Arizona Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Neo-Nazi Plot to Target Journalists and Activists

Arizona Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Neo-Nazi Plot to Target Journalists and Activists
File photo showing FBI Special Agent Raymond Duda speaking at a news conference about charges against members of Atomwaffen Division, in Seattle, Wash. on Dec. 9, 2020. (Ted S. Warren/AP Photo, File)
Tom Ozimek

An Arizona man has been sentenced to 16 months behind bars, followed by three years of supervised release, for his role in a plot by a Neo-Nazi group to threaten and harass journalists and advocates who expose anti-Semitism, the Justice Department said.

Johnny Roman Garza, a 21-year-old member of Atomwaffen Division, which the Department of Justice (DOJ), the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (pdf), and other organizations identify as a Neo-Nazi group, was sentenced on Dec. 9 for his role in the plot, DOJ said a statement.

Garza earlier pleaded guilty to conspiring with other members of Atomwaffen Division to commit three federal offenses: interference with federally-protected activities because of religion, mailing threatening communications, and cyberstalking, the DOJ said.

In his plea agreement, Garza admitted to conspiring to identify journalists and advocates and then to threaten them in retaliation for their work in exposing anti-Semitism. The actions that the Justice Department said Garza admitted to included affixing a poster on a Jewish journalist’s bedroom window that depicted a man in a skull mask holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a burning home. The poster included the journalist’s name and home address, and featured the warning, “Your actions have consequences. Our patience has its limits ... You have been visited by your local Nazis.”

Garza is one of four men indicted in February 2020 for their plot to deliver threatening posters to journalists and advocates for minority groups. Members of Atomwaffen Division focused their efforts mostly on journalists and advocates who were Jewish or people of color, the Justice Department said.

“While this defendant did not hatch this disturbing plot, he enthusiastically embraced it, researching addresses for journalists and those who oppose hate in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, in a statement. “Ultimately in the dark of night he delivered a hateful, threatening poster—spreading fear and anxiety. Such conduct has no place in our community.”

At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour noted that since his guilty plea, Garza had tried to educate himself about the minority groups he targeted with hate to try to undo some of the harm he inflicted, according to a separate statement by DOJ.

Garza told a judge he joined the group at a time of “darkness and isolation” in his life and that he “fell in with the worst crowd you could fall in with.”

Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty in September to a related charge and is scheduled to be sentenced in February, DOJ said.

The two leaders of the conspiracy, Kaleb Cole and Cameron Brandon Shea, are scheduled for trial in March, according to the Justice Department.