Neo-Nazi who led effort to threaten journalists gets 3 years

SEATTLE (AP) — An organizer of a neo-Nazi campaign to threaten journalists and Jewish activists in three states was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison after apologizing for what he did and saying he’s a changed man.

“The defendant wanted the victims to feel unsafe in their own homes,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Shea, 25, pleaded guilty in April in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two of the counts in the five-count indictment: a conspiracy charge that carries up to five years in prison and interference with a federally protected activity, which carries up to 10. Prosecutors sought a term of more than four years.

In a letter to Judge John C. Coughenour, Shea apologized, saying, “I cannot put into words the guilt that I feel about this fear and pain that I caused.”

Shea wrote that he was homeless, struggling with addiction and dealing with a friend’s death when he began researching neo-Nazism. He said he has befriended detainees of other races while in custody and he now understands that journalists play a crucial role in holding institutions and individuals to account.

“The only reason I disliked the media was because I was partaking in things I didn’t want to be known to the public, because on some level I knew the things I was involved in were wrong,” he wrote.

Motivated by negative news coverage of the Atomwaffen Division, Shea made clear in a November 2019 group chat that the point of the plot was to intimidate journalists and others.

On Jan. 25, 2020, Shea mailed the threatening fliers to two people associated with the Anti-Defamation League, which opposes anti-Semitism, and to a news reporter who had covered Atomwaffen. Conspirators in Arizona and Florida delivered or attempted to deliver the fliers to targets there, as well.

The other defendant accused of leading the plot, Kaleb Cole, has pleaded not guilty and is due to face trial in September. Seattle police seized Cole’s guns in 2019 under an “extreme risk protection order” that suggested he was planning a race war.

More than a dozen people linked to Atomwaffen or an offshoot called Feuerkrieg Division have been charged with crimes in federal court since the group’s formation in 2016.

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.

Two other members of the flier conspiracy have been sentenced after pleading guilty: Johnny Roman Garza, 21, of Queen Creek, Arizona, who affixed one of the posters on the bedroom window of a Jewish journalist; and Taylor Parker-Dipeppe, 21, of Spring Hill, Florida, who attempted to deliver a flier but left it at the wrong address.

Garza was sentenced to 16 months in prison. Parker-Dipeppe, who was severely abused by his father and stepfather and hid his transgender identity from his co-conspirators, received no prison time — a judge found that he had suffered enough.
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