Neo-Nazi and woman charged with conspiring to attack Maryland power grid

Brandon Russell is seen in this mugshot from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office via AP

An admitted neo-Nazi and a Maryland woman were arrested and charged with plotting to attack several electrical substations in the Baltimore area, federal authorities announced Monday.

Prosecutors said the admitted neo-Nazi, Brandon Clint Russell, 27, and 34-year-old Sarah Beth Clendaniel conspired to commit the attacks “in furtherance of Russell’s racially or ethnically motivated extremist beliefs.”

Russell is currently on supervised release after a federal conviction related to possessing an unregistered destructive device, which occurred after a former roommate told authorities that Russell’s neo-Nazi group was planning to attack electrical and nuclear power infrastructure in Florida.

Clendaniel allegedly boasted that if the electrical substations were all attacked on the same day, it “would completely destroy this whole city,” according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint against her and Russell.

A “good four or five shots through the center of them,” Clendaniel allegedly stated, according to the complaint.

A woman believed to be Sarah Beth Clendaniel in a DOJ document

Source: DOJ

Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron in a statement said, “This planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark.”

“We are united and committed to using every legal means necessary to disrupt violence, including hate-fueled attacks,” Barron said.

Russell, who lives in Orlando, Florida, is due to appear in federal court in that city on the charges Monday afternoon.

Clendaniel, a resident of Catonsville, Maryland, is due to appear in Baltimore federal court on Monday afternoon.

Both defendants are charged with conspiring to destroy an energy facility. They face a maximum possible prison sentence of 20 years if convicted.

Russell had previously admitted to police in May 2017 to having started a local National Socialist group in Tampa, Florida, called the “Atomwaffen,” which included three of his roommates in that city, according to the criminal complaint.

That interview was conducted after Devon Arthurs, a roommate of Russell’s in Tampa, killed their two other roommates, the complaint said. Arthurs last year was ruled competent to stand trial in the killings. He remains held without bond in a Florida jail.

Arthurs told law enforcement authorities at the time “that he had recently converted from Neo-Nazi beliefs to Islam,” the complaint said. “Arthurs stated that he murdered his roommates because they bullied him over being a Muslim.”

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Arthurs also told authorities that “Russell was the leader of the Neo-Nazi group to which he and his roommates had belonged,” the complaint said.

“Arthurs stated that, before he killed his roommates, they had been planning to attack U.S. infrastructure, to include power lines along ‘Alligator Alley’ (a nickname for the part of Interstate 75 that crosses South Florida) as well as a Florida nuclear power plant.”

During the investigation of the killings, authorities found neo-Nazi paraphernalia, a picture of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and “the highly explosive hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (“HMTD”) and, among other items, numerous explosive precursors that belonged to Russell,” according to the complaint.

Russell pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered destructive device and improper storage of explosive materials, the complaint noted. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Clendaniel has a criminal history that includes a conviction for felony robbery, the complaint said.

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