A member of a Neo-Nazi group who sought to threaten journalists and activists, especially Jews and minorities, was sentenced to more than a year in prison Wednesday, authorities said.
Johnny Roman Garza, 21, of Arizona, is the first of four alleged members of “Atomwaffen Division” who were arrested in four states this year and charged in a plot to send threatening posters, to be sentenced.
He pleaded guilty in September to a federal conspiracy charge and was sentenced to 16 months in prison as well as three years of supervised release, the Justice Department said.
Garza in January went to the Arizona home of the editor of a local Jewish publication and glued a poster to his bedroom window, according to prosecutors.
The poster had the editor’s name and address and read in part “Your actions have consequences. Our patience has its limits” and “You have been visited by your local Nazis.”
Garza was not the mastermind of the plot but embraced it, Brian T. Moran, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in a statement.
Ultimately, in the dark of night, he delivered a hateful, threatening poster spreading fear and anxiety. Such conduct has no place in our community,” Moran said.
Garza has since disavowed his views, has gotten counseling and sought to contact groups like the Anti-Defamation League about putting together a program to help keep others from being recruited, his attorney said in court documents.
He told U.S. District Judge John Coughenour on Wednesday that he was in a time of darkness and isolation.”
“Very unfortunately, I fell in with the worst crowd you can probably fall in with, a very self-destructive crowd at the least, Garza told the judge, according to The Associated Press.
The effort was led by two others who have also been charged: Cameron Brandon Shea of Washington state, who allegedly came up with the idea; and Kaleb Cole, the alleged leader of a Washington Atomwaffen Division group who helped create the posters, according to a criminal complaint.
Shea and Cole are set to go on trial in March. A fourth person, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 21, of Tampa, Florida, has pleaded guilty, and sentencing is scheduled for February.
Before putting the poster up at the editor’s house, Garza had sought to put a poster up at the Phoenix apartment complex where a member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists lived, but couldnt find a good spot to place it and left, he admitted in a plea agreement.
Coughenour, the judge, on Wednesday did not mention President Donald Trump by name but said it has been troubling to see officials at the highest levels of our government” refer to journalists as enemies of the people,” the AP reported.
Referring to journalism and the press and media as fake news enables people who are vulnerable to suggestions like this, very young people … that this kind of conduct is appropriate, he said.