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Oath Keeper Leader Charged with Seditious Conspiracy for Role in Jan. 6 Riot

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

The leader and founder of the extremist far-right group Oath Keepers and 10 others were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracies and other crimes for their involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Stewart Rhodes, 56, was arrested in Little Elm, Texas. 

The Oath Keepers is a loosely organized group that focuses on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first-responder personnel. 

According to the indictment, the defendants were wearing paramilitary gear and using a military formation to navigate the crowds and enter the Capitol. 

They assaulted U.S. Capitol Police and conspired to storm the Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, prosecutors said. 

The indictment marks the first time anyone has been charged with sedition for participating in the riot. 

Since the riot, more than 725 people from nearly every state has been charged in connection with the insurrection. Of those, 225 have been charged with assaulting or impending law enforcement. 

CBP Asks Public for Help Fixing Problems Caused by Trump’s Border Wall

One proposed fix is protecting culverts with drainage measures. Photo: CBP.

By Steve Neavling

CBP is seeking the public’s input on how border wall construction has caused problems in three Arizona counties. 

The agency plans to address some of the problems caused by the Trump administration’s 30-foot steel border wall, Arizona Public Media reports.

In an interactive document released this month, CBP shows how the wall has impacted wilderness in Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties.

Among the measures mentioned in the document are installing and maintaining small wildlife openings at the bottom of the walls and protecting culverts with drainage measures. 

Many miles of the border wall were erected in wildlife refuges and national forests.  

“The maintenance of roads, the building of structures to make sure that patrol roads do not erode away, that’s what really appears to be the main objective here, and not one of trying to restore our wild borderlands,” Myles Traphagen with the conservation nonprofit Wildlands Network said.

TSA Reveals Top 10 ‘Good Catches’ of 2020, Including a Meth Burrito

By Steve Neavling

From a gun-shaped wine holder to methamphetamine stuffed in a burrito, TSA officers found some unusual items in 2021. 

TSA released its “Top 10 Catches of 2021,” which lists its most bizarre findings by airport security workers.

The list is revealed in a video, which counts down to the No. 1 strangest item, and each is accompanied by a clever quip. 

The idea is to remind passengers of the kinds of items they’re not allowed to take on a plane. 

Here’s the list: 

1. Chainsaw, found at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

2. A revolver-shaped wine bottle holder, found at Sacramento International Airport.

3. Fireworks, found at Syracuse Hancock International Airport.

4. A “heavy-duty” machete, found at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

5. Bear spray, found at Destin-Fort-Walton Beach Airport.

6. A “well-worn” cleaver, found at Harrisburg International Airport.

7. A firearm-shaped belt buckle, found at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

8. Meth hidden in a breakfast burrito, found at William P. Hobby Airport.

9. An antique revolver, found at Newark Liberty International Airport.

10. Bullets in a stick of deodorant, found at Atlantic City International Airport.

The 2020 list included firearms, a grenade, and a jar with a dead baby shark. 

DOJ to Launch Domestic Terrorism Unit Amid Alarming Rise in Cases

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department is creating a new unit tasked with combating domestic terrorism. 

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen made the announcement during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, The Washington Post reports.

The move comes amid an alarming rise in domestic extremism. Olsen said the number of domestic extremism cases handled by the FBI have more than doubled since the spring of 2020. 

The new group will include a group of lawyers who will ensure that cases will be “handled properly and effectively coordinated” across the department and federal law enforcement .

“This group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly and effectively coordinated across the Department of Justice and across the country,” Olsen said.

More than 725 people have been charged for their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray previously said that the number of agents and analysts working on domestic terrorism cases has more than tripled. 

Neo-Nazi Leader Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison for Threatening Journalists

Photo: Shutterstock

By Steve Neavling

A leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division was sentenced to seven years in prison for threatening journalists and activists who worked to expose his anti-Semitism. 

A federal jury convicted Kaleb Cole, 25, of Washington, of one count of interfering with a federally protected activity because of religion, three counts of mailing threatening communications, and one count of conspiring with other Atomwaffen members to commit three offenses against the U.S. – interference with federally-protected activities because of religion, mailing threatening communications, and cyberstalking.

“Threats motivated by religious intolerance are antithetical to American values, even more so when they aim to intimidate journalists and others who are working to expose bigotry in our society.” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement Tuesday. “The defendant led a multi-state plot by a neo-Nazi group to threaten and intimidate journalists and advocates who were doing important work to expose anti-Semitism around the country. The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute these hateful acts.”

Cole and other members of Atomwaffen mailed threatening posters or glued the posters to the homes of the journalists and advocates, who were primarily Jewish or Black. The posters warned, “You have been visited by your local Nazis,” and contained threatening images, including a hooded figure throwing a Molotov cocktail at a house. 

“Kaleb Cole helped lead a violent, nationwide neo-Nazi group,’” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown for the Western District of Washington said. “He repeatedly promoted violence, stockpiled weapons, and organized ‘hate camps’. Today the community and those Mr. Cole and his co-conspirators targeted, stand-up to say hate has no place here. He tried to intimidate journalists and advocates with hate-filled and threatening posters, tried to amplify their fear. Instead they faced him in court and their courage has resulted in the federal prison sentence imposed today.”

Three co-conspirators have already been sentenced. 

FBI’s joint terrorism task forces in Seattle, Tampa, Houston, and Phoenix investigated, with assistance from the Seattle Police Department.

Secret Service Arrests New York Man Accused of Threatening to Kill, Kidnap Trump

President Trump

By Steve Neavling

The Secret Service arrested a Queens man accused of threatening to kidnap and kill then-President Trump if he refused to leave the White House following his failed 2020 election.  

Thomas Welnicki, 72, was charged with making threats against the president in cell phone calls to the Secret Service between July 2020 and last month, The New York Post reports.

“I am going to do anything I can to take out [Trump]. Oh yeah that’s a threat, come and arrest me,” Welnicki allegedly said on a Jan. 4, 2021, voicemail.

“I will do anything I can to take out [Individual-1] and his 12 monkeys,” Welnicki allegedly said in his voicemail. “If I had the opportunity to do it in Manhattan that would be awesome.”

In a call on Nov. 8, Welnicki allegedly called Trump “Hitler” and said “I will do everything I can to make sure [Trump] is dead.”

Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon ordered a $50,000 bond. 

During the hearing, his attorney Dierdre Von Dornum said Welnicki doesn’t own any weapons and hasn’t left New York City in 15 years. 

“If there were any actual danger here, I am certain that they would have arrested him sooner,” Von Dornum said.

Sherri Onks Tapped to Serve As Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office

FBI Special Agent in Charge Sherri Onks

By Steve Neavling

Sherri E. Onks has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office in Florida. 

Before the appointment, Onks served as an executive special assistant to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Onks’ career with the FBI began in 1999, when she was assigned to the Los Angeles Field Office, where she investigated white-collar crime before switching to counterterrorism following 9/11. 

In 2013, Onks transferred to the San Juan Field Office and investigated public corruption. She also was temporarily assigned to FBI headquarters to work a public-corruption case contacted to terrorism.

In 2006, Onks moved to the Richmond Field Office in Virginia to investigate corporate and securities fraud. In addition to investigating several complex investigations, she established and led the Virginia Financial and Securities Fraud Task Force.

In 2012, Onks was promoted to supervisory special agent and worked as the program coordinator of FBI Richmond’s financial crime, public corruption, civil rights, and health care fraud programs. In addition, she helped secure the first-ever federal criminal convictions of a Virginia governor and first lady by overseeing their public corruption case.

In 2014, Onks was named assistant legal attaché to Vancouver in Canada. She facilitated criminal, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism investigations and joint operations in Western Canada. She also served as FBI liaison to Canadian counterparts and held relationships with law enforcement and intelligence partners.

In 2019, Onks was promoted to the assistant special agent in charge of the Criminal and Administrative Branch of the Knoxville Field Office in Tennessee. In 2020, she was appointed special executive assistant to the director.

Onks received a bachelor’s degree from Maryville College in Tennessee and a master’s degree in criminology from the University of Memphis. 

Before joining the bureau, Onks worked in the health physics field.

Border Patrol Agents Rescue 25 Undocumented Migrants from Freezing Trailer

By Steve Neavling

Border Patrol agents rescued 25 undocumented migrants from a locked trailer in Texas. 

The migrants had no heat and no means of escape when agents assigned to the Sierra Blanca Station rescued them on the morning of Jan. 5, the agency announced.

Some of the migrants, who were part of a failed smuggling operation, were crying, shivering and distraught when they were found. 

“There have been significant rescues as of late by our agents where individuals were left in hazardous conditions and required immediate medical attention,” Big Bend Sector Chief Patrol Agent Sean L. McGoffin said. “Transnational criminal organizations have no concern for humanity, they continually place lives in danger.”

Last year, fast-acting Border Patrol agents – some of them off-duty – sprung to action when they saw people in danger. They were credited with saving lives.