Former Old Dominion University student pleads guilty to swatting ring linked to 2018 ODU incident

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-21 18:30:31-04

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former ODU student plead guilty Tuesday to charges related to his role in a conspiracy that conducted multiple swatting events targeting journalists, Old Dominion University, a historic Virginia church, and a former cabinet official.

According to court documents, 19-year-old, John William Kirby Kelley, conspired with John Cameron Denton, a former leader of the Atomwaffen Division in Texas, and others 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 officials, Kelley managed the online chatroom where conspirators chose targets and orchestrated the swatting calls.

In early November 2018, he asked conspirators to swat Old Dominion University, which conspirators did ultimately swat on November 29 and December 4, 2018.

In response to the bomb threat on Nov. 29, 2018, university officials issued a shelter in place order and law enforcement were forced to search and clear every building on campus.

During the course of the conspiracy, members placed at least 134 swatting calls to jurisdictions across the country.

In addition to the swatting calls against Old Dominion University, conspirators conducted two additional swatting calls in the Eastern District of Virginia, including a call to a former Cabinet official living in Northern Virginia in January 2019 and the Alfred Street Baptist Church in November 2018.

Kelley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, interstate threats to injure.

He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on November 24.