A federal judge granted bail to a 21-year-old white supremacist, suspected of attempting to make a bomb — despite the fact prosecutors believed there was enough evidence to keep the man behind bars.
Brandon Russell was taken into custody after his roommate, Devon Arthurs, a former neo-Nazi who “converted to Islam,” admitted killing two other roommates who were reportedly white nationalists. Arthurs then pointed the police toward Russell, claiming he posted on white supremacist websites and threatened to kill people and blow up places.
Police discovered guns and ammunition in Russell’s bedroom as well as a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on his dresser. According to court documents, the suspect was also in possession of an explosive known as HTMD (hexamethylene triperoxide diamine), which he had stored in his garage.
Russell told investigators he used HTMD and the bomb making devices during an engineering project at the University of South Florida in 2013 and the explosive were meant to boost homemade rockets and send balloons into air for testing. However, authorities believe the chemicals in his possession were too powerful for those types of uses.
Russell also admitted he was part of a white nationalist group called Atomwaffen, German for “atomic weapon,” which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
After he talked to detectives, Russell went to a gun store in Homestead, Florida, and bought two hunting rifles along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He was later arrested.
Prosecutors believe this was reason enough to keep Russell detained until his trial on federal charges, which were possession of an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material.
However, the judge presiding over his case disagrees.
On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun III of a federal district court in Tampa said the possession of firearms and ammo was concerning but not enough to deny Russell bail. He also said that the suspect did not have any prior criminal record and was a member of the Florida National Guard, so he is allowed to stay with his relatives while he awaits trial.
He also said there was no evidence Russell ever planned to use the explosives and he did not feel there was “clear and convincing evidence” that the man was a threat to the community.
It is not yet clear what the conditions for Russell’s release were. However, if he were a Muslim or a person of color, he would certainly have received a much harsher treatment.
And Brandon Russell had a bomb, but he's alive and free on bail. https://t.co/Ws5lBrdKQ2— Patrick (@TrickFreee) June 12, 2017