SEATTLE — The leader of a hate group who had Snohomish County ties was sentenced to seven years in federal prison Tuesday.
Kaleb Cole, 26, grew up in Everett and later lived in Arlington. He became a leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, according to prosecutors. Cole and other members of the group were charged with threatening Jews, Black people and journalists in Washington and elsewhere.
“We are here today to affirm that those that commit hate crimes against anyone in our community will be held accountable,” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown told reporters after Tuesday’s sentencing. “We affirm that those who spread hate, those that intimidate, those that try to strike terror will be investigated, will be prosecuted and will be sent to prison.”
A U.S. District Court jury convicted Cole last September of five felony charges, including three counts of mailing threatening communications.
In November 2019, another Atomwaffen member, Cameron Shea, unknowingly contacted an FBI informant. He invited the agent to join an operation with the goal of threatening journalists by mailing posters to their homes. He wrote that he wanted to “erode the media/states air of legitimacy by showing people they have names and addresses, and hopefully embolden others to act as well,” according to court documents.
Then he instructed members what to do and selected the targets. He told Atomwaffen members the goal was to instill fear, according to federal prosecutors. To increase that fear, he encouraged members to put rag dolls with knives stuck through them on trees at victims’ houses.
As Cole was making plans in January 2020, the informant and an undercover agent visited him. During the meeting, Cole wore a Ku Klux Klan robe, according to court records.
The intimidation campaign began later that month.
An Atomwaffen member put a poster on the bedroom window of an Arizona journalist. The image showed a man in a skull mask holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a burning house. It included the target’s name and home address.
In Florida, two Atomwaffen members affixed a poster on a house they believed belonged to another journalist. It was the wrong home, prosecutors wrote in court papers.
A Seattle television reporter, Chris Ingalls of KING-TV, got a poster depicting people pointing guns at a journalist.
One of the other local targets was Miri Cypers, regional director of Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest. Speaking at Tuesday’s hearing, Cypers said she stayed at a hotel out of fear and installed a security system at her home. Another target said they also increased security after the threats.
“As a Jewish leader with family members who survived the Holocaust, I know what it means to be visited by your local Nazis,” Cypers said. “As a mom with two now young children, I saw this as a death threat. Although, the threat is still fear within me, it will not silence me and that is why I’m here today: to continue shining a bright light on hate and speaking out against the normalization of harassment and violence.”
Cole was arrested in February 2020 at his Texas residence. Cole had left Washington in late 2019 after being served with an Extreme Risk Protection Order, forcing him to surrender an arsenal of guns.
Federal prosecutors advocated for a sentence of 7¼ years for Cole. His defense attorneys pushed for three years. Judge John Coughenour leaned much closer to the prosecutors’ recommendation with the seven-year term.
“Mr. Cole’s crime is one based on hate — a generalized hate for others and a particular hate for any who threaten his worldview,” the judge said. “A view driven by entitlement and the discredited notion of a superior race.”
Cole declined to speak Tuesday.