A 21-year-old Arizona man who pleaded guilty to helping a neo-Nazi group threaten and intimidate journalists was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison on Wednesday.
The man, Johnny Roman Garza of Queen Creek, Ariz., Was among a handful of people linked to a violent paramilitary neo-Nazi group, the Atomwaffen Division, who were arrested in February, prosecutors in Virginia and the United Kingdom said. Washington State.
Brian T. Moran, the US attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in a statement that Garza had not proposed the program but “enthusiastically embraced” it.
Mr Garza, who pleaded guilty in September to a conspiracy charge in the case, admitted that he researched home addresses for potential targets and that in January he put a threatening poster on the window of the room of a publisher of a Jewish publication in Arizona. . The poster showed a hooded skeleton holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a burning house, with the words “Your actions have consequences” and “Our patience has its limits,” according to court documents.
The poster also included personal information about the publisher, prosecutors said.
The case was handled in the Western District of Washington because an accused was there when he led the conspiracy, a prosecutor spokeswoman said.
Mr. Garza appeared via Zoom from Arizona on Wednesday on charges of being convicted by a judge at the Seattle Federal Courthouse. He also admitted that he tried in January to put up a similar poster at an apartment complex in Phoenix where a member of the Arizona Black Journalists Association lived, but that he did not could find a place to post it.
Others at Atomwaffen have targeted a broadcasting reporter in Seattle who had reported on Atomwaffen and two people associated with the Anti-Defamation League, officials said. The New York Times earlier reported that Kirstjen Nielsen, who at the time was Secretary of Homeland Security, was also among the targets.
Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement that the organization was “happy that Garza is being punished for his anti-Semitic and hateful threats,” but also said it came in the middle of a wave rising. of the violence of white supremacists.
Seth M. Apfel, an attorney for Mr. Garza, said in an interview Wednesday that his client, who will be on probation for three years upon his release from prison, was working to give up this life of hate.
Mr. Garza “has gone from those views” to “completely embracing the exact opposite point of view,” his lawyer said.
“The light bulb started to go out when he was taken into custody,” Apfel said.
Mr Garza, who will report to authorities on a date to be determined to begin his sentence, has already moved away from his former associates, Mr Apfel said. Mr. Garza has attended classes to learn more about black and Jewish culture and is keen to work with authorities and activists to prevent others from being drawn into hate groups, Mr. Apfel said.
“Certainly, in my opinion, his transformation has been very sincere,” Mr. Apfel said. “And I say this not only as a lawyer, but also as a Jewish man married to a black woman.
Mr. Garza is the first accused in the case to be convicted. Another defendant who pleaded guilty in September is expected to be sentenced in February; two more people who officials say lead the group, Kaleb Cole and Cameron Brandon Shea, are set to stand trial in March.