A trans man who threatened journalists as part of an interstate intimidation effort by a neo-Nazi ring against the press has been spared jail.
Taylor Parker-Dipeppe pleaded guilty last year to federal charges over his involvement in a sprawling plot to harass reporters critical of the Atomwaffen Division.
Atomwaffen is a small, extremist, paramilitary neo-Nazi group formed in 2016.
During his time in the group, Parker-Dipeppe drove members around Florida to place Swastika-splashed posters and threatening messages on properties.
But after a slip up led to the wrong person’s home being targeted, domestic intelligence officials intercepted Parker-Dipeppe. He was the only member of the Florida cell charged in state or federal court.
Ultimately, federal judges sided with Parker-Dipeppe’s attorneys who argued that the 21-year-old risks further “suffering” if imprisoned, the Associated Press reported.
A prison sentence, they added, would be the latest troubling turn in Parker-Dipeppe’s life, having experienced abuse from an unaccepting after, an alcoholic stepfather and tormenting school bullies.
Parker-Dipeppe tearfully apologised for his actions in court.
In light of this, Seattle district judge John Coughenour agreed Wednesday (31 March) to sentence Parker-Dipeppe to time served.
“None of us have suffered the difficult situation this defendant has endured as a result of his gender identity,” Coughenour said. “Enough’s enough.”
Trans man, abused by his family, found solace with neo-Nazi ‘knuckleheads’
Parker-Dipeppe faced a 16-month prison term sought by assistant US attorney Thomas Woods.
In a sentencing memo, Woods wrote that Parker-Dipeppe “instilled terror in his victims and contributed to the wide sense of fear and unease that many groups in this country understandably feel”.
This sentence would be devastating for Parker-Di-Peppe, his lawyers argued. Growing up in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, his father threw away his “boy’s clothes” that his mother bought him before brutally beating and choking him.
Educators failed to protect him when he weathered intense bullying in high school, they added.
Hopes of escaping this life of brutality were dashed when a move to Florida to be with his mother and stepfather was met with more physical assault.
The stepfather would drunkenly come home and beat him, shattering his teeth and smash his head on the driveway.
“This led him to just seek acceptance, and unfortunately he found it from these knuckleheads,” said attorney Peter Mazzone.
For Chris Ingalls, a Seattle journalist for KING-TV targeted by the group, the sentence was “satisfying”.
“Even though the FBI says Parker-Dipeppe was a low-level player in this plot, he was part of a terrifying crime that my family and other victims live with to this day,” Ingalls told the news agency.
“I’m satisfied with the justice system’s handling of this case and I take Parker-Dipeppe at his word that he is truly remorseful.”
What did Taylor Parker-Dipeppe do?
Parker-Dipeppe cooperated with other Florida members of Atomwaffen as part of interstate harassment campaigns against members of the press that negatively covered the group. They left Swastika-covered posters on journalists’ homes across Florida, Arizona and Washington state.
Rookie neo-Nazi members of Atomwaffen also left chilling messages on the properties, including the home of a Jewish reporter, such as: “You have been visited by your local Nazis”. Others “swatted” journalists – making fake 911 calls to prompt police SWAT team responses to the victim’s homes.
As the only member of the Florida chapter with a car, Parker-Dipeppe would drive himself and other members to journalists’ homes.
Federal prosecutors said Parker-Dipeppe and his co-conspirators fumbled when they affixed a poster to the wrong property in St Petersberg after he drove himself and another member there.
The intended target was a journalist of Puerto Rican descent – they postered a Black family’s home instead.
Parker-Dipeppe admitted he was part of Atomwaffen to his mother shortly after, wary that members would discover he is trans. She persuaded him to come out to the group – Atomwaffen immediately kicked him out.
Parker-Dipeppe admitted on September 2020 to a federal conspiracy charge during a hearing in United States District Court in Seattle.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to mail threatening communications and to commit cyberstalking.
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