Purported leader of neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen wants out of detention in SeaTac; feds oppose release

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Kaleb Cole, the purported hate-spewing leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, is asking a federal magistrate judge to reconsider his detention on charges alleging he and others conspired to threaten Jews, Blacks and journalists in Western Washington and elsewhere, claiming he poses no real risk to the community and that his views, while unpopular, are protected speech.

Federal prosecutors, in a response, revealed new details of the investigation into the 26-year-old Cole and Atomwaffen — German for “Atomic Weapon” — including the revelation that the group had been infiltrated by an undercover officer who says that Cole greeted him in full Knights of the Ku Klux Klan regalia — including the notorious pointed hood — when he answered the door during a meeting in January. The document also contains photographs purported to be of Cole with neo-Nazi extremists in Europe and posing in skull masks outside the gates of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, where millions of Jews were killed as part of Hitler’s “Final Solution” in Europe.

The document reveals that Cole, who was raised in Everett and has family in Arlington, has been permanently banned from Canada, where officials have determined he was a “member of an organization that might engage in terrorism.” It alleges he has diversified his assets, stockpiled weapons and owns machinery that can be used to manufacture guns.

In a motion asking the court to reconsider its earlier order that he be detained pending trial, Cole and his lawyers point out that he has no criminal past and has a family willing to vouch for him, despite their stated opposition to his personal views.

“Mr. Cole is alleged to be part of an organization that holds (to say the least) some very unpopular beliefs,” wrote Seattle attorney Christopher Black, who is representing Cole. “And, while those alleged beliefs are to some extent intertwined with the crimes charged in this case, the Court cannot (and we trust will not) base its decision as to Mr. Cole’s detention based on the alleged constitutionally protected beliefs of an organization.”

The hearing will be before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paula McCandlis, who has not set a date for arguments.

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Cole and three other purported members of the Atomwaffen Division (AWD) were charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in February for allegedly mounting a campaign of fear and intimidation against at least one Seattle television journalist and two local activists associated with the Anti-Defamation League, as well as activists and journalists in other states. Posters containing swastikas, skulls and threats like “We know where you live” were sent to some of their home addresses.

Cole also faces a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm in King County after he was arrested in February in Texas while the passenger in a car driven by an alleged fellow AWD member that had an AK-47-style rifle in the trunk, along with ammunition. This occurred after Seattle police late last year seized five assault-style rifles, a sawed-off shotgun and three semi-automatic handguns from Cole’s home as part of a “Red Flag” Extreme Risk Protection Order finding Cole posed an imminent risk to public safety.

According to federal officials and news reports, Western Washington is home to one of the largest cells of Atomwaffen adherents, which ProPublica identified as were mostly young white men who have embraced a philosophy that idolizes Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson and seeks to force the collapse of civilization through race war and hate. ProPublica, citing access to encrypted chat logs containing 250,000 messages, said the group claims as many as 80 members in 20 cells spread around the country, with one of the largest being in Washington. The group’s website features propaganda posters promoting “white revolution” and urging white men to “join your local Nazis!”

AWD members or their close associates have been linked to at least five homicides and one former leader is in prison for possession of bomb-making materials, according to court documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods, who is prosecuting Cole and three others — Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond; Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida; and Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona — urged the court to reject Cole’s plea for release, saying his past actions indicate he would not only be a threat to the community, but that he would flee and go underground.

Shea remains in custody with Cole at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. Garza was released on bond and Parker-Dipeppe was released pending trial after citing health problems that made him vulnerable to COVID-19, according to court filings.

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Cole allegedly told the undercover officer in January that he was taking precautions in light of the Red Flag seizures by Seattle police, and that he now knew that law enforcement was watching his finances and other aspects of his life. “He also said he had lived in his car for a period to ‘save money, get more guns.’ ” and bragged that police had not seized machinery he owns to manufacture guns, according to the government’s motion opposing his release.

“Cole said that he had plans for ‘doomsday,’ which he considered ‘around the corner,’ and that he planned to ‘get what [he] … needs and have it elsewhere [i.e. not at his house]” where it could be seized, Woods wrote.

While Cole had no criminal charges in his past, Woods wrote that he has “repeatedly threatened violence … stockpiled firearms, and possessed a dangerous firearm after his weapons were seized by the Seattle Police Department,” he wrote. He asked the court to reject Cole’s other arguments supporting release. While his family may be “well-intentioned,” the prosecutor argued that “his family has been unable to curb his extremist behavior” and that Cole had mentioned to the undercover officer that he had stored guns at his father’s house.

“Cole is both an extreme danger to the community and a risk of flight,” Woods wrote. “He could not adequately be supervised even under the best of circumstances.”

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