Neo-Nazi Group Leader Scheduled For Federal Court Sentencing
Prosecutors are seeking a maximum 11-year sentence for a neo-Nazi group leader who stockpiled explosive material in the Florida apartment where a friend killed their two roommates, calling him an unrepentant ideologue who poses a serious danger once he gets out.
The sentencing of Brandon Russell, 22, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in federal court in Tampa.
Devon Arthurs, Russell's friend, awaits trial in state court on charges of murdering their two roommates, Andrew Oneschuk, 18, and Jeremy Himmelman, 22, both of Massachusetts.
Russell wasn't charged in the May 2017 killings, which exposed the four roommates' membership in Atomwaffen Division, an obscure neo-Nazi group co-founded by Arthurs and Russell that formed on the internet. Atomwaffen is German for "atomic weapon."
Inside Russell's bedroom, authorities said, they found several firearms, ammunition and a framed picture of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on Russell's bedroom dresser. Investigators also found a North Korean flag, multiple copies of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and other neo-Nazi and white supremacist propaganda in the apartment.
"Russell had a place of prominence for the picture of his idol, Timothy McVeigh, someone who turned his ideology into violent action," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine Thomas. "A photographic journey through Russell's apartment — the backdrop of the murder scene — is a chilling confirmation of Russell's intent to follow in the footsteps of his hero."
Russell set up a "mini-lab" in the garage, where investigators found explosive material stored in a cooler, near homemade detonator components and several pounds of ammonium nitrate, according to Thomas.
"Russell showed not an ounce of concern for his own life, his roommates' lives, or his (neighbors') lives," Thomas wrote.
Russell was wearing his Florida National Guard uniform and crying when police found him standing outside the Tampa apartment. Arthurs told police that Russell didn't know anything about the shooting.
Arthurs allegedly told investigators he killed his roommates for teasing him about his recent conversion to Islam. But he also told detectives he did it to thwart a terrorist attack by Atomwaffen. He claimed Russell, who would eventually plead guilty to illegally storing volatile explosive material and possessing an "unregistered destructive device," had materials in the house "to kill civilians and target locations like power lines, nuclear reactors, and synagogues," prosecutors said.
Relatives of the two slain friends have rejected those neo-Nazi labels and dismissed Arthurs' claims as the self-serving rantings of a sociopath.