A federal jury in Seattle convicted the purported leader of the violent neo-Nazi group the Atomwaffen Division on Wednesday for conspiring to threaten Jews, Black people and journalists in Washington and two other states.
Kaleb Cole, 25, was found guilty of five federal felonies including conspiracy, three counts of mailing threatening communications and one count of interfering with a federally protected activity.
The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half after a two-day trial before U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour.
Cole and three other purported members of Atomwaffen — German for “atomic weapon” — were charged by federal prosecutors last year for allegedly mounting a campaign of fear and intimidation against at least one Seattle television journalist and two local activists with the Anti-Defamation League, as well as activists and journalists in Florida and Arizona.
In January 2020, posters created by Cole containing swastikas, skulls and threats, such as “We know where you live” and “Death to Pigs,” were sent or glued to the homes of victims — primarily Jewish activists or journalists of color.
Aside from the Seattle-area journalist and ADL activists, the group also targeted a journalist in Tampa, but delivered the poster to the wrong address, prosecutors say. A poster also was glued to a bedroom window of a home in Phoenix where the editor of a Jewish lifestyle magazine lived.
During the two-day trial, some victims said that after receiving the posters, they’d moved out of their homes for a time, according to a Department of Justice news release. A journalist said she left her job, and another victim purchased a gun and took a firearms safety class. One woman said she began using a stick to open her mailbox because she feared what might be inside.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods told the jury that Cole “was not simply sending a message of hate, he was sending a statement of terror.”
Cole did not call any witnesses or testify on his own behalf, The Associated Press reported. His attorney, Chris Black, argued that the posters did not constitute threats.
“What we have here is a group of disillusioned young men who want to believe that they are engaged in some sort of propaganda war with journalists and organizations like the Anti-Defamation League,” Black said, according to the AP. “But they never engaged in violence. They never planned violence. And most importantly, they never intended to communicate an actual threat to commit violence.”
Cole is scheduled for sentencing in January. The charge of interference with a federally protected activity can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, while the charges of conspiracy and mailing a threatening communication are punishable by up to five years each.
His co-conspirators — Cameron Brandon Shea, 25, of Redmond; Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 21, of Spring Hill, Florida; and Johnny Roman Garza, 21, of Queen Creek, Arizona — previously had pleaded guilty and have been sentenced. Last month, Shea was sentenced to three years in prison.
Cole, who grew up in Everett and has family in Arlington, Snohomish County, also faces an additional charge of unlawful possession of a firearm in King County after he was arrested in February in Texas, where he had most recently lived. At the time, he was a passenger in a car driven by an alleged fellow Atomwaffen member that had an AK-47-style rifle in the trunk, along with ammunition, prosecutors allege.
That incident occurred after Seattle police seized five assault-style rifles, a sawed-off shotgun and three semi-automatic handguns from Cole’s home in 2019 as part of a “Red Flag” Extreme Risk Protection Order finding Cole posed an imminent risk to public safety.