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Prosecutors seek 5-year term for ex-leader of neo-Nazi group

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (AP) – Federal prosecutors in Virginia are calling for five years in prison for a former neo-Nazi group leader who pleaded guilty to conspiring with other far-right extremists to threaten dozens of targets, including a predominantly church-based African-American, a member of the American cabinet and journalists.

John Cameron Denton, of Montgomery, Texas, and others involved in the conspiracy have made at least 134 threats to harm people and institutions, often for racist reasons, Department of Justice prosecutors wrote last Wednesday . They said Denton was involved in “the deepest swatting conspiracy in our country to date,” referring to hoax calls made to trick emergency dispatchers into sending police to the addresses of unsuspecting victims.

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady is due to sentence Denton on Tuesday. Denton was 26 when he pleaded guilty in July 2020 to conspiring to transmit threats.

Prosecutors say Denton was a leader of a group called the Atomwaffen Division. More than a dozen people linked to the Atomwaffen Division or a branch called the Feuerkrieg Division have been charged with federal crimes since the group’s formation in 2016. Many have pleaded guilty and have already been convicted.

Atomwaffen has been linked to multiple murders, including the May 2017 shooting deaths of two men in an apartment in Tampa, Florida, and the January 2018 murder of a University of Pennsylvania student in California.

The charges against Denton and other Atomaffen members and associates centered on “swatting” hoax calls they made at targets in 2018 and 2019, including Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, then secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where one of Denton’s associates attended college.

In court, a judge noted that the U.S. Secret Service signaled local police not to mobilize at Nielsen’s home in Alexandria in January 2019 after a member of the conspiracy was called, claiming hostages were there. taken.

Denton also made calls to the New York offices of the ProPublica media outlet and to a ProPublica reporter in Richmond, California. Prosecutors say Denton had a vendetta against the ProPublica reporter for reporting on his activities at Atomwaffen, including for a PBS Frontline documentary.

The prosecutor’s file indicates that the journalist’s young son has nightmares about neo-Nazis kidnapping his family and murdering his father, and the experience prompted the Mexican American boy to ask, “Why do the Nazis hate brown-haired men like me?”

“It is simply heartbreaking that a young child asks such questions and was forced to flee his home with his parents for fear of being violently assaulted,” they wrote.

Denton admitted he used the nicknames “Rape” and “Tormentor” in an online forum they used to coordinate swatting calls.

“The conspirators also targeted individuals broadcasting live video because the conspirators hoped to watch law enforcement respond to their calls,” prosecutors wrote.

Another member of the swatting conspiracy, former ODU student John William Kirby Kelley, was sentenced in March to 33 months in prison for his role in the appeals.

When Denton was arrested in February 2020, Seattle prosecutors also announced charges against Denton’s roommate Kaleb Cole and others in a separate plot to harass Jewish journalists and activists in three states. Cole has pleaded not guilty and is due to stand trial in September.

Prosecutors say they agree with the probation office’s calculation that federal sentencing guidelines for Denton’s case call for a prison term of between 51 and 60 months. The judge is not bound by these recommendations.

“When Americans target other Americans based on their race, religious beliefs, or other individual characteristics, we are all wronged,” prosecutors wrote. “Such actions, if not punished, signal an acceptance that such malicious conduct is the norm and not the exception. “

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