The purported leader of the violent neo-Nazi group the Atomwaffen Division was sentenced to seven years in federal prison Tuesday for conspiring to threaten Jews, Black people and journalists in Washington and two other states.

Kaleb Cole, 25, was convicted in September of five federal felonies, including conspiracy, three counts of mailing threatening communications and one count of interfering with a federally protected activity.

Cole, who claimed to be a political prisoner and remained unapologetic for his actions, was described by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods as a man who had a talent to “instill terror” in others. “That is who he is,” Woods said.

Woods said Cole had “embraced and promoted” the idea of a “race war at home.” His hatred and targeting of journalists, the prosecutor added, was an “assault on the fabric of our society.”

U.S., District Judge John Coughenour, who presided over Cole’s trial last September, said the seven-year sentence — just three months shy of the maximum recommended by sentencing guidelines — was justified because of Cole’s adherence to a philosophy of hate and white supremacy aimed at Jews and members of the media.

“I find Mr. Cole’s clear and unequivocal hate of members of the Jewish faith to be particularly odious,” the judge said, stating that had the Nazis succeeded in their attempts to exterminate Jews the world would not have benefited from the talents of people such as physicist Albert Einstein, astronomer Carl Sagan, jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg and actor Paul Newman — “Yes, Paul Newman,” he reiterated.


Cole’s attempt to intimidate members of the media, including KING 5 investigative reporter Chris Ingalls, was an attack on the “true heroes of our nation and the world,” the judge said.

Cole and three other purported members of Atomwaffen — German for “atomic weapon” — were charged by federal prosecutors last year for 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.

The other members of the conspiracy, Johnny Garza, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe and Cameron Brandon Shea, all pleaded guilty and were apologetic about their actions. Cole, however, took his case to trial and remained defiant in his beliefs, Woods said.

Several victims of the Atomwaffen terror campaign spoke at the sentencing and urged Coughenour to impose a maximum sentence. Miri Cypers, the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said she received a frightening poster in the mail with a depiction of a skeleton figure throwing a Molotov cocktail at her house.

“It felt deeply personal,” she said, adding that she and her family moved out of their home for a period. “We were constantly looking over our shoulders.”

Ingalls said he was targeted after he performed one of the most fundamental tasks of a journalist: He went to Cole’s home in an attempt “to get his side of the story.”


Speaking on Cole’s behalf was his grandmother, JoAnne Powell of Phoenix, Arizona, who told the court that “Kaleb is not the person (he) has been presented to be,” adding that “he has never been a violent person.”   

“Did he make some mistakes? Yes,” she said. “But he was not going to hurt anyone. He’s not a person you need to be worried about.”

After the hearing, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown told reporters that “Kaleb Cole helped lead a violent, nationwide neo-Nazi group. He repeatedly promoted violence, stockpiled weapons, and organized ‘hate camps.’”

“Today the community and those Mr. Cole and his co-conspirators targeted stand up to say hate has no place here,” Brown said.

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 Ingalls 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 in federal court in Seattle, 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.

Cole did not call any witnesses or testify on his own behalf during his trial, The Associated Press reported. His attorney, Chris Black, argued that the posters did not constitute threats.

Cole, who grew up in Everett and has family in nearby Arlington, 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.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.