A Texas man whom federal prosecutors say formerly served as a leader in a white supremacist group was arrested on Wednesday for harassing a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, journalists and a university.
John Cameron Denton, 26, of Montgomery, Texas, was arrested for allegedly making “swatting” calls targeting the individuals and the school, authorities said. Swatting is a harassment tactic in which a caller falsely reports to a dispatcher that a person is in “imminent danger of death or bodily harm,” causing the dispatcher to send authorities to a person’s address, prosecutors said.
Denton is a former leader of the Atomwaffen Division, officials said, a neo-Nazi group with a presence in Texas.
The arrest comes as federal authorities have been grappling with the rise of domestic threats, which generally include suspects involved in violence related to anti-government views, racial or religious bias, environmental extremism and abortion-related views.
According to court documents, between November 2018 and April 2019, Denton and others made swatting calls targeting the unidentified Cabinet official, who lives in Virginia and is under Secret Service protection, as well as a predominantly African-American Baptist church in the state. Denton also allegedly made calls in that time targeting the New York offices of ProPublica, an investigative journalism outlet, and a reporter who worked with the organization, as well as Old Dominion University in Virginia.
Prosecutors said Denton admitted to his role in the calls during a sting operation last month in which he said he used a voice changer during the calls and that other conspirators listened in on them.
Denton “explained that he was able to view some of the swatting incidents on street cameras as the swattings unfolded,” prosecutors said, adding that he said during the sting operation that if he had been discovered as being involved in the ProPublica incident it would be good for the Atomwaffen Division because it “would be seen as a top-tier crime.”
Court documents said the calls by Denton impacted 134 different law enforcement agencies.
Prosecutors said Denton, who was charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the US, is set to appear in federal court in Texas on Wednesday. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.