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Federal judge reverses bail order, keeping neo-Nazi jailed in Tampa explosives case

Brandon Russell, 21, faces federal explosives charges in connection with the discovery of bomb-making materials at his Tampa Palms apartment. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office].
Brandon Russell, 21, faces federal explosives charges in connection with the discovery of bomb-making materials at his Tampa Palms apartment. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office].
Published Jun. 14, 2017

TAMPA — The neo-Nazi roommate of a double-murder suspect will remain held without bail on federal explosives charges after a judge Wednesday reversed an earlier ruling granting his release.

Evidence presented at a hearing this week — including statements from murder suspect Devon Arthurs, who said his roommate Brandon Russell was planning acts of terrorism — were enough for U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III to change his mind about Russell posing a threat to the public.

Russell will remain in federal custody while he awaits trial.

The judge, however, noted the questionable credibility of Arthurs' statements, which were made during a police interrogation hours after authorities say Arthurs shot and killed his other two roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk.

"Should the Government discover upon further investigation that Arthurs has lied or otherwise misled law enforcement and the prosecution, such shall be promptly disclosed to the Defendant and to this Court," McCoun wrote.

Russell, 21, faces explosives charges after bomb-making materials were found at his Tampa Palms apartment May 19 during the murder investigation. Arthurs, separately, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in state court.

McCoun previously set Russell's bail at $200,000 and ordered him to remain confined with an electronic monitor to his grandmother's Orlando home.

The decision followed a hearing last week at which prosecutors argued that Russell led a neo-Nazi group known as Attomwaffen. He had driven to the Florida Keys immediately after discovering what Arthurs had done, prosecutors said. Along the way, he and a friend bought two guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

The government asked the judge to reconsider his decision to grant bail. At a second hearing Tuesday, they played portions of Arthurs' interrogation.

In the videos, Arthurs claims that Russell had plans to attack power lines in the Florida Everglades and a nuclear power plant near Miami.

Prosecutors also displayed photos of the explosive chemicals and bomb-making materials that were found in the apartment, and copies of posts they say Russell made to an online neo-Nazi forum.

McCoun said in his Wednesday order he could not ignore concerns about the veracity of what Arthurs said.

"To be sure, the video clips presented evidence of a troubled individual, a rambling and disjointed mind set, and attempts by Mr. Arthurs to rationalize or justify his unconscionable killing of two people," the judge wrote. "They also show his efforts to deflect law enforcement's attentions away from himself and toward Defendant and the group he allegedly leads."

The judge said he was troubled that the government presented no evidence to corroborate Arthurs' claims. Still, he said, the evidence leads him to conclude that Russell is a danger to the community.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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