(STL.News) – A former leader of the white supremacist group Atomwaffen Division pleaded guilty today to charges related to his role in a conspiracy that conducted multiple swatting events targeting journalists, a Virginia university, a historic Virginia church, and a former cabinet official.
According to court documents, John Cameron Denton, 26, of Montgomery, Texas, is a former leader of the Atomwaffen Division in Texas. From October 2018 to at least April 2019, Denton and several others conspired together to conduct “swatting” calls. Swatting is a harassment tactic that involves deceiving dispatchers into believing that a person or persons are in imminent danger of death or bodily harm and causing the dispatchers to send police and emergency services to an unwitting third party’s address.
“Swatting is a dangerous act with potentially tragic consequences,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Sending law enforcement and emergency responders rushing to an individual’s home, business, or place of worship, in an effort to target individuals because of their race or religious affiliation or simply to create chaos shows both criminal behavior and a complete disregard for public safety. This office is committed to locating and investigating individuals responsible for such threats, and when appropriate, will seek federal charges.”
According to court documents, Denton participated in a conspiracy that conducted three swatting calls that occurred here in the Eastern District of Virginia: a former Cabinet official living in Northern Virginia on Jan. 27, 2019; Old Dominion University on Nov. 29 and Dec. 4, 2018; and Alfred Street Baptist Church on Nov. 3, 2018.
Additionally, Denton chose at least two targets to “swat”: the New York City office of ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism; and an investigative journalist that produced materials for ProPublica. Denton chose the two targets because he was furious with ProPublica and the investigative journalist for publishing his true identity and discussing his role in Atomwaffen Division.
“The FBI takes swatting seriously because it can have harmful consequences and puts innocent people and first responders at risk,” said James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “Putting the lives of others in danger by swatting is senseless and criminal. The FBI’s Washington Field Office will continue to work with our partners to locate and apprehend those who are responsible for such threats.”
During the investigation, Denton unknowingly met with an undercover law enforcement officer and told the undercover officer about his role in the swatting conspiracy. Denton stated that he used a voice changer when he made swatting calls, and admitted that he swatted the offices of ProPublica and the investigative journalist. He also stated that it would be good if he was “raided” for the swatting because it would be viewed as a top tier crime, and he felt that his arrest could benefit Atomwaffen Division.
Denton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, interstate threats to injure. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison when sentenced on November 17. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carina A. Cuellar is prosecuting the case.