A former leader of an extremist group was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Tuesday for his role in an "assault" plan that targeted journalists, a sitting cabinet secretary and a predominantly black church, federal prosecutors said.
John Cameron Denton, 27, of Montgomery, Texas, who was identified by the Justice Department as a former leader of the Atomwaffen Division, a paramilitary neo-Nazi group, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy he and others reported false claims of "pipe bombs, hostage-taking or other violent activity" to authorities in hopes of getting a strong police response at the front door of an unwitting third party.
Their efforts led to attacks in 134 locations across the country from October 2018 to February 2019, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Prosecutors said Mr. Denton and many of his co-conspirators "chose targets because they were motivated by racial hostility."
"The defendants caused irreversible trauma to the victims of these hate-based crimes," Raj Parekh, the acting US attorney for Virginia's Eastern District, said in a statement. "This case sends an unmistakable message that those targeting individuals because of their race, religion or any other form of bias will be identified, arrested and brought to justice."
After his arrest, Mr. Denton entered a plea deal in July in which he pleaded guilty to committing interstate threats to injure.
Authorities said Denton's co-conspirators included two foreigners and another man, John William Kirby Kelley, who was sentenced to more than two years in prison.
In an affidavit containing the charges against Mr. Denton, authorities have multiple swat attacks on locations such as Alfred Street Baptist Church, a predominantly black church in Virginia; Old Dominion University, where Mr. Kelley attended; and ProPublica's New York City office, as well as the home of a ProPublica journalist – two targets Mr. Denton personally chose to whack.
The affidavit did not identify the & # 39; U.S. cabinet official 'who was the target of one of the swat attacks, but last year a person familiar with the investigation and who was not authorized to speak publicly said Kirstjen Nielsen, a secretary of homeland security during the Trump administration, was targeted by the cabinet official by Atomwaffen.
On Tuesday, Andrew Stewart, a lawyer representing Mr Denton, said in a statement that his client "took full responsibility for his actions and their consequences."
"He is committed to a process of real change and the well-reasoned verdict of today's court is the next step," said Mr Stewart. "He is deeply sorry for the victims of the two swat calls he proposed, their families and anyone harmed by the conspiracy."
According to the affidavit, in January 2020, Mr. Denton unknowingly met with an undercover F.B.I. agent at his home, where he acknowledged using a voice changer when making phone calls and also targeted journalists who reported on him and his affiliation with the Atomwaffen division.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors hate groups, the group is known for its neo-Nazi and & # 39; accelerating & # 39; beliefs, meaning they are seeking a societal collapse to make way for an ethnostat that exists only for whites. In July 2020, the group announced that it had been reorganized as the National Socialist Order.