Ethan Melzer is an U.S. Army soldier who is accused of confessing to planning a deadly attack on his own unit after passing along sensitive information to a white supremacist group.
The Justice Department announced Monday an indictment unsealed accusing the 22-year-old of collaborating with the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), an occult-based neo-Nazi organization, to carry out a “deadly ambush,” according to the press release.
The department claims the private sent information, including the unit’s location, movements and securities, to the “racially motivated” group, the criminal complaint states.
Melzer, who hails from Louisville, Kentucky, is being charged with “conspiring and attempting to murder U.S. nationals, conspiring and attempting to murder military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country,” the release continues.
“As the indictment lays out, Ethan Melzer plotted a deadly ambush on his fellow soldiers in the service of a diabolical cocktail of ideologies laced with hate and violence,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in the release.
Adding, “Our women and men in uniform risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own. The National Security Division is proud to support the efforts of those who disrupted this planned attack and to seek justice for these acts.”
The statement reported that Melzer was arrested on June 10 after the FBI and Army intervened in late May.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods.
Here is everything you need to know about Ethan Melzer:
1. Melzer Joined the Army Around 2018; He Joined O9A Approximately One Year Later
According to @TheJusticeDept, @USArmy Pvt. Ethan Melzer of Louisville, Ky., allegedly sent sensitive details about his unit, including locations, movements and security measures, to members of an extremist organization named Order of the Nine Angles. https://t.co/OiKo79zboh
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) June 23, 2020
According to the criminal complaint, Melzer deployed abroad with the army in October 2019.
He explored propaganda from multiple extremist groups, including O9A and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the complaint continues.
“The FBI seized from an iCloud account maintained by Melzer an ISIS-issued document with a title that included the phrase ‘HARVEST OF THE SOLDIERS,'” court records state. “And described attacks and murders of U.S. personnel in approximately April 2020.”
The HOPE Not Hate campaign, a website dedicated to counteracting the “politics of hate,” describes the Order as a group that promotes “a supernatural and hateful system of thought that condemns liberal, Judeo-Christian society.”
The complaint echoed similar sentiments, claiming O9A fuels “violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs.” The group has idolized Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic Jihadists, like former Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
2. Melzer Is Accused of Planning a ‘Jihadi Attack’
After the Army told Melzer in April 2020 of plans for a further foreign deployment by his unit, he “sought to facilitate a deadly attack on his fellow service members,” the complaint disclosed.
The private used an encrypted application to send messages to O9A and another related group called “RapeWaffen Division,” investigators revealed, detailing “sensitive information” regarding his unit’s upcoming deployment.
In May of this year, he sent similar information to a “purported” member of Al-Qaeda. He conveyed the number of soldiers traveling, the unit’s expected facility location and information about its surveillance and defensive capabilities, court records show.
Melzer also acknowledged that he was willing to die in order to carry out the “jihadi attack.”
According the complaint, he wrote, “Who gives a [expletive] [. . .] it would be another war . . . I would’ve died successfully . . . cause  another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”
Melzer promised to leak more information once he arrived at the unit’s location.
3. The Private Confessed to Being a ‘Traitor,’ Court Records Show
Although prosecutors didn’t specify how federal agents and the Army caught on to Melzer, they said he confessed almost immediately.
“The defendant confessed to his role in plotting an attack on his unit, admitted that he intended for the planned attack to result in the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible and declared himself to be traitor against the United States,” according to the complaint.
Melzer also described his behavior as “tantamount to treason,” it continues.
4. If Convicted, Melzer Could Face Life Behind Bars
The complaint claims Melzer is being charged with conspiring to murder U.S. nationals, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; attempting to murder U.S. nationals, a maximum sentence of 20 years; conspiring to murder U.S. military service members, also a maximum sentence of life in prison; attempting to murder U.S. military service members, a maximum of 20 years; attempting to provide and providing material support to terrorists, a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country, also a maximum of life in prison.
The prosecution is now being handled by the office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.
5. The Armed Forces Can Be a Recruiting Ground for Hate Groups, Watchdog Organizations Say
Although rare, organizations dedicated to tracking extremist activity have warned that the U.S. “armed forces can be a training and recruiting ground for hate groups,” the New York Times reported.
A number of white supremacists have previously served in the military and then resorted to “deadly violence afterward,” according to NYT, citing Wade Page and Timothy McVeigh. Page opened fire in 2012 at a Wisconsin Sikh temple, the outlet reported, while McVeigh bombed a federal building in 1995 in Oklahoma City.
In February 2019, the Times recalled a Coast Guard lieutenant arrested in Maryland and charged with plotting to kill a number of journalists, Democratic politicians, judges and other “leftists in general.”
Christopher Hasson, a self-described white nationalist, was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal gun and drug charges, the newspaper added.