US Woman Pleads Guilty in Neo-Nazi Plot to Attack Baltimore Power Grid

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Prosecutors say Clendaniel and her alleged co-conspirator plotted to blow up electricity substations, hoping to sow chaos and start a race war.

A Maryland woman accused of plotting with a neo-Nazi leader from Florida to destroy electrical installations in the Baltimore area pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to conspiracy and firearms charges.

Sarah Beth Clendaniel was arrested last year along with her alleged co-conspirator Brandon Russell, founder of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division.

Prosecutors say the pair plotted to blow up electricity substations, hoping to sow chaos and start a race war.

Clendaniel and Russell believed that sniper attacks on five electrical substations in greater Baltimore “would serve to break down society”, according to a court filing accompanying her guilty plea.

The 36-year-old was charged last year with Russell, who served five years in prison after pleading guilty to explosives charges that stemmed from a deadly shooting at an apartment that he shared with Atomwaffen’s other founder.

Clendaniel and Russell began exchanging letters around 2018 while they were serving prison sentences in different facilities. They developed a romantic relationship that continued after they were released from prison, the court filing says.

Clendaniel described their plot as “legendary” and said the attack “would completely destroy the whole city”.

However, they also discussed their plans with an FBI informant, leading to their arrests.

Clendaniel pleaded guilty to two counts: conspiracy to damage electrical facilities and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, while the gun charge is punishable by up to 15 years of imprisonment.

US district judge James Bredar is scheduled to sentence Clendaniel on September 3.

In a plea agreement, prosecutors said they would recommend that she serve a maximum of 18 years, which must be approved by a judge.

Russell, formerly a Florida National Guard member, is also charged with conspiracy to damage electrical facilities and is scheduled to go on trial in July.

The 28-year-old founded Atomwaffen Division, which has been linked to several murders, bombings, and plots in the United States and other countries.

Although experts say it is relatively small, the group has become known for its extreme violence. Members subscribe to a neo-Nazi version of “accelerationist” philosophy – the idea that political goals can be achieved through society’s collapse.

Neo-Nazi accelerationists believe that chaos will lead to racial war and eventually a fascist whites-only state will emerge. Investigators say they found a document belonging to Clendaniel that was apparently meant to be released publicly in the event of an attack, and which referenced mass murderers and Adolf Hitler.

Atomwaffen or its offshoots have been banned in Canada, Australia, and the UK.

Russell was sentenced to prison in 2018 after being convicted of explosives charges. Police found bomb-making equipment and guns while investigating the killing of two Atomwaffen members during an internal dispute. He was released in 2021.