TAMPA (FOX 13) - A 21-year-old neo-Nazi has been ordered held without bail, after federal prosecutors showed a judge new evidence of a plot to bomb nuclear facilities and kill civilians.
Prosecutors say Brandon Russell also plotted to attack synagogues and South Florida power grids.
At a hearing on Tuesday, the government presented photos of explosives, fuses, and other bomb-making material found in Russell's garage. They were trying to convince U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun to reverse his decision last week granting bond to Russell -- and it worked. Prosecutors won the reversal Wednesday, when Judge McCoun ruled Russell held without bail.
Just five days earlier, the judge said he found "no clear and convincing evidence” that Russell was a threat to the community and set his bond at $200,000. What the judge saw the second time around changed his mind. The evidence included photos of a white cake-like substance later identified as HMDT. It's the same type of explosive used in the 2005 terrorist attack on London's subway system that killed 52 people.
Prosecutors say Russell used Nazi chatrooms to recruit people into his plot. They showed screen-grabs of a conversation in which they claim Russell, using the screen name "Otis," wrote, "There are big things to come. We have many plans for the future."
Agents say they found the bomb-making materials in Russell’s apartment last month while investigating the murders of his roommates, 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk. Police say a fourth roommate, 18-year-old Devon Arthurs, admitted to killing Himmelman and Oneschuck because they "disrespected his Muslim faith." Before his recent conversion to Islam, Arthurs shared the same neo-Nazi beliefs as his three roommates.
Russell was not home at the time of the murders, but came home to discover the bodies just as police were arriving.
Arthurs told police his roommates were planning to carry out a terror attack. He said Russell often visited white supremacy and neo-Nazi chat rooms, where he threatened to blow up buildings and kill people. After leading police to the bodies, he told them where to find Russell’s bomb-making materials.
Police say Russell claimed the explosives were for amateur rockets and that he was a member of a USF engineering club. Prosecutors say they found no rockets, but they did find a framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. They say some of the explosives were the same type of material McVeigh used to blow apart the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, killing 168 people.
Devon Arthurs, meanwhile, claims he saved a lot of lives by killing his two roommates. Arthur's told police, "If I hadn't done that, there would be a lot more people dead. I shut down the organization". Russell's attorney, Ian Goldstein, sees that as a self-serving statement. "He's not credible at all", Goldstein said, adding, "He is insane and he's a murderer".
Arthurs remains held without bond on two counts of first-degree murder.