Florida neo-Nazi leader set to be sentenced: Atomwaffen founder Brandon Russel, exposed when friend killed two roommates, faces up to 11 years in prison after police found explosive material in apartment https://t.co/02nl060Mma TimesofIsrael pic.twitter.com/Ie2mMEQfWP— Jewish Community (@JComm_BlogFeeds) January 9, 2018
A former Florida National Guard member, who was arrested in May 2017 for possessing bomb-making materials, has been sentenced to five years in prison. Yet, it seems nobody remembers Brandon Russell, 22, because at the time, there was hardly any coverage on his story.
There is hardly any coverage now for that matter, even though he has been convicted.
Brandon Russell was one of two Atomwaffen (German for atomic weapon) members who co-habited an apartment in Tampa, Florida. Police found Russell’s stash of explosive materials after his roommate, Devon Arthurs — who mysteriously converted to an extreme sect of Islam — killed two other neo-Nazi friends after they made fun of his newfound religion.
Russell was found crying outside the apartment. The then 21-year-old was not charged in the killings and Arthurs insisted he was not involved in the murders. However, when detectives checked their room, they found a stash of highly volatile materials in the apartment as well as neo-Nazi propaganda material, including signs, posters, flags books like "Mein Kampf" and a picture of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
After his trial began, prosecutors found Russell planned to bomb nuclear plants and synagogues. In fact, just a day before his sentencing, Russell remained unwilling to denounce his radical ideas, despite spending more than six months in jail.
Prosecutors also found bomb-making diagrams, which indicated Russell planned to share his explosive device-making knowledge among other people.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Russell was remorseful and took responsibility for “possessing an unregistered destructive device and unlawfully storing of explosive materials.”
Prosecutors asked for an 11-year sentence for Russell, a bit more than federal guidelines call for. They argued Russell’s behavior after his friends were killed and before he was arrested (he went to another Atomwaffen member’s house, purchased firearm and then drove to South Florida) signaled his inclination toward violence.
Defense attorney Ian Goldstein said his client was traumatized by the killings of his roommates and suffered mental health problems. He also tried to reason although the man had bomb-making materials, he never planned to use them.
“Put him in jail for 11 years and he’s going to get out and be a young, angry, untreated man,” he said, suggesting the judge sentence him to two-and-a-half years in prison. “The longer sentence you impose, the worse outcome you’ll have. He’ll be in prison with other people who believe the same things.”
However, prosecutors insisted he should be jailed for 11 years “solely because of the things he believes.”
After four-hours of deliberation, a federal judge in Tampa ruled five years of jail for Russell, saying she was concerned for the public’s safety but at the same time hoped the 22-year-old did not fall in with the wrong sort of people in prison — which is kind of ironic because Russell has already proved he is not the right sort of person.
“It’s a difficult case,” said U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew to him. “You seem like a very smart young man.”
The judge’s sympathetic comments were the icing on the cake. Russell’s attorney insisted he should have been treated with leniency because he had never been accused of a crime before — however, that justification in itself is absurd. Russell’s family and friend call him a person with a “good heart” but gullible. In essence, no one, except the prosecutors, is willing to call out Russell on the fact he is a hate-mongering neo-Nazi found with explosives and firearm.
Russell is an adult who should not be excused for his crimes, less so with these petty justifications.
Even now that the young man has been prosecuted, no one is paying attention to his case — as if hate-mongering sentiments coming from explosives-owning white supremacists is not a threat to public safety. It only becomes so when a terrible tragedy occurs and even then, it is forgotten much too soon.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Pinellas County Sheriff's Office