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Former US soldier sentenced to 45 years for aiding a neo-Nazi group in a plot to kill troops


Mar 3, 2023

A former US Army soldier was sentenced Friday to 45 years in prison, the maximum, for planning what prosecutors described as a «murderous ambush» abroad against members of his own ranks.

Eric Melzer, a 24-year-old from Kentucky, shared information about the location and layout of a sensitive US military facility with the violent anti-government neo-Nazi organization Order of Nine Angles. He was arrested in June 20020 and pleaded guilty in 2022.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Melzer intended to provoke a jihadist terrorist attack on his own unit or any other occupying his location to undermine the United States abroad and further the goals of O9A, a group based largely in the UK which sympathizes with al Qaeda.

«Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by illegally disclosing its location, strength, and weaponry to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, and white supremacist group,» the then-Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York said at the time. , Audrey Strauss, said in a statement at the time.

She said it was motivated by racism.

Melzer was convicted of attempting to assassinate US service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and illegally transmitting national defense information.

“He is not the unrepentant monster that prosecutors and the court portrayed him to be,” defense attorney Jonathan Marvinny said by email. «He deserved punishment, but he also deserved the opportunity to show that he could do something positive with his life. Today’s sentencing took away that opportunity.»

Marvinny and two other lawyers on Melzer’s defense team argued in a sentencing memorandum last year that Melzer should get 15 years, plus 10 years of supervised release.

The memo described Melzer as a product of neglect, abuse and a troubled family who found himself «enslaved to a bizarre satanic cult» and doubled down on his involvement when he underwent a Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 on base, where he was «drinking too much and spending too much time online.»

Prosecutors said Melzer was involved with the group beginning in 2017 and joined the US Army the following year specifically to help O9A «infiltrate their ranks,» according to a Justice Department statement Friday.

In 2019, he deployed to Italy as a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, prosecutors said. It was then, they claim, that Melzer expanded his extremist diet, consuming propaganda from the group then known as ISIS, or Islamic State.

«Melzer subscribed to encrypted online forums where he downloaded and accessed videos of jihadist attacks on US troops and facilities and jihadist executions of civilians and soldiers,» the Justice Department said.

When he learned in 2020 that his unit would help protect a sensitive military installation abroad, he passed on location, time and security information to the O9A subgroup known as «RapeWaffen Division,» prosecutors said.

Melzer and O9A also passed this information on to a suspected al Qaeda member to «maximize» the chances of an attack against his unit or future units at the location, the Justice Department said Friday.

“Defendant believed that he could force the United States into a protracted armed conflict while causing the deaths of as many soldiers as possible,” the Justice Department said in an earlier statement.

The plot was foiled in 2020 by the US Army and the FBI, prosecutors said.

O9A has had active members in Britain, the United States, Italy, Brazil and New Zealand for several decades and has promoted terrorism, sexual violence, polarisation, separatism and racial hatred, according to the UK-based organization. . Center for Analysis of the Radical Right.

In more recent years, the group has become a source of inspiration for violent white supremacists in the United States, Brian Levin, a terrorism expert at California State University San Bernardino, said in 2020.

His «glorification of violence and mysticism has found a renewed international audience,» he said.