Neo-Nazi Member Gets 16-Month Prison Sentence as Judge Believes 'He Is Remorseful,' According to Report
A 21-year-old Arizona man and member of a neo-Nazi group was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison for reportedly terrorizing journalists with targeted propaganda on both U.S. coasts, said prosecutors.
A 21-year-old Arizona man and member of a neo-Nazi group was sentenced to 16-months in federal prison for reportedly terrorizing journalists with targeted propaganda, said prosecutors. Johnny Roman Garza, 21, expressed remorse before a federal judge in Seattle when he was sentenced on Wednesday.
Garza pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to mail threatening communications and commit cyberstalking. He received roughly half the length of the term recommended by prosecutors and a probation officer, CBS News reported.
At the sentencing, Garza told U.S. District Judge John Coughenour that he was "in a time of darkness and isolation" that made it easier for "rebellious and resentful" influences to take hold of his life.
”Very unfortunately, I fell in with the worst crowd you can probably fall in with, a very self-destructive crowd at the least," he said.
In September, Garza pleaded guilty to conspiring with three other members of a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division to "threaten journalists and activists, particularly Jews and other minorities, with the intent to cause fear and bodily harm, harass, intimidate, and retaliate against unfavorable reporting," according to a criminal complaint obtained by CBS. The complaint alleges that all the posters included the target’s personal information, including their home address.
Garza, one of the four defendants “voted to accelerate the collapse of civilization using violence, mass murder, hate, and threat,” said US Attorney Brian T. Moran for the Western District of Washington said at a press conference announcing the arrests in February.
One of their threats targeted a Jewish journalist's bedroom window, according to authorities. Garza affixed a poster that had the victim’s name and address and depicted a man in a skull mask holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a burning home with the words: "Your actions have consequences. Our patience has its limits... You have been visited by your local Nazis,” CBS affiliate KPHO reported.
In Phoenix, a poster was allegedly sent to a member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists. Garza told the judge that he wasn’t able to leave the poster behind since he had nowhere to leave it. And in one case, a member tried to deliver a poster to a journalist in Florida, but had the wrong address, CBS reported.
In a court filing prosecutors wrote: "In Garza's words, the plot was designed to 'have them all wake up one morning and find themselves terrorized by targeted propaganda.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Atomwaffen originated out of a white supremacist forum comprised of an online group and small, localized cells. The name, Atomwaffen, is German for the term “atomic weapons.” Since 2016, more than a dozen people linked to Atomwaffen, or an offshoot called Feuerkrieg Divison, have been charged with crimes in federal court, according to the ADL.
In February, the FBI declared these racially-motivated violent extremists in the U.S. a "national threat priority" for 2020, placing them on the same level as threats posed to the country by foreign terrorist organizations, such as ISIS.
Defense attorney Seth Apfel said the case tested him personally because he is Jewish, married to a Black woman, and has been a victim of anti-Semitism. He said Garza has made a "complete and sincere change" in his life, CBS reported.
Apfel urged the judge to spare Garza from prison. Coughenour, however, ruled out a sentence of probation and said he wanted to avoid possible disparities in the punishment that Garza's co-defendants could face.
"If I were to give him straight probation, it would make it very difficult to deal with the other persons appropriately," Coughenour said.
The judge said he believed Garza is genuinely remorseful and factored in his youth and "turbulent childhood" into his decision to depart from sentencing guidelines that recommended 33 months, CBS reported.
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