Denton and five others were arrested earlier this year as part of a federal crackdown on Atomwaffen Division, a group linked by prosecutors to five killings across the country. Atomwaffen, which began in online extremist message boards in 2015, advocates random acts of violence in hopes of starting a race war. It has affiliates in several European countries, including Germany, where officials say members have threatened Muslim residents and liberal politicians.
Denton is described by prosecutors and in leaked online chats as a leader who chose targets and created propaganda for the group.
A co-conspirator, John William Kirby Kelley, is set to plead guilty next week, court papers say.
In the United States, Denton admitted that he, Kelley and others, including two foreign nationals, engaged in “swatting” over the past two years — calling in fake threats at victims’ homes and offices, hoping to provoke a violent law enforcement response. One target was a historic black church in Alexandria. Another was Old Dominion University, where Kelley attended school. A third was then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to people familiar with the case.
The case was prosecuted in Alexandria because Nielsen lives there.
“Swatting is a dangerous act with potentially tragic consequences,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. “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.”
Denton’s former roommate from Texas, Kaleb Cole, is charged in Seattle federal court with threatening journalists and Jewish activists. Cole previously lived in Washington state, where local prosecutors had temporarily taken away his gun collection under a “red flag” law because of his engagement in white-supremacist activity.
Denton said it was his idea to target the ProPublica reporter who had exposed him and others as part of Atomwaffen, calling in threats to the organization’s New York office and the journalist’s California home. The office had to be evacuated, and the reporter and his wife were both detained by police in front of their young child.
Denton went by the moniker “Rape” online, he admitted.
Not long before his arrest, according to prosecutors, Denton told an undercover agent that it would “be good for Atomwaffen” if he was charged with making the false threats, because it was a “top-tier crime.”
As part of his plea, Denton agreed to pay restitution to police in New York and Richmond, Calif. He is set to be sentenced Nov. 17 and faces up to five years in prison.