White Supremacists Guilty In Plot Against Power Grids

From the Justice Department:

Three men pleaded guilty today to crimes related to a scheme to attack power grids in the United States in furtherance of white supremacist ideology.

According to court documents, Christopher Brenner Cook, 20, of Columbus, Ohio; Jonathan Allen Frost, 24, of West Lafayette, Indiana, and of Katy, Texas; and Jackson Matthew Sawall, 22, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

The charge and plea agreements indicate that the defendants knew and intended that the material support they conspired to provide would be used to prepare for and carry out the federal offense of destroying energy facilities.

According to court documents, in fall 2019, Frost and Cook met in an online chat group. Frost shared the idea of attacking a power grid with Cook, and within weeks, the two began efforts to recruit others to join in their plan.

As part of the recruitment process, Cook circulated a book list of readings that promoted the ideology of white supremacy and Neo-Nazism. By late 2019, Sawall – a friend of Cook’s – joined the conspiracy and assisted Cook with online recruitment efforts, operational security and organization.

As part of the conspiracy, each defendant was assigned a substation in a different region of the United States. The plan was to attack the substations, or power grids, with powerful rifles.

The defendants believed their plan would cost the government millions of dollars and cause unrest for Americans in the region. They had conversations about how the possibility of the power being out for many months could cause war, even a race war, and induce the next Great Depression.

In February 2020, the co-conspirators met in Columbus, Ohio, to further discuss their plot. Frost provided Cook with an AR-47 and the two took the rifle to a shooting range to train.

Frost also provided Cook and Sawall with suicide necklaces during the Columbus meeting. The necklaces were filled with fentanyl and were to be ingested if and when the defendants were caught by law enforcement. Both Cook and Sawall expressed their commitment to dying in furtherance of their mission.

Upon arriving in Columbus, Sawall and Cook purchased spray paint and painted a swastika flag under a bridge at a park with the caption, “Join the Front.”

The defendants had additional propaganda plans for their time in Ohio, but they were derailed during a traffic stop, during which Sawall swallowed his suicide pill but ultimately survived.

Cook, Frost and Sawall were each charged with providing material support to terrorism by a bill of information filed on Feb. 7. The defendants face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.