An Arizona man who joined other members of a neo-Nazi group in a coordinated campaign to threaten and harass journalists, activists and other targets on both U.S. coasts was sentenced Wednesday to 16 months in federal prison.
Johnny Roman Garza, 21, expressed remorse before a federal judge in Seattle handed down the sentence, which was roughly half the length of the term recommended by prosecutors and a probation officer.
Garza pleaded guilty in September to conspiring with other members of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division to deliver threatening messages to journalists' homes and other places in the U.S. On a Jewish journalist's bedroom window, Garza affixed a poster that depicted a man in a skull mask holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a burning home. The poster included the journalist's name and home address.
“In Garza’s words, the plot was designed to ‘have them all wake up one morning and find themselves terrorized by targeted propaganda,'” a prosecutor wrote in a court filing.
On the same January day as his visit to the Jewish editor's home, Garza also stopped by a Phoenix apartment complex where a member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists lived. But he couldn't find a place to leave a poster.
Garza said he was “in a time of darkness and isolation” that made it easier for ”rebellious and resentful" influences to take hold of his life.
“Very unfortunately, I fell in with the worst crowd you can probably fall in with, a very self-destructive crowd at the least,” he told U.S. District Judge John Coughenour.
More than a dozen people linked to Atomwaffen or an offshoot called Feuerkrieg Division have been charged with crimes in federal court since the group’s formation in 2016. Atomwaffen has been linked to several killings, including the May 2017 shooting deaths of two men at an apartment in Tampa, Florida, and the January 2018 killing of a University of Pennsylvania student in California.