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SEATTLE – An Arizona man was sentenced last week to 16 months in federal prison for his role in a coordinated campaign by the “Atomwaffen” neo-Nazi group to harass and threaten Black and Jewish journalists.

Johnny Roman Garza, 21, of Queen Creek, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to mail threatening communications, to commit stalking and to interfere with federally protected activities, federal prosecutors said.

Garza was one of four men indicted in February by prosecutors in Washington state. According to Brian T. Moran, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, the men plotted to deliver threatening posters to journalists and advocates for minority groups.

Garza showed remorse for his actions during his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. He told U.S. District Judge John Coughenour that “in a time of darkness and isolation,” it was easier for “rebellious and resentful” influences to take hold.

“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 AP.

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Coughenour said he believed Garza is truly remorseful. He noted that since his guilty plea, Garza has “attempted to educate himself about the minority groups he targeted with hate, and work(ed) to undo some of the harm he inflicted,” prosecutors said in a news release.

The judge also noted, however, the “critically important role that the press has in informing the public.”

Coughenour said prison time was necessary “given the severity of this conduct and the horrible impact it had on people that are important in our society.”

Carlos Martinez de la Serna, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, lauded the prison sentence.

“We welcome the sentencing of Johnny Roman Garza, who pleaded guilty to helping a neo-Nazi group threaten journalists,” he said in a statement. “Trying to silence members of the media through intimidation is abhorrent. We are heartened to see accountability in this case.”

Though he didn’t mention President Donald Trump by name, Coughenour said it is troubling to see officials at “the highest levels of our government” refer to journalists as “enemies of the people.”

“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,” the judge said, according to the AP.

In his plea deal, Garza admitted conspiring with the other defendants through an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and advocates to threaten in retaliation for the victims’ work exposing anti-Semitism.

“The group focused primarily on journalists and advocates who were Jewish or people of color,” prosecutors said in the release.

In one message to his co-defendants, Garza explained that the plot was designed to “have them all wake up one morning and find themselves terrorized by targeted propaganda.”

One poster, included in federal court records, contained swastikas, the figure of a man wearing press credentials and anonymous figures behind him holding weapons.

On the wall behind them are the words, “Death to Pigs.” The scrawl appears identical to the words, written in a victim’s blood, that were left at the scene of one of the infamous murders committed by followers of Charles Manson.

Manson is among the people who serve as influences for Atomwaffen Division members.

On Jan. 25, Garza placed a poster on the bedroom window of a prominent Jewish journalist. The image “depicted a figure in a skull mask holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a burning home.”

The poster contained a message.

“Your actions have consequences. Our patience has its limits,” it read. “You have been visited by your local Nazis.”

The poster had the editor’s personal information, prosecutors said.

Arizona man gets prison time for neo-Nazi campaign against Black, Jewish journalists

A group of alleged members of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division were charged in February 2020 for mailing threatening communications, including these posters, to journalists in several cities. Johnny Roman Garza, 21, of Queen Creek, Ariz., was sentenced Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, to 16 months in federal prison for his role in the group’s campaign of harassment and threats.

The AP reported that, on that same day, Garza stopped by the Phoenix apartment complex where a member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists lived. He tried, but couldn’t find a place to hang a similar poster.

More than a dozen people linked to Atomwaffen, or an offshoot called Feuerkried Division, have faced federal charges since the group began in 2016. According to the AP, the group has been linked to killings in Tampa, Florida, and in California.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Atomwaffen Division as a “series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse.”

“Members, who can be fairly described as accelerationists, believe that violence, depravity and degeneracy are the only sure way to establish order in their dystopian and apocalyptic vision of the world,” the SPLC website states.

Along with Manson, the group counts among its influences James Mason, Joseph Tommasi and William Pierce. According to the SPLC, Pierce was “America’s most important neo-Nazi for some three decades until his death in 2002.”

Mason is a prominent Denver-based neo-Nazi and Tommasi, who died in 1975, was the founder of the National Socialist Liberation Front, which advocated armed warfare against the U.S. government and its alleged “Jewish power structure.”

Read the federal criminal complaint against the group below.

Federal Criminal Complaint Shea Et Al by National Content Desk on Scribd

“While this defendant did not hatch this disturbing plot, he enthusiastically embraced it, researching addresses for journalists and those who oppose hate in our communities,” Moran said. “Ultimately, in the dark of night he delivered a hateful, threatening poster, spreading fear and anxiety. Such conduct has no place in our community.”

Margaret Huang, president of the SPLC, said in a statement that the agency was “glad that Garza will be punished for his anti-Semitic and hate-filled threats.” Tim Eigo, president of the Arizona chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, also told The New York Times that justice was done.

Both said, however, that there remains a rising wave of white supremacist violence.

“No American should be pleased at the place we find ourselves, where journalists are increasingly targeted with violence or threats of it,” Eigo said.

Another defendant, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 21, of Tampa, pleaded guilty in September and is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 24, federal prosecutors said.

The two leaders of the conspiracy, Kaleb Cole, of Montgomery, Texas, and Cameron Brandon Shea, of Redmond, Washington, are scheduled for trial on March 22.