BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A former Army infantry soldier described by prosecutors as a Satanist who hoped to overthrow the U.S. government endured a lifetime of victimization, isolation and trauma that led him to become involved with online extremist groups, his defense attorney argued Thursday in a motion seeking lenient punishment.
Jarrett William Smith, a private first class stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, and previously at Fort Bliss, Texas, was discharged from the military after the 24-year-old admitted in February that he provided information about explosives in September to an FBI undercover agent.
At his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Smith faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine following his guilty pleas to two counts of distributing information related to explosives.
Federal public defender Rich Federico urged the court in his sentencing memorandum Thursday to impose 15 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. With no prior criminal history, the guideline range is 30-37 months in prison. Prosecutors have not yet filed their sentencing recommendation.
In a passionate court filing interspersed with photos of Smith’s life, his attorney recounted the near-daily barrage of bullying endured by a client who was born with the fiery red hair and a cleft lip and palate. Federico described the repeated, painful reconstructive surgeries and the speech therapy Smith underwent for his speech impediment.
When he was a freshman, Smith learned he had been on a classmate’s “hit list” as the intended target of a school shooting and related plot to bomb his high school. The attempt was thwarted after the classmate shot at and missed a high school resource officer and was caught with multiple pipe bombs in his bag.
Smith learned later that the classmate had written in a journal: “People would thank me for killing him” next to Smith’s name.
Federico told the court that “the emotional trauma of not only having been routinely bullied over his cleft lip and speech impediment for years by peers but also being targeted for murder by a classmate added significant trauma to Mr. Smith’s already deteriorating mental health and low self-esteem — trauma that was largely suppressed and remained unresolved.”
Smith found online communities surrounding new forms of faith that he began to explore, his attorney wrote. His years of rejection by his peers and yearning for inclusion made him “the perfect target for online extremists groups searching for new recruits.”
Smith joined the military in 2016, but his desire for acceptance and inclusion “did not come to fruition while in the Army, and especially not at Fort Riley, Kansas,” the motion says.
His former team leader told the FBI that Smith stood out from the day he arrived “due to his cleft lip, stance that ‘pushed his belly out,’ and odd stories he told everyone.” His former roommate at Fort Riley said he avoided Smith because he felt Smith would make up stories. Some told how he bragged about his knowledge of bombs to gain attention.
“And so, feeling isolated and far from home, dejected by his fellow soldiers, Mr. Smith’s untreated depression continued to rage,” Federico said, adding that Smith turned to increasingly heavy amounts of alcohol to self-medicate during his time at Fort Riley.
“And he retreated to the anonymity of his online persona to seek the attention, inclusion and respect that he so badly wanted from others in his life, but could not find,” Federico wrote.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi said during a court hearing last year that Smith planned to overthrow the government, with attacking a news organization as a first step. An affidavit contends Smith told an FBI agent before his arrest that his goal was to create “chaos.”
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