NEW YORK (AP) — A United States Army soldier from Kentucky pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he planned to kill members of his unit in an attack he planned to carry out in 2020 on behalf of a group promoting extreme violence to the demise of Western civilization, authorities said.
Ethan Phelan Melzer, 24, of Louisville, Kentucky, filed the plea in Manhattan federal court. The conviction was set on January 6, when he could face up to 45 years in prison after pleading guilty to murdering members of the US military, supporting terrorists and illegally passing on national defense information.
In court documents, federal authorities say Melzer was already a member of a radically violent group known as the Order of Nine Corners, or 09A, before joining the military in December 2018. According to a criminal complaint, the group is an anarchist group founded in the UK and now operates worldwide, including in the US
Authorities said he had tried by force as a street-level drug dealer to register himself in 09A after shooting a marijuana dealer in the arm near his Louisville apartment in January 2017.
In a defence’s file, lawyers wrote that Melzer denies being a member of the group and told law enforcement after his arrest that his online claims about membership in the group “were blunders intended to impress the people he met online.” communicated.” The defense said that while Melzer had some curiosity about 09A, he believed it to be “weird” and “virtually a cult” and that his beliefs were “opposites” of his.
In a release Friday, authorities said he had joined the military to infiltrate its ranks on behalf of the group that holds neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and Satanic beliefs and encourages its members to infiltrate the military to receive training, commit violent acts and identify like-minded individuals so they can try to undermine the military from within.
Although he had joined 09A in 2017 or earlier, he began consuming propaganda from multiple extremist groups, including Islamic State, on encrypted online forums after being sent to Italy in October 2019 as a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, according to the release.
It said his actions leading to the charges came in part after the military told him in early May 2020 that he would be reassigned to a unit deployed overseas to guard an isolated and sensitive military installation.
After weeks of training, including secret briefings in which he learned the importance and sensitivity of his new assignment, Melzer immediately began passing on the information he learned to members of 09A when he proposed and planned a deadly attack on his fellow service members, the authorities said.
They said Melzer planned to join the conspirators in carrying out a “jihadist attack” that would cause a “mass casualties” and had told others that an attack would force the unit’s “fire teams” into orphans would paralyze”.
In his communications, Melzer told his co-conspirators that he was willing to die for terrorist purposes, concluding that he “would have died successfully,” according to court documents.