The Army paratrooper accused of plotting with neo-Nazi Satanists to kill his brothers in arms pleaded not guilty to two new charges.
MANHATTAN (CN) — An Army paratrooper with ties to a neo-Nazi occult group pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he conspired to kill his own unit to start a race war.
Ethan Melzer, a 22-year-old Army private from Louisville, Kentucky, was charged with eight counts for his involvement in the plot. While Melzer already had pleaded not guilty to the six charges brought earlier this summer, he again claimed he was not guilty of those and two new charges.
“Not guilty, judge,” Melzer said eight times during a phone conference between his counsel, prosecutors and U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods. Melzer’s step-father also joined the call, along with a number of reporters.
According to the complaint filed in Manhattan, Melzer planned for a mass-casualty attack on his Army unit, part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Just as he was about to deploy to Turkey, Melzer sent an encrypted message to a fellow neo-Nazi, describing his unit’s weaponry, size, defensive capabilities and anticipated travel routes.
“You just gotta understand that currently I am risking my literal free life to give you all this,” Melzer allegedly wrote in a May 23 encrypted message, adding that he was “expecting results.”
The intent, prosecutors say, was to kill his fellow soldiers and spark another war in Muslim-majority countries. His own death was immaterial to the plan. “Who gives a fuck,” Melzer wrote in encrypted messages, noting the attack would still be successful because “another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”
Army officials arrested Melzer in May in Italy. In July, Melzer pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include providing material support for terrorism and attempting to murder U.S. service members. He faces life imprisonment.
Melzer joined the Order of Nine Angles — a Satanic, neo-Nazi group formed in Wales during the late 1960s — in 2019, merely a year after joining the Army. The group is governed by a slurry of occult beliefs and Nazi ideologies, including that Adolf Hitler was “sent by our gods” and that members have to live alone in a cavern for an entire month.
The group denies the Holocaust happened, and it has praised Osama bin Laden. Melzer is alleged to have tried to contact somebody he assumed was an al-Qaida operative.
Melzer also had posted in chatrooms associated with the Atomwaffen Division, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group.
Military investigators reported that Melzer’s iCloud account contained an image created by the Islamic State group called “HARVEST OF THE SOLDIERS,” which listed death counts from ISIS attacks. Neo-Nazi literature and iconography was also found in the account.
The two new charges against Melzer allege illegal transmission of national defense information to a faction or citizen of a foreign country.
The government has sought discovery of fewer than 100 pages of classified information in the case, but prosecutor Matthew Hellman said he doesn’t expect any additional discovery to involve any co-conspirators related to the alleged plot or ancillary investigations of neo-Nazi groups.
“Based on the nature of the investigation, it is our experience that there are additional reports, additional witness interviews that can take place,” Hellman said. “The government is not currently aware of any significant tranches of discovery related to any of those categories.”
Hellman said he expects final discovery to be finished by the end of the month. The parties will convene again on December 9.