TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old an Army infantry soldier described by prosecutors as a Satanist who hoped to overthrow the U.S. government pleaded guilty Monday to distributing information through social media about building a bomb and making napalm.
Jarrett William Smith, a private first class stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, and previously at Fort Bliss, Texas, admitted during a court hearing to providing information about explosives in September to an FBI undercover agent.
Smith signed a formal plea agreement with federal prosecutors and then entered his pleas verbally during a half-hour court hearing before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree. He wore an orange prison jumpsuit and black athletic shoes and alternated between “Yes” and “Yes, sir” in answering questions from Crabtree.
“Did you provide this information with the intent that the person would use it?” Crabtree asked him.
Smith replied, “Yes.”
Smith also had faced a third felony charge of threatening to burn down the house of a far-left-leaning “antifa” member in Michigan, but that charge is to be dismissed under the plea agreement. The two other charges dealt with Smith's actions while stationed at Fort Riley starting in July 2019.
Smith initially pleaded not guilty to all three charges in September but notified Crabtree last month that he would change his plea. The two charges to which he pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Crabtree set his sentencing for May 18.
An attorney for Smith, federal public defender Rich Federico, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment after Monday's hearing.
In his plea agreement, Smith admitted that he had “disseminated guidance to others” through social media about how to build improvised explosive devices and that he spoke to others about his desire to travel to Ukraine to fight with “a violent, far-right paramilitary group.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi said during a court hearing in September that Smith planned to overthrow the government, with attacking a news organization as a first step. An FBI affidavit said Smith suggested to the undercover agent targeting an unidentified major news organization with a car bomb, and CNN reported that it was the target, citing two sources familiar with the investigation.
The affidavit said the FBI undercover agent asked Smith if there was anyone in Texas to target for "fire, destruction and death," and that Smith mentioned "Beto," an apparent reference to former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who was running at the time for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The affidavit said that Smith told another FBI agent before his arrest that his goal was to create "chaos." Mattivi said in September that Smith told the agent he distributed explosives information "for the glory of his Satanist religion,” though he provided few other details, other than saying that Smith liked "black metal" music designed to attract people to Satan.
Mattivi declined to provide further details Monday.
An FBI affidavit in September alleged that Smith discussed a plan to kill "antifa" activists and described how to build a bomb that could be triggered by calling a cellphone. The affidavit identified the Ukrainian paramilitary group as Azov Battalion and said Smith was mentored by someone who had fought with a similar group there, Right Sector.
Online: Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna