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Neo-Nazi leader and woman allegedly plotted to 'destroy' Baltimore with attacks on power substations

The duo planned “completely destroy” the city by destroying its power grid

February 7, 2023 8:20am

Updated: February 7, 2023 9:11am

A neo-Nazi leader and a woman were charged with conspiracy to damage Baltimore’s electrical substations and “completely destroy” the city, according to federal documents. 

The Justice Department charged Brandon Clint Russel and Sarah Beth Clendaniel with conspiring to damage the city’s energy facilities in a plot motivated by ethnic and racial extremist beliefs. 

They “conspired to inflict maximum harm on the power grid,” Tom Sobocinski, head of the FBI’s field office in Baltimore, said during a news conference Monday. “The accused were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals.”

In a recorded conversation, Clendaniel allegedly told the FBI that destroying the power grid would  “completely destroy this whole city.” Russel and Clendaniel had planned to disable the power grid via “sniper attacks.”

The two also left behind a written manifesto, in which they reference Hitler, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and the perpetrator of the 2011 terrorist attack in Norway. Russel reportedly has a long history of ties to groups with Nazi beliefs.

Clendaniel made her first court appearance on Monday afternoon in downtown Baltimore. She will remain detained pending further hearings and is expected to enter a plea. 

Russel also made his initial appearance in a federal courthouse in Florida on Monday and he will also remain detained pending further hearings. 

The charge comes after several substations in the United States have been attacked in recent months. In late december, four electrical substations were vandalized, leaving entire neighborhoods without power. A few weeks earlier, two utility stations in North Carolina were attacked by individuals with criminal intent, leaving 45,000 people without power.