A Fairfax County, Virginia, teenager, with links to a group law enforcement say is sympathetic to neo-Nazi causes, will remain in jail on federal charges related to so-called swatting calls that targeted black and Jewish people.
“Swatting” involves calling 911 and faking an emergency that draws a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team.
John William Kirby Kelley, 19, of Vienna, is accused of being part of a dark web internet chat group sympathetic to neo-Nazi causes. He is charged with conspiracy to make threats. A conviction on that charge carries a penalty of up to five years.
“The government’s case is strong,” John F. Anderson, federal magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, said at a hearing on Wednesday in Alexandria.
In court on Wednesday, Kelley appeared pale and gaunt and held his head down while approaching his public defender’s table. After the hearing that determined that he would remain jailed, Kelley scanned the courtroom looking for someone he did not appear to find while he was escorted out of court by the U.S. Marshals.
During the proceeding, Kelley’s public defender Cadence Mertz said that she was not seeking Kelley’s release, adding that he has acknowledged “having mental health disabilities.”
However, Mertz stated that Kelley is not a flight risk, and he not a threat to the community.
The judge said that he saw no indication that the safety of the community would be assured if Kelley were to be released, and he noted Kelly’s previous criminal history and history of substance abuse.
Anderson referenced the FBI affidavit when he noted the strength of the government’s case.
Kelley is accused of making bomb threats to Old Dominion University, where he was a cybersecurity major.
The affidavit also details two occasions when Kelley is said to have called Alexandria police.
Once Kelley called claiming he’d murdered his girlfriend and tied up her children, who he was holding hostage.
In another call, the affidavit states that Kelley claimed to have put bombs in a historic black church located in Alexandria’s oldest African American neighborhood. The Alfred Street Baptist Church was evacuated during an evening service in November 2018.
A date for Kelley’s next court appearance is expected to be set within the next couple of days.
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