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

Another man, Kaleb Cole, whose weapons were seized in Arlington, is due to face trial in September.

This undated photo shows John Cameron Denton, founder and former leader of a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division. (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

This undated photo shows John Cameron Denton, founder and former leader of a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division. (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Federal prosecutors in Virginia are seeking a five-year prison sentence 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 African American church, a sitting U.S. Cabinet member and journalists.

John Cameron Denton, of Montgomery, Texas, and others involved in the plot made at least 134 threats to injure people and institutions, often for racist reasons, Justice Department prosecutors wrote in a court filing last Wednesday. They said Denton participated in “the most far-reaching swatting conspiracy in our nation to date,” referring to hoax calls made to fool emergency dispatchers into sending police to the addresses of unsuspecting victims.

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady is scheduled 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 Atomwaffen Division. More than a dozen people linked to Atomwaffen Division or an offshoot called Feuerkrieg Division have been charged with federal crimes since the group’s formation in 2016. Many have pleaded guilty and been sentenced already.

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

The charges against Denton and other Atomaffen members and associates centered on hoax “swatting” calls that they made to targets in 2018 and 2019, including the 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 has noted that the U.S. Secret Service waved local police away from mobilizing to Nielsen’s home in Alexandria in January 2019 after a member of the conspiracy called, claiming hostages were being taken there.

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

Prosecutors’ filing says the reporter’s young son has nightmares about neo-Nazis kidnapping his family and murdering his father, and the experience has prompted the Mexican American boy to ask, “Why do Nazis hate brown people like me?”

“It is simply heartbreaking that a young child is asking such questions and has been forced to flee his home with his parents because of fear of being violently attacked,” they wrote.

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

“The conspirators also targeted individuals streaming live videos because the conspirators hoped to observe law enforcement responding 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 making the swatting calls.

When Denton was arrested in February 2020, prosecutors in Seattle also announced charges against Denton’s roommate, Kaleb Cole, whose weapons were seized in Arlington, Washington in 2019 and others in a separate plot to harass journalists and Jewish activists in three states. Cole has pleaded not guilty and is due to face 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 ranging from 51 to 60 months. The judge isn’t bound by those recommendations.

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

Talk to us

More in Northwest

President Joe Biden holds up a map of wildfires in Washington state as he speaks with governors about ongoing efforts to strengthen wildfire prevention, preparedness and response efforts, and hear firsthand about the ongoing impacts of the 2021 wildfire season in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Campus in Washington, Friday, July 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Biden sees shortages to stop climate-change fueled wildfires

The president credited Gov. Jay Inslee with convincing people “there is a thing called climate crisis.”

COVID-19 contact tracers make phone calls and log potential exposures at the Umatilla County Public Health center in Pendleton, Ore., on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. In tiny Umatilla County in northeastern Oregon, contact tracers work out of a converted jail to try to stem the spread of COVID-19 as new cases surge in the rural West and elsewhere. (AP Photo/Ben Lonergan)
COVID-19 surge straining Eastern Oregon hospitals

Umatilla County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Oregon, according to the CDC.

Rat
A brief history of rats in the Puget Sound region

The adaptable scavengers can sustain themselves by exploiting the sloppy habits of people.

A magnitude 8.2 earthquake hit near the Alaska Peninsula, west of Kodiak. (U.S. Geological Survey)
Tsunami watch issued for Hawaii after 8.2M quake hits Alaska

The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor hit 56 miles east southeast of Perryville, Alaska.

Madroneagle (Wally Gudgell/Windermere)
Oprah Winfrey sells her Orcas Island estate for $14 million

The estate known as Madroneagle overlooks the East Sound and includes a four-bedroom, five-bath home.

King County Executive Dow Constantine signs an order July 28 to restart inquests into deaths that involved police officers. COURTESY PHOTO, King County
King County to restart inquests into killings by police

The cases include shootings by Kent, Auburn, Federal Way and Kirkland officers.

In this Sept. 2017, photo made with a drone, a young resident killer whale chases a chinook salmon in the Salish Sea near San Juan Island, Wash. The photo, made under a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) permit, which gives researchers permission to approach the animals, was made in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries/Southwest Fisheries Science Center, SR3 Sealife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research and the Vancouver Aquarium's Coastal Ocean Research Institute. Endangered Puget Sound orcas that feed on chinook salmon face more competition from seals, sea lions and other killer whales than from commercial and recreational fishermen, a new study finds. (John Durban/NOAA Fisheries/Southwest Fisheries Science Center via AP)
Where are the orcas? Looking for food, researchers say

The endangered Southern Resident whales have been seen only one day in the Salish Sea this season.

Starting Jan. 1, 2025, people who need assistance with at least three “activities of daily living” can tap into the WA Cares Fund to pay for things like in-home care, home modifications and rides to the doctor. (Washington State Department of Social & Health Services)
Deadline coming on long-term care: private or state plan?

Washington workers will pay a premium of 0.58% of total pay per paycheck.

Detectives are investigating after a man was shot and killed Sunday night outside an apartment building in Seattle's Lake City neighborhood. (Seattle Police Department)
Spate of shootings across Seattle kill 4 in 24-hour period

More than 200 people in King County have been killed or wounded by gunfire so far this year.

Deception Pass Bridge (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News file)
Suicides from Deception Pass Bridge renew calls for barriers

Meanwhile, an emergency phone that calls 911 was installed on the west side of the bridge in 2018.

Officials in Pierce, Snohomish, King, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan and Grays Harbor counties are recommending mask-wearing in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccine status. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Snohomish, other Washington counties recommend masks indoors

A surge in COVID-19 cases triggered the statement by health officials throughout the state.

FILE--In this July 19, 2010, file photo, the Columbia River Gorge and Crown Point, at right, are visible from Chanticleer Point near Corbett, Ore. The fast-moving wildfire chewing through Oregon's Columbia River Gorge is threatening more than homes and people. It's also devouring the heart of the state's nature-loving identity.(AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)
Proposal to lay cables under Columbia met with skepticism

Developers say the cables could deliver “clean” energy that will reduce dependence on fossil fuels.