffen’s involvement in a type of racist Satanism called the Order of Nine Angles (O9A). But it highlighted a particular text message where Thomasberg said he wished the group was more like the Irish Republican Army and “less o9a.” “Actual guerrillas that will rollout at a moments notice.”
Prosecutors repeatedly mentioned Thomasberg’s use of the term “RAHOWA,” short for racial holy war. “When international rahowa starts im not stopping at the Bosphorus,” he allegedly wrote, referring to the straight that divides Turkey. “I will exterminate the turks entirely. I will hunt them till the end of my days.”
For the first time, prosecutors revealed that Thomasberg was involved in a violent incident as a juvenile. The memo described a 2013 “attempted drug deal” where he tried to sell marijuana to three people, who then took the weed and drove away without paying. Thomasberg pulled out a gun and fired a single shot at the vehicle, according to the memo. Prosecutors wrote that the incident demonstrates his “willingness to use a firearm in an attempt to harm another person.”
TIES TO OTHER GROUPS… The memo noted that Thomasberg was involved in the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America before joining Atomwaffen. It also said he told investigators that, the day before his arrest, he had filled out an application to join the white nationalist group Patriot Front.
THE DEFENSE… Thomasberg’s attorneys filed a memo on Tuesday on what type of sentence they’re hoping for, but it was filed under seal, as were 19 exhibits in his defense. His attorneys offered very little hint as to why the documents were sealed, saying in a memo only that it was “necessary in order to safeguard the privacy and safety of the defendant.”
HOW IT COMPARES… Baynes, the other Atomwaffen member who was arrested and charged last year as part of the same FBI investigation, pleaded guilty in August to possessing guns while being an illegal user of drugs. He was sentenced by the same judge in November to 30 days in jail and two years of probation.
Also on my radar…
— MORE CONGRESSIONAL OFFICES… The Arizona man accused of threatening to kill Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat, in October after getting drunk and watching Fox News also made contact with other congressional offices, according to a Feb. 20 filing by federal prosecutors. Jan Peter Meister, 53, told investigators that the remembered making a call to the late Sen. John McCain’s office, at which time he said he called the Arizona Republican a “dick,” the new filing shows. Investigators also reviewed Meister’s cell phone and discovered that he tried to send a text message to the landline of Rep. Jerry Nadler’s office on May 16, telling the New York Democrat to “fucking resign you dumb fuck.” Prosecutors want to use both incidents to show a pattern for Meister. I was the first to report on Meister’s case here in The Informant earlier this month.
— HIGH TERROR THREAT IN 2020… White supremacists pose a higher threat for terrorism this year than Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, according to a new analysis released by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. The threat assessment took into account incidents that happened in 2019 in the U.S. and abroad, including the Texas Walmart shooting that left 22 people dead and the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shootings that killed 51.
The analysis mentioned two high-profile cases involving white supremacists from New Jersey. One involved Fred Arena, a member of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America who lied to the federal government about his membership in the group to maintain a security clearance to work at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The other involved Richard Tobin, who allegedly ordered the vandalism of synagogues as part of his role in the neo-Nazi group The Base.
The report also highlighted the tactic of accelerationism, which at this point needs to be required knowledge for anyone investigating white supremacist violence in America. While there is still some debate over the correct definition of the tactic, the NJOHSP’s description of it was pretty concise and solid: “Some white supremacist extremists argue that participating in mass attacks or creating other forms of chaos will accelerate the imminent and necessary collapse of society in order to build a racially pure nation.”
— THE BASE HARBORED ANOTHER FUGITIVE… Prosecutors revealed this week that the Georgia cell of the neo-Nazi group The Base gave refuge to a second man who was described as a “fugitive.” We already knew that a 100-acre property in the state was used as a training camp for the group and as a hideout for Canadian soldier Patrik Mathews, who was on the run from an investigation in his home country. But at a detention hearing in Rome, Georgia, for cell leader Luke Austin Lane, 21, prosecutors said that the property also hosted another man wanted by authorities. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeremy Redmon, who attended the hearing, that man was Ryan Burchfield, who went on to travel to Ukraine to fight for the white-supremacist-linked group Right Sector.
— SKINHEAD ARRESTED IN NEVADA… Steve Hill, an alleged member of the Outlaw Nazi Skinheads, was arrested on February 19 in Pahrump, Nevada on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, court records show. Investigators describe the Outlaw Nazi Skinheads as a gang that operates both inside and outside of Nevada’s prisons. READ the criminal complaint against Hill (PDF).
— DANIEL MCMAHON CASE… “Man accused of racist threats expected to plead guilty in Charlottesville court” (AP)
— JASON KESSLER KEEPS DIGGING… “Judge Dismisses Free Speech Suit Brought by ‘Unite the Right’ Organizer” (Courthouse News Service)
— OREGON WHITE SUPREMACIST… “Jeremy Christian Found Guilty of Murder” (Willamette Week)
— GET HIM OUTTA’ HERE… “Board recommends discharge of airman with white nationalist ties” (Air Force Times)
— MORE UTAH ARRESTS… “3 more arrested in alleged hate crime attack on missionary” (Deseret News)
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