Woman pleads guilty to plotting with a neo-Nazi group leader to attack Baltimore’s power grid

BALTIMORE (AP) — A Maryland woman pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiring with a neo-Nazi leader from Florida to plan an attack on the power grid in the Baltimore area.

Sarah Beth Clendaniel, 36, of Catonsville, and her alleged co-conspirator, Brandon Russell, believed that sniper attacks on five electrical substations in greater Baltimore “would serve to break down society,” according to a court filing accompanying her guilty plea.

U.S. District Judge James Bredar is scheduled to sentence Clendaniel on Sept. 3.

Clendaniel was charged last year with Russell, an Orlando, Florida, resident who co-founded a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division. Russell served five years in prison after pleading guilty to explosives charges that stemmed from a deadly shooting at an apartment that he shared with Atomwaffen’s other founder.

Clendaniel and Russell began exchanging letters around 2018 while they were serving prison sentences in different facilities. They developed a romantic relationship that continued after they were released from prison, the court filing says.

Clendaniel pleaded guilty to two counts: conspiracy to damage electrical facilities and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The gun charge is punishable by up to 15 years of imprisonment.

Russell, formerly a Florida National Guard member, also is charged with conspiracy to damage electrical facilities and is awaiting trial.

In May 2017, one of Russell’s roommates, Devon Arthurs, shot and killed two other roommates at their home in Tampa, Florida. Local law enforcement officers found Russell at the scene, dressed in a military uniform and crying over the news.

Arthurs, who pleaded guilty to murder charges last year, told investigators that he killed his roommates to thwart a terrorist attack by Atomwaffen members. Russell wasn’t charged in the killings but he pleaded guilty to stockpiling explosive material at the apartment complex.

Clendaniel and Russell shared a white supremacist ideology and were advocates of “accelerationism,” a fringe philosophy espousing mass violence to fuel society’s collapse. They both discussed their plans to attack the power grid with a government informant in January 2023, according to prosecutors.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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