John Cameron Denton

John Cameron Denton is an alleged member of the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group that grew out of a white supremacist forum called Iron March in 2016.“Atomwaffen Division (AWD),” Anti-Defamation League, https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/atomwaffen-division-awd. Denton was arrested on February 26, 2020, on charges related to his alleged role in multiple swatting conspiracies in Virginia.Andres Triay, Clare Hymes And Stefan Becket, “Feds arrest alleged neo-Nazi for ‘swatting’ scheme that targeted Cabinet member,” CBS News, February 26, 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/john-cameron-denton-alleged-neo-nazi-arrested-swatting-scheme-cabinet-member/; “Former Atomwaffen Division Leader Arrested for Swatting Conspiracy,” U.S. Department of Justice, February 26, 2020, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/former-atomwaffen-division-leader-arrested-swatting-conspiracy. After pleading guilty, Denton was sentenced in May 2021 to more than three years in prison.“Former Atomwaffen Division Leader Sentenced for Swatting Conspiracy,” U.S. Department of Justice, May 4, 2021, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/former-atomwaffen-division-leader-sentenced-swatting-conspiracy.

According to the Department of Justice, Denton was the former leader of Atomwaffen Division’s chapter in Texas.“Former Atomwaffen Division Leader Arrested for Swatting Conspiracy,” U.S. Department of Justice, February 26, 2020, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/former-atomwaffen-division-leader-arrested-swatting-conspiracy; Andres Triay, Clare Hymes And Stefan Becket, “Feds arrest alleged neo-Nazi for ‘swatting’ scheme that targeted Cabinet member,” CBS News, February 26, 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/john-cameron-denton-alleged-neo-nazi-arrested-swatting-scheme-cabinet-member/. Atomwaffen Division describes itself as a revolutionary socialist organization centered on political activism seeking to put an end to the “cultural and racial displacement of the white race.”“Atomwaffen Division (AWD),” Anti-Defamation League, https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/atomwaffen-division-awd. Atomwaffen is inspired by the book Siege, written by American neo-Nazi James Mason. In the book, Mason calls for the creation of autonomous terror cells to bring about a race war and the downfall of the U.S. government.Ben Makuch, “Audio Recording Claims Neo-Nazi Terror Group Is Disbanding,” Vice, March 14, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qjdnam/audio-recording-claims-neo-nazi-terror-group-is-disbanding. Denton has claimed to own the distribution rights to Siege and Mason’s other writings.Alexander Epp and Roman Höfner, “The Hate Network,” Der Spiegel, August 25, 2018, http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/index-2018-35.html.

Along with other members of Atomwaffen, Denton is allegedly responsible for swatting calls to over 134 different law enforcement agencies. “Swatting” is a harassment tactic that involves misleading dispatchers with information on an imminent threat in a specific location, leading authorities to respond in full force, including a SWAT team response.Mike Baker, Adam Goldman and Neil MacFarquhar, “White Supremacists Targeted Journalists and a Trump Official, F.B.I. Says,” February 26, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/us/atomwaffen-division-arrests.html; Rachel Weiner, “DOJ says neo-Nazi group used ‘swatting’ to target officials, journalists, church,” Washington Post, January 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/doj-says-neo-nazi-group-used-swatting-to-target-officials-journalists-church/2020/01/10/e9692346-33b5-11ea-91fd-82d4e04a3fac_story.html. Investigators claim that the swatting ring used the dark web as well as masking technology to make their IP addresses and their phone numbers undetectable.Neil Vigdor, “Man Accused of Making ‘Swatting’ Threats With White Supremacists,” New York Times, January 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/15/us/black-church-bomb-threats-virginia.html.

According to court documents, Denton allegedly participated in conducting three swatting calls in Virginia. His targets included Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security on January 27, 2019, Old Dominion University on November 29, 2018, and Alfred Street Baptist Church on November 3, 2018.“Former Atomwaffen Division Leader Arrested for Swatting Conspiracy,” U.S. Department of Justice, February 26, 2020, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/former-atomwaffen-division-leader-arrested-swatting-conspiracy. In the instance targeting Nielsen, the anonymous caller claimed to have killed an ex-girlfriend and had taken her children hostage. In the following two swatting calls, the anonymous callers claimed to have placed pipe bombs within the facilities and threatened to shoot anyone inside.Neil Vigdor, “Man Accused of Making ‘Swatting’ Threats With White Supremacists,” New York Times, January 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/15/us/black-church-bomb-threats-virginia.html. The F.B.I. claims that members of the swatting ring used racial slurs and anti-Semitic language when describing their targets.Neil Vigdor, “Man Accused of Making ‘Swatting’ Threats With White Supremacists,” New York Times, January 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/15/us/black-church-bomb-threats-virginia.html.

Denton also targeted the New York City office of ProPublica, an online investigative news site, and an investigative journalist at ProPublica because he sought to retaliate against the news source for revealing his identity and his connection to Atomwaffen.Rebecca Davis O’Brien, “Neo-Nazis Are Charged With Threats Against Jews, Minorities, Journalists,” Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/neo-nazis-are-charged-with-threats-against-jews-minorities-journalists-11582761749.

According to reports, Denton unknowingly met with an undercover F.B.I. agent to describe Atomwaffen’s swatting efforts. Denton claimed if he were “raided” for swatting ProPublica, then it would be good for Atomwaffen Division because the swatting would be seen as a top-tier crime.“Former Atomwaffen Division Leader Arrested for Swatting Conspiracy,” U.S. Department of Justice, February 26, 2020, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/former-atomwaffen-division-leader-arrested-swatting-conspiracy.

On February 26, 2020, federal authorities arrested Denton in Montgomery, Texas, on charges of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, interstate threats to injure. Denton made an initial court appearance the same day in Houston.“Two men arrested in Montgomery County linked to hate group with history of violence,” KHOU 11, February 26, 2020, https://www.khou.com/article/news/crime/hate-group-based-in-montgomery-county-has-history-of-violence/285-d08cc091-c237-4df3-9a43-5df9fbad91c1; “Former Atomwaffen Division Leader Arrested for Swatting Conspiracy,” U.S. Department of Justice, February 26, 2020, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/former-atomwaffen-division-leader-arrested-swatting-conspiracy. Four other Atomwaffen members were also arrested for sending anti-Semitic and racist threats to journalists.Tess Owen, “The FBI Just Arrested a Bunch of Neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Members,” Vice, February 26, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bvgy9a/the-fbi-just-arrested-a-bunch-of-neo-nazi-atomwaffen-members. On March 9, 2020, an alleged audio recording by Mason announced Atomwaffen would immediately disband due to increasing pressure from authorities.Ben Makuch, “Audio Recording Claims Neo-Nazi Terror Group Is Disbanding,” Vice, March 14, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qjdnam/audio-recording-claims-neo-nazi-terror-group-is-disbanding. On July 25, 2020, a group of former AWD leaders announced the reorganization of AWD into the National Socialist Order (NSO). The NSO leaders further claimed they had built the NSO with a new leadership dedicated to creating an “Aryan, National Socialist world by any means necessary.” According to NSO’s official program, NSO completely rejects the current social-political world order, which the group denounced as a “left-wing framework cultivated by the Jew.” The group further called for all members to be armed and “ready at a moment’s notice” as its priority is to “seize territorial power by any means necessary.”“National Socialist Order Announcement!,” American Futurist, July 25, 2020.

On July 4, 2020, Denton pleaded guilty in a Virginia federal court on a charge of “conspiracy to make interstate threats” for his role in “swatting” multiple targets. He admitted that his actions were “motivated by racial animus” and that he had “expressed white supremacist views.” As part of a plea bargain, Denton will have to pay restitution to police departments in New York and Richmond, California.Rachel Weiner, “Member of Neo-Nazi Group Pleads Guilty to ‘Swatting’ Conspiracy Against Journalists, Minorities,” Washington Post, July 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/member-of-neo-nazi-group-pleads-guilty-to-swatting-conspiracy-of-journalists-minorities/2020/07/14/695f0e52-c5d4-11ea-8ffe-372be8d82298_story.html.

On May 4, 2021, Denton was sentenced by a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to 41 months in prison for harassing journalists who reported on his activities.Rachel Weiner, “Former leader of neo-Nazi Atomwaffen group sentenced for swatting,” Washington Post, May 4, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/atomwaffen-leader-prison-sentence/2021/05/04/95544e16-a14b-11eb-a7ee-949c574a09ac_story.html?utm_source=iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2300437_.

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