Neo-Nazi Leader Pleads Guilty to Storing Explosives in Florida Garage

Brandon Russell, the founder of white supremacist group Atomwaffen, faces up to 11 years in prison

This undated file booking photo provided by Pinellas County Sheriff's Office shows Brandon Russell.
This undated file booking photo provided by Pinellas County Sheriff's Office shows Brandon Russell. Credit: /AP

The leader of a small Florida-based neo-Nazi group pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges associated with having explosives in his apartment's garage.

Court documents show that Brandon Russell entered his pleas in a federal courtroom in Tampa. He faces up to 11 years in federal prison on charges of possessing illegal firearms and a destructive device, and storing explosives.

The bomb-making materials – including the highly explosive substance HMTD, several pounds of ammonium nitrate and homemade fuses – were discovered during a murder investigation involving Russell's roommate, Devon Arthurs.

Arthurs is charged with two counts of first-degree, premeditated murder in the deaths of two other Tampa roommates, Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman. All three were at one time members of Atomwaffen, the white supremacist group Russell admitted to starting.

Russell was arrested in the Florida Keys. He had fled Tampa with a friend after coming home and finding the bodies of his two slain roommates, prosecutors said. Police found the illegal weapons – two rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition – in the trunk of his car.

In entering his guilty pleas, Russell filed an objection to the allegation he intended to assemble a bomb. His attorney, Ian Goldstein, said in an email that Russell is taking responsibility for his actions despite this objection.

"Any deal with the government would have involved cooperation against other individuals. Mr. Russell does not wish to shift blame to others in order to obtain extra leniency for himself. He did what he did and he has accepted responsibility for his actions," Goldstein said.

Russell is scheduled to be sentenced on January 9.

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