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Former white supremacist group leader pleads guilty to swatting ring linked to 2018 ODU incident

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Posted at 2:49 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 14:49:11-04

NORFOLK, Va. - A former leader of the white supremacist group pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges related to his role in a conspiracy that conducted multiple swatting events targeting journalists, a historic Virginia church, a former cabinet official, and Old Dominion University.

John Cameron Denton, 26, of Montgomery, Texas, is allegedly a former leader of the Atomwaffen Division in Texas.

According to court documents, from October 2018 to at least August 2019, Denton and several others conspired together to conduct “swatting” calls.

Swatting is a harassment tactic that involves deceiving dispatchers into believing that a person or persons are in imminent danger of death or bodily harm and causing the dispatchers to send police and emergency services to an unwitting third party’s address.

According to court documents, Denton participated in a conspiracy that conducted three swatting calls that occurred in the Eastern District of Virginia.

One swatting call occurred at a former Cabinet official living in Northern Virginia on January 27, 2019. Another incident occurred at Old Dominion University on November 29 and December 4, 2018; and Alfred Street Baptist Church on November 3, 2018.

Additionally, court documents say Denton chose the New York City office of ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism; and an investigative journalist that produced materials for ProPublica, to "swat".

Officials say Denton chose the two targets because he was furious with ProPublica and the investigative journalist for publishing his true identity and discussing his role in the white supremacist group.

“The FBI takes swatting seriously because it can have harmful consequences and puts innocent people and first responders at risk,” said James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “Putting the lives of others in danger by swatting is senseless and criminal. The FBI's Washington Field Office will continue to work with our partners to locate and apprehend those who are responsible for such threats.”

During the investigation, Denton unknowingly met with an undercover law enforcement officer and told the undercover officer about his role in the swatting conspiracy.

Denton confessed he used a voice changer when he made swatting calls, and admitted that he swatted the offices of ProPublica and the investigative journalist. He also stated that it would be good if he was “raided” for the swatting because it would be viewed as a top tier crime, and he felt that his arrest could benefit Atomwaffen Division.

Denton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison when sentenced on November 17.

Alongside Denton, officials say 19-year-old John William Kirby Kelly, a former ODU student, worked together to conduct swatting calls.
The FBI also says there is a third member of the swatting ring that is currently cooperating with law enforcement.