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Leader of Neo-Nazi group convicted in scheme to threaten journalists, Anti-Defamation League employees

The neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen mailed or glued posters with the words "You have been visited by your local Nazis" and "Death to Pigs" to the homes of Jewish victims and journalists of color.

SEATTLE (CN) — A federal jury in Seattle convicted the leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen on five federal charges over his involvement in a scheme to threaten journalists and employees of the Anti-Defamation League.

Kaleb Cole, 25, of Texas, along with three co-conspirators who have pleaded guilty and been sentenced, mailed or glued threatening posters to victims' homes in January 2020, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.

Different versions of the posters, which primarily targeted Jewish people and journalists of color, included statements such as "You have been visited by your local Nazis" and "Death to Pigs,” the same message that followers of Charles Manson scrawled in victims’ blood during a home invasion murder, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The posters also had threatening images, including a hooded figure preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail at a house.

Atomwaffen has been linked to several killings, including the May 2017 shooting deaths of two men at an apartment in Tampa, Florida, and the January 2018 killing of a University of Pennsylvania student in California, according to The Associated Press.

A TV journalist who reported on the hate group as well as two people with ties to the Anti-Defamation League received the posters in Seattle, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. A poster meant for a journalist in Tampa was delivered to the wrong address and a poster was glued to a bedroom window at the home of the editor of a Jewish lifestyle magazine in Phoenix.

Some of the victims said during trial that the threats caused them to move away from their homes temporarily and install security systems, while one purchased firearms and another started opening her mailbox with a stick, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. One of the journalists left her job.

Chris Ingalls, a reporter for the Seattle NBC affiliate KING 5, received one of the posters after reporting on the group in 2019, the station reported.

“He’s just a guy who scares me,” Ingalls said of Cole during trial, according to KING 5. “I don’t know how else to say it. I just don’t understand where he comes from, how we can believe the things that he believes and I just continue to look at him as a threat. I think I always will.”

Cole “was not simply sending a message of hate, he was sending a statement of terror,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods said during his closing argument.

“All of the images were selected by Kaleb Cole to send one message: ‘We can get you in your home,'" Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Wilkinson said during the trial. "Cole wanted to terrorize them with threats of physical harm.”

The Anti-Defamation League recently expressed concern about rising hate crime rates in the Pacific Northwest, as reflected in 2020 FBI data. According to a statement, Washington state saw 451 hate crimes, the third most in the country, and Oregon had 280, the most the state has ever recorded.

“These numbers are a stark reminder of how the Pacific Northwest faces significant challenges in addressing hate and bias in our communities,” Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest associate regional director Kendall Kosai said in the statement.

The jury convicted Cole of conspiracy, three counts of mailing threatening communications, and one count of interfering with a federally protected activity following a two-day trial and about 90 minutes of deliberation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He will be sentenced in January.

His co-conspirator Cameron Shea, 25, of the Seattle area, received a three-year prison sentence in August, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest applauded the verdict.

"The jury’s decision is a bookend to a long and difficult chapter in our fight against hate and we are grateful to the other victims who came forward to bravely speak out and share their experiences," the group said Thursday. "ADL’s efforts to shine a bright light on hate and expose white supremacy remains as critical as ever and we look forward to putting this dark chapter behind us and continuing the important work ahead."

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