A former Virginia college student and federal prosecutors have reached a plea deal after he was accused of reporting false bomb threats and active shootings, a potentially dangerous hoax known as “swatting,” in coordination with a nationwide ring of white supremacists.
The former student, John William Kirby Kelley, has signed the plea agreement and has a hearing scheduled for May 8, according to a court document filed Saturday. He was arrested in January on a charge of conspiring to make threats to injure, according to The Associated Press.
A representative for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said the agreement had “not yet been entered into the public record” and declined to comment further.
Lawyers for Mr. Kelley declined to comment on Monday.
The authorities arrested Mr. Kelley earlier this year in connection with the swatting ring, which investigators said used the dark web and masking technology to conceal their IP addresses and phone numbers. He has yet to be indicted on charges related to what the authorities say was a plot to make and videotape swatting calls to the police, according to The A.P.
The Alfred Street Baptist Church, a historic black church in Alexandria, Va., was one of the targets of the swatting ring, according to the F.B.I., which characterized the members of the ring as neo-Nazi sympathizers. The authorities said members of the group used racial slurs and anti-Semitic language in their discussions about potential targets.
Mr. Kelley, a former student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., suggested his university as a swatting target in November 2018, an F.B.I. agent said in an affidavit.
Later that month, an anonymous caller told campus police officers that he had an AR-15 rifle and had placed several pipe bombs in campus buildings, the affidavit said. The call came from a blocked number.
Mr. Kelley was later harassed by his co-conspirators “because he identified his own university as a swatting target,” the affidavit said. The university expelled Mr. Kelley after he was arrested on state drug charges, according to the affidavit.
In February, the authorities arrested John Cameron Denton, of Montgomery, Texas, on charges related to multiple swatting events in the Eastern District of Virginia. Prosecutors accused Mr. Denton, a former leader of the white supremacist group Atomwaffen Division, of conspiring with Mr. Kelley and others to place the bogus law enforcement reports from November 2018 to at least April 2019.
In its statement at the time of Mr. Denton’s arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia characterized swatting as “a harassment tactic.” In a separate case, a federal grand jury indicted three men in 2018 for a swatting prank that left one man dead.
Mr. Denton’s lawyer declined to comment Monday night.
Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.