White supremacist pleads guilty in Las Vegas bomb plot case

National / World

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A self-described white supremacist pleaded guilty Monday in Las Vegas to collecting materials and planning to bomb a synagogue or office of the Anti-Defamation League, or shoot people at a fast food restaurant or a bar catering to LGBTQ customers.

Conor Climo, 24, stood rigidly in yellow jail scrubs, answering, “Yes, your honor,” while U.S. District Judge James Mahan questioned him about encrypted internet chats with an FBI informant and his membership in Feuerkrieg Division, an offshoot of a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division.

Climo said he possessed “materials required to make a destructive device, your honor.” He pleaded guilty to felony possession of an unregistered firearm.

His detainee garb contrasted with the military-style battle gear he wore when he was interviewed in September 2016 by a local television news crew as he patrolled his neighborhood carrying an assault rifle, survival knife and extended-capacity ammunition magazines. Police said at the time he was not arrested because Nevada does not prohibit openly carrying firearms.

Climo, a former security guard, was arrested Aug. 8 and remains in federal custody. He acknowledged Monday that he now takes prescription medications but did not specify his diagnosis. He will undergo mental health treatment and electronic computer monitoring during supervised release after prison, according to his plea agreement. He can’t possess weapons.

Climo could face between two and three years behind bars at sentencing May 14. He might have faced up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine if convicted at trial. His court-appointed public defender, Paul Riddle, declined outside court to comment.

FBI Las Vegas Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse, who watched in court with a contingent of local and federal law enforcers, later declared Climo’s plea a success for “proactive enforcement” and cooperation among agencies.

U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said Climo’s threats of violence were “”motivated by hate and intended to intimidate or coerce our faith-based and LGBTQ communities.” He said authorities are committed to assessing threats and intervening “before mass violence can occur.”

Las Vegas experienced the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history when a gunman using military-style rifles rained bullets from a high-rise hotel into an open-air concert crowd in October 2017, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds. The gunman killed himself before police reached him.

The FBI’s Las Vegas-area Joint Terrorism Task Force began investigating Climo last April. Climo spent several months telling the informant of detailed plans to firebomb a synagogue near his home, according to court documents. He told agents an attack would “uphold his ideology” and help get his message out, and that he wanted other people to join him to shoot people fleeing flames.

Atomwaffen Division has been linked to several killings, including the 2017 shooting deaths of two men at an apartment in Tampa, Florida. The group “encourages, and may even commit, violent attacks on people of the Jewish religion, homosexuals, African Americans and federal infrastructures,” a U.S. magistrate judge wrote when she rejected Climo’s bid for release last August.

Climo also compiled a journal with sketches of attacks on a Las Vegas LGBTQ bar in the downtown Fremont Street tourist corridor and a McDonald’s restaurant, the magistrate judge said.

The FBI confiscated an AR-15 assault-style weapon and a bolt-action rifle from Climo’s home when he was arrested. Agents reported finding hand-drawn schematics and component parts of a destructive device, including flammable liquids, oxidizing agents and circuit boards.

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