A U.S. Army private connected to a satanic neo-Nazi group has pled guilty to plotting to get his unit ambushed by jihadi groups in the hopes of what authorities called a “mass casualty” event.
Ethan Phelan Melzer, 24, a private from Kentucky, pleaded guilty to his role in the plot on Friday. Melzer is a follower of the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), a satanic ideology connected to some of the most violent neo-Nazi groups in recent years, multiple murders, and incidents of pedophilia.
09A is an unwieldy ideology that “espouses neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs, and promotes extreme violence to accelerate and cause the demise of Western civilization,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The group has expressed admiration for Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Osama bin Laden, the deceased former leader of al Qaeda. But O9A is also intentionally obtuse and fantastical, and goes deep into esoteric occultism.
Violence, however, is one clear component, and the group has been connected to multiple murders internationally, including a double homicide in Toronto in 2020. The group has also been connected to pedophilia, and multiple adherents have been caught with child pornography.
Melzer was arrested in May of 2020 and charged with sending information, including his unit’s “location, strength, and armaments,” to members of O9A and a person he believed was affiliated with al Qaeda in order to facilitate a attack from a jihadi group, according to a release from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Melzer had been involved with O9A since 2017, a year before he joined the Army. Using the encrypted chat app Telegram, he communicated the information to the group shortly after he learned he’d be deployed to an area in Turkey “guarding an isolated and sensitive military installation.”
“You just gotta understand that currently I am risking my literal free life to give you all this,” Melzer wrote to his contacts and added he was “expecting results,” according to the DA’s office.
Like in many cases, however, Melzer wasn’t sending the information to his intended target but directly to an FBI informant. The FBI has multiple informants within the group, including one of the most influential O9A proselytizers in the United States, if not the world, as laid out in a lengthy reported piece for Rolling Stone.
Before submitting his guilty plea, Melzer’s lawyers were building a defense based around the “cannibal cop” case—wherein they’d argue he was just indulging in online fantasies, the Associated Press reported. The defense of the New York cop who discussed his fantasies of kidnapping, killing, and eating women online was unsuccessful, and he was ultimately convicted and spent 21 months in prison.
O9A has been around for decades but has recently become well-known and widespread due to its connection to the neo-Nazi terror groups formed online on forums like Iron March. The group's literature is influential and shared widely among adherents in this sect of the extreme-right ecosystem. Members of Atomwaffen and The Base—both of which have members serving long prison sentences for a variety of crimes—had neo-Nazis actively spreading the ideology from within.
Prosecutors said that Melzer “self-initiated” into the group by shooting a drug dealer in the arm in 2017. Another key cog in O9A teachings is that followers should take “insight roles'' in which they infiltrate other groups and try to get weapons training that would aid them in spreading chaos.
“O9A members are instructed to fulfill ‘sinister’ deeds, including “insight roles,” where they attempt to infiltrate various organizations, including the military, to gain training and experience, commit acts of violence, identify like-minded individuals, and ultimately subvert those groups from within,” the DA’s release says.
Melzer’s sentencing is set for Jan. 6. He faces up to 45 years in prison.
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