Three guilty pleas

The cases show the breadth of hate and extremism in the U.S. at a time when federal officials are putting more emphasis on domestic terrorism.

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Three guilty pleas

Three men, all in their early 20s, pleaded guilty on Monday in three separate cases that covered an array of extremist plots and attacks across the U.S.

It was likely a coincidence that the guilty pleas all came on the same day, but it shows the breadth of hate and extremism in the U.S. at a time when federal officials have said they are putting racially motivated domestic terrorism on the same footing as foreign threats from the Islamic State and its sympathizers.

The victims in the cases included black churches, a synagogue, a former presidential candidate, a national news outlet, and an LGBTQ bar.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about the three cases:

Holden James Matthews (pictured above), a 22-year-old white man, pleaded guilty to setting fires at three predominantly black churches in Louisiana in early 2019. Federal authorities said Matthews was a fan of black metal music and set the fires to mimic a series of similar crimes in Norway in the 1990s that were tied to the music scene there. He pleaded guilty to four counts, including three hate crimes charges, and is facing up to 70 years in prison. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on May 22. (Read more from ABC News.)

Conor Climo, a 23-year-old affiliate of the neo-Nazi group Feuerkrieg Division, pleaded guilty to possessing bomb-making materials. Climo admitted to planning to attack a synagogue and an LGBTQ bar, both in Las Vegas. He is facing up to 10 years in prison for the lone federal charge and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14. (Read more from the Associated Press.)

Jarrett William Smith, a 24-year-old U.S. Army soldier and self-described Satanic neo-Nazi, pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing bomb-making instructions online. Federal authorities said Smith talked to others online about possible targets, including CNN headquarters and former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a third charge that involved Smith allegedly threatening to burn down the house of someone named in court documents only by the initials D.H. As I’ve written about in the past, those threats involved the anti-racist podcaster Daniel Harper. Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18 and faces up to 20 years in prison on each count. (Read more from the Kansas City Star.)

Also on my radar…

— PATRIOT FRONT DESCENDS ON DC… “White Nationalist march in DC near Union Station on Saturday,” by Nick Boykin of WUSA: “A march by the white nationalist group Patriot Front was done near Union Station in Washington around 4 p.m. on Saturday.

“The members of Patriot Front that were marching shouted, "Reclaim America" as they moved down the streets of D.C. The group would later end their march at a Walmart in the Union Station area, as some onlookers called them cowards…”

MEANWHILE IN NYC, PATRIOT FRONT VANDALIZES A CHURCH… “Church hit with hateful vandalism on same day it held forum to fight hate,” by NEWS12: “Police say a Bay Ridge church was targeted with hateful vandalism on the same day it hosted an educational forum that aimed to combat hate.

“According to police, a group that promotes hate speech vandalized the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church. The suspects covered the church and the surrounding area with about 20 stickers and threw hateful propaganda over the church's fence.”

NEWS12 didn’t name the group, but PHOTOS of the vandalism posted by the news outlet show Patriot Front’s logo on the stickers.

THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU’LL READ TODAY… “Meet the Physicist Predicting When Online Hate Will Turn to Real-World Violence,” by Steve Nadis at Discover: “Over the past half-dozen years, [Neil] Johnson’s unconventional research has taken him online, studying groups … of hatemongers and would-be terrorists. His conclusions suggest that rather than monitoring the behavior of individuals, hoping to pick out a few ‘bad apples’ before they resort to violence, law enforcement officers would reap greater rewards by concentrating on the groups to which these people belong.

“An analysis of such group dynamics, looking specifically for abrupt, exponential surges in membership growth, could provide warning signs of bad things to come. This strategy — drawing on principles from physics and the science of complexity, which involves the study of collective behavior — may offer an efficient method for spotting hotbeds of extremist activity before they erupt in violence.”

THIS IS A PROBLEM… “Signs of white supremacy, extremism up again in poll of active-duty troops,” by Leo Shane III at Military Times: “More than one-third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members say they have personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks in recent months, according to the latest survey of active-duty Military Times readers.

“The poll surveyed 1,630 active-duty Military Times subscribers last fall on their views about political leaders, global threats and domestic policy priorities. It offers a troubling snapshot of troops’ exposure to extremist views while serving despite efforts from military leaders to promote diversity and respect for all races.”

RELATED: “Lawmaker Wants More Tools to Confront White Supremacy in the Military”

EXTREMISM AND THE 2020 ELECTION CYCLE… “We Can’t Take Our Eyes Off Right-Wing Militias as Election Approaches,” by Shane Burley at Truthout: “2020 will be fought on hot-button issues, and even if the militia movement is willing to put on costumes and behave themselves in front of the news cameras, their fingers are still on the trigger. They have been building a culture of all-out war for decades now, and are prepared to fight an enemy that exists at the intersection of paranoia and projection.”

ATOMWAFFEN FILES RELEASED… “KING 5 lawyers convinced a judge to unseal records related to the Texas prosecution of a white supremacist from Olympia”

FEDS TAKE UP EL PASO MASSACRE… “Man accused of killing 22 people in El Paso Walmart shooting charged with hate crimes”

LEAGUE OF THE SOUTH’S BRAD GRIFFIN COMES UNDER SCRUTINY… “Extremist blog had named Bartow County man targeted in neo-Nazi plot”

SICK… “Extremists Use Coronavirus to Advance Racist, Conspiratorial Agendas”

ANOTHER TAKE ON THE DOMESTIC TERRORISM LAW DEBATE… “Our laws have a problem calling domestic terrorism what it is”

PRIORITIES… “The FBI Makes a Bizarre Claim About Pro-Choice Terrorism”

ANTI-GOVERNMENT OATH KEEPERS IN ATTENDANCE… “Utahns rally against gun control legislation”

HATE CRIME IN TEXAS… “Pair used homophobic slurs in hate-crime attack at Oak Lawn bar, Dallas police say”

PRISON TIME… “Man who fractured transgender woman’s skull for using public restroom sentenced to nearly 6 years”

‘WHITE RABBITS’ TRIAL DELAYED… “Trial of man accused in Minnesota mosque bombing postponed”

CRYING NAZIS… “White Supremacists Complain That They Are Viewed As ‘Lower’ Than Sexual Predators”

AMAZON STOPS SELLING NAZI BOOKS… “In Amazon’s Bookstore, No Second Chances for the Third Reich”

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