White Nationalist Who Planned Similar Attack to Charleston Church Massacre Snags Generous Plea Deal

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Benjamin McDowell Plea Deal
Benjamin McDowell purchased a .40 caliber Glock after telling an undercover agent his plans to commit a Dylan Roof-style massacre. (Photo courtesy of the J. Reuben Long Detention Center).

The South Carolina man who longed to commit an attack “in the spirit of Dylann Roof” has reached a plea deal with prosecutors, one likely to significantly shorten his time in federal prison.

Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 30, was arrested in February 2017 after purchasing a disabled weapon from an undercover agent who he thought was part of a white nationalist organization. During their meet-ups, FBI officials say McDowell espoused hate for minority groups and divulged his plans to commit an attack similar to that of the Charleston church massacre — only larger.

“I got the heart to do that shit, but I don’t have the good training,” McDowell allegedly said of the bloody attack that left nine Black parishioners dead. ” …If I could do something on a f—-g big scale and write on the f—-g building or whatever, ‘In the spirit of Dylann Roof. ‘”

As part of his deal with prosecutors, McDowell pleaded guilty last week to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, but McDowell’s sentencing will likely be somewhere between 10 months and a little over three years, Huffington Post reported. 

The judge could hand down a lengthier stint, as the plea deal is not binding. However, McDowell retains the right to appeal his sentence if it’s longer than three years and one month in the slammer.

McDowell’s mental state has played a role in the case, his federal public defender noting the white nationalist was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder. A prior court filing also listed McDowell’s intellectual ability as “significantly below average,” and showed he received disability payments until he was 18 years old, according to Huff Post.

Court records show the South Carolina man became radicalized by association with white nationalists during a previous stint in prison and has a history of making racist and anti-Semitic remarks. The FBI began tracking him in mid-January after he expressed plans to carry out an attack similar to Roof’s.

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