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Militia member gets 10 1/2 years for role in murder of federal officer

Robert Jesus Blancas pleaded guilty to conspiring to destroy evidence related to an antigovernment militia group and the fatal shooting of a federal officer. But the bulk of his sentence is for a separate charge of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge sentenced extremist militia member Robert Jesus Blancas to 10 1/2 years in prison Monday for destroying evidence related to two fatal shootings of law enforcement officers in 2020.

Blancas, 35, was the first of a group of four men tied to the antigovernment “Boogaloo” movement to plead guilty to obstruction in connection with the killing of federal protective officer David Patrick Underwood on May 29 and Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller.

But he was the last of the pack to be sentenced, as his co-conspirators Jessie Rush, 31, Simon Sage Ybarra, 25, and Kenny Miksch, 23 all received relatively light sentences of six months from U.S. District Judge James Donato this year.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said in court Monday that on the surface those sentences seemed “quite low,” and that he wasn’t sure he agreed with Donato’s decision, though he acknowledged he “did not receive any of the information Judge Donato received in connection with those sentencings.”

Chhabria said he had no doubt that Blancas would have received the same six month-sentence had Donato been assigned his case.

“It would be quite unfair for me to sentence him to something higher even if I disagree with it, the judge said.

But Chhabria gave Blancas an additional 10 years in a separate criminal case where Blancas admitted to grooming a 15 year-old he met on the anonymous social media app Whisper, and soliciting over 100 pornographic photos and videos from her.

“The defendant was exploiting a young girl to produce child pornography. This is a crime with unspeakable impacts on the victim and their family,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Cheng told Chhabria. “This is not the first time this defendant engaged in this behavior. He was simply not caught before this.”

According to the government’s sentencing memo, Blancas had been sharing explicit messages with other girls on Whisper, some as young as 13 years old, indicating that his conduct was "no accident or impulse, but rather a continuation of years of the same illegal behavior.”

Blancas appeared in person wearing the red prison jumpsuit issued to inmates at Alameda County Santa Rita Jail. He did not speak, but submitted a written statement that was not read in court. Through his attorney Alan Dressler, he said he did not want to try to justify “what happened with this victim.”

Blancas, who went by the nicknames “Orgotloth” and “MuskOx,” met the other members of the “Grizzly Scouts" militia group on Facebook.

“Beginning April 2020, they met in person, they trained with firearms, and they had operation orders and identified law enrichment officials as enemies," Cheng said. “Their residences were filled with assault-style weapons, ammunition and tactical gear.”

Cheng said the group prepped for violent confrontations with law enforcement and talked about killing police officers to achieve their objective of perpetuating a violent uprising against the government.

"The organization was basically a bunch of people talking on the internet,” Dressler told the judge, who quickly retorted, “It wasn't just a bunch of people talking on the internet. We know from the death of two officers that it was not a bunch of people talking on the internet.”

On May 29, 2020, another member of the group named Steven Carrillo shot and killed Underwood as he stood guard outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse as part of a specific plan to target law enforcement officers during a racial justice protest that was happening simultaneously in downtown Oakland.

Carrillo, a former Air Force sergeant, was arrested on June 6 in Ben Lomond after ambushing deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s office and killing Gutzwiller. The officers were responding to a witness report of a white van containing firearms and bombmaking materials at Carrillo’s residence, the same van he used in Underwood’s killing.

Carrillo was sentenced to 41 years for Underwood’s murder in June 2022.

Cheng said Monday that Carrillo communicated with Blancas and the others between the time of the two shootings. According to the government’s filing, Blancas advocating posing as a member of “antifa” and killing police to instigate a violent clash between the two groups. “Third gen warfare … It’s less about dropping bodies and more about swaying the public opinion,” he wrote to his comrades in a group chat on June 3, just before Carrillo’s arrest.

Cheng added that Blancas also destroyed files on the groups’ activities that had been stored in a Dropbox account, and told Ybarra, ”We burned tf [the fuck] out of everything” and “All physical files I had were literally burned.”

Chhabria didn’t seem to believe Dressler’s argument that Blancas was “shocked” by Carrillo’s admission that he’d killed Underwood. “If you're really shocked that it happened I don't know how your next reaction would be to try to destroy all the evidence. Why wouldn't you turn him in?”

Dressler said that at that point, law enforcement had already surrounded Carrillo’s house.

“I think for both cases Mr. Blancas's conduct is very serious,” Chhabria said. “Mr. Blancas, you have a lot of work to do. You’ve shown in two different areas that you're dangerous and you need to work on making yourself not dangerous anymore. The most appropriate, or the least objectionable, is a sentence of 10 years for the enticement count and a consecutive sentence of six months for obstruction.”

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