Seattle (STL.News) A 21-year-old Arizona man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 16 months in prison for his role in a plot to deliver threatening posters to journalists and advocates, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. JOHNNY ROMAN GARZA pleaded guilty September 8, 2020, to conspiracy to mail threatening communications, to commit stalking, and to interfere with federally protected activities. GARZA is one of four men indicted in February 2020 for their plot to deliver threatening posters to journalists and advocates for minority groups.
At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour observed that since his guilty plea, GARZA had attempted to educate himself about the minority groups he targeted with hate and work to undo some of the harm he inflicted. In imposing the sentence Judge Coughenour noted the “critically important role that the press has in informing the public.” Prison time was necessary the judge said, “given the severity of this conduct and the horrible impact it had on people that are important in our society.”
“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 Moran. “Ultimately in the dark of night he delivered a hateful, threatening poster — spreading fear and anxiety. Such conduct has no place in our community.”
“The United States and other nations fought a global war to rid the world of murderous threats and violence by Nazis. The nation and its allies defeated Nazi Germany, but Nazi-inspired threats and violence continue to plague this nation and others 75 years after the end of World War II. The defendant threatened a Jewish journalist and conspired to intimidate journalists and advocates who worked to expose anti-Semitism around the country,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “Threats motivated by religious intolerance are unacceptable, and so too are threats aimed at those who work to end such discrimination. The Justice Department will continue the fight against neo-Nazi-related threats and violence and is committed fully to investigating and prosecuting anyone who commits hate crimes.”
In his plea agreement, GARZA admitted that he conspired with the other defendants via an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and advocates to threaten in retaliation for the victims’ work exposing anti-Semitism. The group focused primarily on journalists and advocates who were Jewish or people of color.
In a message to the other co-defendants, GARZA explained that the plot was designed to “have them all wake up one morning and find themselves terrorized by targeted propaganda.” On the night of January 25, 2020, GARZA placed a poster on the bedroom window of a prominent Jewish journalist that depicted a figure in a skull mask holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a burning home. The poster contained the victim’s name and address and warned, “Your actions have consequences. Our patience has its limits . . . You have been visited by your local Nazis.”
“Protecting our communities from terrorism, both domestic and international, is a top priority for the FBI,” said FBI Seattle Acting Special Agent in Charge Earl Camp. “Mr. Garza, along with his conspirators, targeted and intimidated journalists from minority groups with communications threatening violence. We are proud of the collaborative nationwide efforts of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces and other law enforcement partners to hold these individuals accountable for their actions.”
GARZA told Judge Coughenour that he had joined the conspiracy at a time of “darkness and isolation.” He said he “fell in with the worst crowd you could fall in with.” GARZA says the consequences of his actions have made him a changed person.
Defendant Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 21, of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty in September 2020 and is scheduled for sentencing on February 24, 2021. The two leaders of the conspiracy, Kaleb Cole and Cameron Brandon Shea, are scheduled for trial on March 22, 2021.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Tampa, Seattle, Houston, and Phoenix, with assistance from the Seattle Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Woods and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Michael J. Songer, with assistance from National Security Division Trial Attorney David Smith and U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Middle District of Florida, Southern District of Texas, District of Arizona, and Central District of California.