CONROE, Texas — A Conroe man tied to a neo-Nazi group has been sentenced to over three years in prison for leading nationwide swatting attacks against minorities, elected officials and journalists, according to the Justice Department.
“The reprehensible conduct in this case terrorized communities across our Nation," said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "As innocent Americans simply tried to attend school, practice their faith, and exercise their First Amendment rights."
Swatting is a criminal activity used in an effort to deceive emergency dispatchers someone is danger or a danger to those around them. All in an effort to send police and emergency services to the victim's home – leading to potentially deadly consequences.
Officials said 27-year-old John Cameron Denton has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, interstate threats to injure.
Authorities said Denton is a self-described white nationalist and leads the Atomwaffen Division in Texas – a violent neo-Nazi organization with ties to numerous hate crimes across the country.
Prosecutors said Denton targeted 134 different locations that "caused irreversible trauma to the victims of these hate-based crimes." Officials said Denton chose his targets carefully based on racial, religious or ideological hate during lasting between October 2018 and February 2019.
"Denton’s swatting activities were not harmless pranks," said Timothy Thibault, acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division."He carefully chose his targets to antagonize and harass religious and racial communities, journalists, and others against whom he held a bias or grievance."
Court records show Denton disclosed to undercover federal officers his role in swatting the New York City office of ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom specializing in investigative journalism.
Officers said Denton bragged about swatting the newsroom, as he considered the crime "top-tier." Also, he said any arrest for swatting would bring more publicity to the white supremacist organization.
Atomwaffen Division has been linked to several killings, including the shooting deaths of two men Tampa, Florida in May 2018, and the January 2018 killing of a college student in California.
"This case sends an unmistakable message," Parekh said. "Those who target individuals because of their race, religion, or any other form of bias, will be identified, apprehended, and brought to justice.”