Neo-Nazi receives 7 years in prison for threats against journalists and activists | Arizona News

By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) – A neo-Nazi who helped lead a campaign to threaten Jewish journalists and activists in three states was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years in federal prison – the longest jail term handed down to participants in the plot.

A jury convicted Kaleb Cole in September of five counts relating to delivering posters laden with swastikas to journalists and Anti-Defamation League employees in Washington, Arizona and Florida. in early 2020. The posters warned: “You have been visited by your local Nazis”, “Your actions have consequences” and “We are watching”.

Seattle US District Judge John C. Coughenour handed down the sentence after hearing victims talk about the lingering fear and expensive home security systems installed in response to the threats. Miri Cypers, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, described picking up toys in her yard before running off to a hotel so Cole and his supporters wouldn’t know she had a daughter.

US attorney Nick Brown credited the victims with facing Cole in court: “Their courage resulted in the federal prison sentence imposed today,” he said.

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The judge noted that Cole, 26, had attempted to operate under Internet anonymity, and that when reporters, including Chris Ingalls of Seattle KING-TV, denounced him, “He took great care to silence them with threats and intimidation “.

“To function as a democratic society, we need reliable and truthful journalism,” Coughenour said.

Unlike other convicts in this case, Cole expressed no remorse, which helped explain why his sentence was more than twice that of the other conspirator, Cameron Shea. Upon his conviction, Shea told the court, “I cannot express the guilt I feel about this fear and pain that I have caused. “

Cole, most recently from Montgomery, Texas, was the leader of a hate group called the Atomwaffen Division. He and four others have faced charges of conspiracy, sending threatening communications and obstructing federally protected activity. The posters included images such as a hooded figure preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail into a house and the words “Death to pigs” – the same message that followers of Charles Manson scribbled in the blood of victims during a home invasion murder.

Cole had been on law enforcement radar since at least 2018, when he was arrested at U.S. Customs upon returning from a trip to Europe. Authorities searched his cell phone and found photos of him posing at various sites, including at the gates of Auschwitz, or wearing a white supremacist flag and giving the Nazi salute.

Investigators said he became a leader of the Atomwaffen division after another leader was arrested for explosives.

In 2019, Seattle police obtained an “extreme risk protection order” against him, seizing nine firearms from his home. They said Cole had “gone from embracing hate to taking active action or preparing for an impending ‘race war’.”

These measures include organizing paramilitary-style “hate camps” in Nevada and Washington, investigators said.

After the guns seized, Cole moved to Texas, where he was found in a high-speed car with another member of Atomwaffen, some marijuana, and four firearms, including three assault rifles.

Cole’s grandmother, JoAnne Powell, pleaded clemency with the judge on Tuesday, insisting her grandson was a good man who made “bad decisions” and never intended to hurt anyone.

“Please do not look at him with hatred for his political views,” she said. “Kaleb is not a violent or mean person.”

Cole’s attorney, Christopher Black, insisted he wasn’t really a conspiratorial leader and that the threat campaign was Shea’s idea. He acknowledged that Cole created the posters and offered suggestions for carrying out the effort, but said other defendants had done similar work.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods disagreed, saying Cole stood out from the rest of the accused because of his lack of remorse. He denounced racism and religious intolerance, said it was “the great tragedy of this country, 250 years later, so many Americans have this feeling of unease”.

“It was his identity, his life’s work so far: hate, targeting people to instill terror,” Woods said. “And it worked.”

The other two accused were Johnny Roman Garza, of Queen Creek, Ariz., Who was sentenced to 16 months for putting one of the posters on the window of a Jewish journalist’s bedroom, and Taylor Parker-Dipeppe, of Spring. Hill, Fla., Who received no jail time for attempting to deliver a flyer but leaving it at the wrong address. Parker-Dipeppe was severely abused by his father and stepfather and withheld his transgender identity from his co-conspirators and the judge felt he had suffered enough.

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