Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
If there has been a silver lining in the January 6 insurrection, it would be this: Law enforcement officials finally appear to be taking far-right extremist criminal behavior seriously. That's become abundantly clear in the wave of arrests of multiple extremists in the weeks following, not all of whom are connected to the attack on the Capitol.
The past week has been especially eventful: A live-streaming white supremacist fond of threatening strangers online was arrested in Florida on a weapons charge. A member of the Proud Boys was arrested in Philadelphia for harassing a community organizer. And even more Capitol insurgents were placed under arrest, including a former State Department aide and Donald Trump appointee.
Last Tuesday's arrest of notorious far-right troll Paul N. Miller, 32, who goes by the online moniker "Gypsy Crusader," in Fort Lauderdale was predicated on a single charge—being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, based on a grand jury indictment. But that indictment resulted from Miller's practice of harassing people with racist epithets while dressed in costume—and often holding a gun in the video.
His "Gypsy Crusader" account at Telegram has more than 40,000 followers. He specializes in videos in which he dresses up as fictitious characters such as Nintendo's Mario or DC Comics' The Joker and then uses the chat app Omegle to verbally assault strangers, including children, with racial epithets.
Miller also posted videos to the online platform Bitchute in which he brandished and discussed using different weapons. "I am armed to the teeth tonight. ... I have two new guns," Miller said in a Dec. 2, 2020, video in which he displayed a pistol.
Miller expressed his hatred for Jewish people and an apparent desire to organize violence in the same video. "I hate the Jews. I want to gas 'em," he said. When another person on the video stream asked, "You gotta army?" he replied, "I'm trying to build one."
Miller's other videos also show him heckling strangers with Nazi banners hanging in the background. He described the story of his "radicalization," which he says began after a joining the Proud Boys for a violent altercation with antifascists in New York City in October 2018. Miller played a key role in the brawl by shooting videos in what he described as an attempt to "instigate" a conflict with protesters outside a Proud Boys gathering in Manhattan.
Miller, who was openly sympathetic to the Proud Boys, was beaten and had his backpack stolen. Afterward, he tried to claim that he was "jumped by 10 members of antifa" and that they "robbed and tried to kill me," but claimed "I wasn't looking for trouble at all." He also was interviewed on air by One America News network, a far-right channel. "I had gotten into an argument or a fight ... with some leader of antifa," Miller told OAN.
A grand jury indicted Miller Feb. 25 on the weapons charge, according to court records, charging him with illegally possessing a gun on Jan. 17, 2018, though the indictment doesn't describe the incident.
Miller had come to the attention of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, which identified him as a "volatile white-supremacist-accelerationist." It reported: "Concerned by his increasingly radical and violent rhetoric, as well as his online display of various weapons and real-life extremist related activities, the COE reported him to federal law enforcement authorities in New Jersey. COE tracked him to Fort Lauderdale and shared significant intelligence with federal law enforcement before today's arrest."
Moreover, as Will Sommer reports at The Daily Beast, Miller's arrest sent a wave of fear through the far-right community he built up around his online persona. He had recently sold merchandise to his supporters—mostly patches promoting his channel—and the purchasers discussed their concern that the FBI might be able to access his customer files and find their names and addresses in them. Extremism researcher Hilary Sargent told Sommer that Miller's supporters are fearful of becoming FBI targets themselves.
Another man associated with Proud Boys harassment, Kyle Boell, 40, of Philadelphia, was arrested Thursday and charged with harassing far-right researcher Gwen Snyder on Twitter. Prosecutors say Boell sent dozens of vulgar and threatening social media messages to the victim in November 2020.
"Walked all threw Philly tonight u fat b—- I took a piss on ur book store on south st.," he allegedly told her. "Antifa is done in Philly f— around u fat b—- and u will find out. Go report me call the cops."
"The actions alleged here are abusive, vile, and dangerous," First Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Temin said in a statement.
Snyder told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she had been tracking extremist activity in the days after the presidential election amid protests outside the city's Convention Center, where workers were counting ballots. A few hours after news organizations called the election for Joe Biden, Philadelphia Proud Boys posted a photo of Snyder outside the facility alongside a derogatory message.
She reported the messages to District Attorney Larry Krasner's office, she said, along with other information related to the attempts to interfere with the election. A task force led by Krasner's officer investigated potential criminal activity related to the election.
Far-right extremists who participated in the Capitol insurrection, in the meantime, continued to be arrested and charged. Among the more noteworthy cases was the Thursday arrest of Federico Klein, a former State Department aide, on multiple felony charges related to the Capitol siege. His case became the first known instance of a Trump appointee facing criminal prosecution following the attempt to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory.
Klein, 42, was taken into custody in Virginia. A former Trump campaign employee, he was still employed as a staff assistant at the State Department on January 6, according to the criminal complaint filed by the FBI. It alleges that Klein joined a mob in one of the tunnels leading into the Capitol, and then "physically and verbally engaged with the officers holding the line" at the building's entrance.
The FBI says that, after ignoring officers' orders to move back, he assaulted officers with a riot shield stolen from police, and then used it to wedge open a door into the Capitol. Video also showed Klein interfering with the efforts of Capitol Police to retrieve an officer who had been dragged into the mob and beaten.
The Washington Post notes that Klein has a top-secret security clearance that was renewed in 2019. He had been active in Republican politics since 2008 and was employed by the Trump campaign in 2016 before joining the State Department in 2017.
Other Capitol arrestees, such as "QAnon Shaman" Jacob Chansley in his 60 Minutes interview, have tried to claim that they were only in the building because they followed the crowd and that they didn't participate in the violence or the vandalism—though video footage shows them indulging in both.
This was also the case with two Idaho men, William and Michael Pope, who told local reporters that they had been inside the building but hadn't done anything wrong. Capitol Police remembered William Pope due to "his large size and passive resistance" to police orders to leave the building.
Surveillance videos also show the brothers in the hallway outside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's offices. "In the video, William Pope appears to strike one of the office doors several times with the bottom of his flag pole and then attempts to force the door open by lunging into the door with his shoulder," the FBI said in the criminal complaint.
"Based on the video, it appears Michael Pope initially refused to comply with the request, and two other police officers then join the first officer and physically remove Michael Pope from the elevator," according to the document.
One of the leading Capitol invaders, Ethan Nordean of the Proud Boys, was ordered released on bond Thursday by a federal judge pending trial, after prosecutors backed away from several key assertions in their efforts to keep him in detention. The judge ordered Nordean to submit to location monitoring and remain in home confinement except for work, health, religious, and court-related reasons, and forbade him to possess firearms or travel outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for Western Washington.
The Post also compiled some of the more hubris-laden cases among the Capitol arrestees, such as the man who called his ex-girlfriend a "moron" while bragging about his participation in the insurrection; she turned him in. Another, William Robert Norwood III, had boasted to a group of friends and family that he planned to fool police on January 6 by going incognito, dressing in all black. "I'll look just like ANTIFA," he said. "I'll get away with anything."
Norwood allegedly posted a photo afterward in which he was holding a police vest acquired during the insurrection. "It worked," Norwood said. "I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for." FBI agents arrested him last week.
Another man named Kevin Lyons posted a photo of himself in House Speaker Pelosi's office saying, "WHOSE HOUSE?!?!? OUR HOUSE!!" on Instagram. When FBI agents interviewed him, he told them he only had a dream about being in the Capitol that day. "Wow, you're pretty good. That was only up for an hour," he answered when they showed him their copy of his post, according to court documents.
The most brazen of them was Richard "Bigo" Barnett, the Arkansas man infamously photographed with his feet up on Pelosi's desk during the insurrection. He threw a tantrum during an online court hearing Thursday, yelling at the judge and his own lawyers that "it's just not fair" that he remained behind bars.
At an otherwise routine hearing before Judge Christopher Cooper of Federal District Court in Washington, Barnett erupted angrily when Cooper set his next court date for a May date. Barnett shouted that he did not want to remain in jail for "another month."
"They're dragging this out!" he shouted. "They're letting everybody else out!"
Cooper resumed the hearing after Barnett calmed down, and finished by noting that he would consider a new motion for release if and when his attorneys filed one.
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