Thursday, August 11, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

US solider pleads guilty to plotting rampage with neo-Nazi occultists

The admission to murder conspiracy and three counts of terrorism heads off what was to be a jury trial early next month.

MANHATTAN (CN) — An Army paratrooper with ties to a neo-Nazi occult group pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he aimed to ignite a race war beginning with a plot to massacre fellow U.S. soldiers in his platoon.

Ethan Melzer was arrested in June 2020 after sending sensitive information about the location, movements and security measures of his regiment in encrypted messages to members of a group called Order of Nine Angles.

The Counter Extremism Project says the Order of Nine Angles is full of neo-Nazi-Satanists whose nihilistic ideology “supports violent jihadist terrorism, in line with its accelerationist philosophy to support the destruction of the current world order.”

Facing possible life imprisonment on eight counts., the 24-year-old Army private from Louisville, Kentucky, was set to go to a jury trial after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Melzer had pleaded not guilty in 2020 but changed his tune Friday afternoon, offering guilty pleas on three counts in connection with leaking his Army unit’s overseas location to an occultist fascist group that has deep ties to neo-Nazism, with the intention to facilitate a “mass-casualty” attack against his comrades.

The three counts to which Melzer pleaded guilty are attempting to murder U.S. service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and illegally transmitting national defense information.

Melzer’s indictment says he communicated with members of his neo-Nazi group through the Rapewaffen Division Channel on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, plotting an attack on U.S. soldiers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade when it was set for deployment from Camp Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, to a base in Turkey.

It was Melzer's hope, authorities say, that in transmitting the sensitive location, strength and weaponry details of the troops to Islamic extremist terror cells in the region, that the ensuing attacks would spark war in Muslim-majority countries.

“The after effects of a convoy getting attacked would cover it,” Melzer wrote, as quoted in the complaint against him. “It would be another war … I would’ve died successfully … Cause if another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”

Melzer acknowledged in his messages that he deleted some of the communications regarding the planning of the attack because the plot amounted to treason.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams praised Melzer's guilty plea. “The defendant believed he could force the U.S. into prolonged armed conflict while causing the deaths of as many soldiers as possible,” Williams said Friday afternoon. “Melzer’s traitorous conduct was a betrayal of his storied unit and nothing short of an attack against the most essential American values.”

Federal prosecutors planned to show jurors evidence that Melzer, while stationed abroad, consumed propaganda from multiple extremist groups, including far-right, neo-Nazi and other white supremacist groups, in addition to materials from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham — which is also known as ISIS — including videos of jihadist attacks on U.S. troops and facilities and jihadist executions of civilians and soldiers.

The government had also gathered text message and chat evidence made before Melzer joined the military, some of which predated his O9A membership, to “demonstrate how and when the defendant embraced O9A’s ideology, including its NeoNazi, racist, and homophobic elements, and its promotion of extreme violence in order to overthrow Western civilization.”

With further introduce evidence related to drug- and gang-related violence in Kentucky, the government said Melzer accurately described his own violent past in a bid to persuade a co-conspirator that he was serious about planning a deadly ambush.

According to Melzer’s proposed juror voir dire questions, the groups he communicated with online identified themselves as anarchist, Satanic, neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, “alt-right,” and jihadist.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...