US Jails Journalists' Cyber-Stalker
A cyber-stalker from Arizona who joined up with a neo-Nazi group to harass and threaten journalists, advocates, and other targets has been sentenced to prison.
Johnny Roman Garza admitted to conspiring with other members of the Atomwaffen Division to deliver menacing messages to journalists online and in person, sometimes targeting their homes. The campaign was created to intimidate individuals who had exposed anti-Semitic behavior.
The 21-year-old confessed to affixing a threatening poster to the bedroom window of a prominent Jewish journalist and editor on January 25, 2020. Along with the victim's name and address, the poster showed a man holding a Molotov cocktail and wearing a skull mask while standing in front of a burning house.
According to court documents, the act was part of a coordinated plot against multiple targets that Garza said was designed to "have them all wake up one morning and find themselves terrorized by targeted propaganda."
In September, Queen Creek resident Garza pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with federally protected activities because of religion, one count of conspiracy to mail threatening communications, and one count of cyberstalking.
In his plea agreement, Garza admitted to conspiring with other defendants via an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and advocates that the group could threaten.
The group focused primarily on journalists and advocates who were people of color and/or of the Jewish faith.
Appearing before US District Judge John Coughenour on December 9, Garza said he committed the crimes after failing in with a bad crowd.
According to the Omaha World Herald, Garza told Coughenour that when committing the crimes, he was “in a time of darkness and isolation” that allowed "rebellious and resentful" influences to impact his decisions.
“Very unfortunately, I fell in with the worst crowd you can probably fall in with, a very self-destructive crowd at the least,” said Garza.
Garza's defense attorney, Seth Apfel, said that since committing his crimes, his client had “not just disavowed the views that he had, but really embraced a new way of being.”
Coughenour sentenced Garza to 16 months in prison and three years of supervised release.