A former Virginia student who teamed up with white supremacists in a series of attacks against his university, journalists and the Secretary of Homeland Security was sentenced to 33 months in prison.
John William Kirby Kelley, a 20-year-old former student at Old Dominion University, was convicted Monday after pleading guilty in July of setting up an online chat room that he and others used at his former school in late 2018 shouted fake bomb threats to federal prosecutors said Monday.
Court documents show that Kelley conspired with John Cameron Denton, a former leader of a neo-Nazi hate group – the Texas Nuclear Weapons Division – and others to make the harassing swatting calls to fool the emergency dispatchers into that real one There is an emergency, said the authorities.
“Swatting attacks are serious crimes that disrupt the operation of local emergency agencies, divert first responders from real emergencies, and put victims, community members and law enforcement officers at great risk,” acting US attorney Raj Parekh said in a statement.
Many of Kelley’s conspirators had white supremacist views and chose their targets on the basis of racial hatred, federal prosecutors said.
Kelley was arrested along with Denton and four other nuclear weapons workers in February 2020, the Washington Post reported.
The former ODU student apologized Monday for his actions that resulted in chat room members making at least 134 swatting calls across the country, including against two black churches, a mosque in Texas, a black newspaper columnist and Trump officials Administration, Kirstjen Nielsen, who served as Minister of Homeland Security before stepping down in 2019.
Prosecutors said the fake bombing Kelley orchestrated at the Old Dominion resulted in an order of accommodations and the search of every building on campus in November 2018.
“I’m really sorry,” Kelley told a judge before the sentencing. “I hope to return to the church a better man.”
Kelley, then 17, started the chat room when he lived in his home in Northern Virginia. Prosecutors said he used racist slurs, but Kelley vehemently denied being bigoted, despite admitting that some conspirators chose targets because of their race or religion.
“The racial language expressed by me and my co-conspirators, as well as the swatting attacks, do not represent my values and beliefs,” Kelley told a judge. “Also, I was personally disgusted with the direction the chat room had taken after I left.”
Kelley’s attorney said there was no evidence he took action against anyone for racial hatred, but a judge disagreed and classified his actions as a hate crime.
Denton, who prosecutors said had repeatedly harassed a ProPublica journalist who covered him, pleaded guilty and is due to be convicted on April 13, according to the Washington Post.
With postal wires