White supremacist who plotted attack on Maryland power grid pleads guilty

Prosecutors say that Sarah Beth Clendaniel believed the violence was necessary to push for societal collapse

Dan Gooding
Tuesday 14 May 2024 22:24
FBI: Baltimore woman, Orlando man attempted attack on Maryland power grid

A white supremacist who plotted to destroy the Baltimore power grid, believing doing so would “break down society”, is facing up to twenty years in prison.

Sarah Beth Clendaniel, 36, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiring to “lay this city to waste” by damaging or destroying electrical facilities in Maryland.

Clendaniel worked with a co-defendant and another person on the plot which would have seen them shoot up multiple electrical substations to cut off the power to the city, in order to push for “societal and governmental collapse”.

Prosecutors say that the Catonsville woman and Brandon C Russell, from Florida, became acquaintances in 2018 when they were both serving jail time in separate prisons.

According to the Department of Justice, both believe in a white supremacist ideology called “accelerationism”, which means they see the current system as irreparable unless violent action is taken.

Russell is currently charged with the same conspiracy offence and is awaiting trial.

Investigators said the pair worked with others from December 2022 until February 2023 on their plot, which included damaging the energy facilities around the Maryland city.

Sarah Clendaniel and Brandon Russell, the founder of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, in mug shots (Maryland State Police / Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department)

In January 2023, Russell and another person - known as CHS-1 in documents - allegedly discussed using Clendaniel, who lived near Baltimore, to achieve “maximum impact”.

The group used open map data of Baltimore’s power grid to plot out the substations they would hit.

Their plan was to target multiple substations at the same time to “completely destroy this whole city”, as Clendaniel told CHS-1.

The anonymous person would be the driver, while Clendaniel would be the shooter attacking the substations she had selected in Norrisville, Reisterstown and Perry Hall.

“[I]t would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste if we could do that successfully,” she said on January 29 2023, believing this would aid in achieving the goal of “accelerationism”.

When law enforcement agents searched Clendaniel’s home on 3 February 2023, they found multiple firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, despite her ban from possessing these as a convicted felon.

“The threat posed by domestic violent extremists is evolving and persistent,” Special Agent in Charge Thomas J Sobocinski of the FBI Baltimore Field Office said when the pair were charged.

“The FBI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement and private sector partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to the safety of our citizens.”

Clendaniel’s family said in February that her fall into neo-Nazism happened against a backdrop of mental health issues and drug addiction that sometimes landed her in prison.

“I knew what she believed, and she knew what I believed,” her mother Lanette Clendaniel, who’s raising two of the woman’s children, said at the time. “There was nothing I could do.”

Clendaniel pleaded guilty to conspiracy and felony possession charges. She now faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy charge and 15 for the possession offence.

Her sentencing is scheduled for 3 September, while Russell is due to stand trial in July.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in