SEATTLE — A conviction in Seattle on Wednesday wrapped up the federal case against four members of a neo-Nazi group, one of them from Spring Hill, who mounted a campaign to threaten journalists and Jewish activists in Florida, Arizona and Washington state.
The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes following a two-day trial before convicting 25-year-old Kaleb Cole of five felony charges, including conspiracy, mailing threatening communications and interfering with a federally protected activity. He faces a decade in prison when Judge John C. Coughenour sentences him in January.
Cole, most recently of Montgomery, Texas, was a leader of a hate group called Atomwaffen Division. He and three others were charged last year with cyberstalking and sending Swastika-laden posters to journalists and employees of the Anti-Defamation League in the three states. The campaign was in retaliation for critical media coverage of the organization.
Tyler Parker-Dipeppe, 21, of Spring Hill, played a lower-level role and was sentenced to time served during a virtual court hearing in March. Judge Coughenour said that Parker-Dipeppe, who concealed his transgender identity from his co-conspirators and gave a tearful apology during the hearing, had already suffered enough in his young life.
Parker-Dipeppe pleaded guilty to conspiracy to mail threatening communications and to commit cyberstalking for trying to deliver a threatening flier to an unnamed news reporter in St. Petersburg.
While under surveillance in late January 2020, Parker-Dipeppe and another person visited what they thought was the right home and affixed a threatening poster to the front. It was the wrong address; instead, a Black woman lived there with her father and her child.
Parker-Dipeppe’s attorney, Peter Mazzone, said prison would be devastating for his client, who suffered abuse from an unaccepting father, from an alcoholic stepfather and from school bullies who tormented him.
Parker-Dipeppe had known since age 5, when he was growing up in Egg Harbor, N.J., that he wanted to be a boy, but his father threw away the “boy clothes” his mother bought him and physically abused him, including choking him, Mazzone wrote in a sentencing memo.
In his early teens, his high school failed to protect him from incessant bullying and eventually paid $50,000 to settle a lawsuit he brought.
Parker-Dipeppe moved to Florida to live with his mother and her husband, who one day came home drunk and beat him severely, breaking his front tooth and smashing his head against the driveway.
“This led him to just seek acceptance, and unfortunately he found it from these knuckleheads,” Mazzone said, referring to the group of about 10 boys, mostly 15 and 16 years old, who made up the Florida Atomwaffen cell.
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Judge Coughenour said he struggled with his sentencing decision because he was mindful of the fear and suffering such harassment can instill. But he added: “None of us have suffered the difficult situation this defendant has endured as a result of his gender identity confusion. ... Enough’s enough.”
The two other co-defendants in the case against Parker-Dipeppe and Cole, the Atomwaffen leader, have also pleaded guilty in federal court and been sentenced.
The other leader of the conspiracy, Cameron Shea, received a three-year term after apologizing and saying, “I cannot put into words the guilt that I feel about this fear and pain that I caused.” Johnny Roman Garza, of Queen Creek, Ariz., was sentenced to 16 months for affixing one of the posters on the bedroom window of a Jewish journalist.
Atomwaffen has been linked to several killings, including the May 2017 shooting deaths of two men at an apartment in Tampa and the January 2018 killing of a University of Pennsylvania student in California.
- Gene Johnson, Associated Press. Information from Tampa Bay Times archives was used in this report.