COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Two men, including one from Columbus, were sentenced to prison in federal court Friday for conspiring to attack U.S. power grids “in the name of white supremacy.”
Columbus resident Christopher Brennan Cook, 21, and 25-year-old Jonathan Allen Frost were sentenced to 92 months and 5 years, respectively, for their roles in plotting to attack power grids across the country.
Cook, Frost, and Jackson Matthew Sawall — who still awaits sentencing — met in Columbus to plan the attacks, which they hoped would cause a race war and “induce the next Great Depression,” a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release said.
“These defendants plotted armed attacks against energy facilities to stoke division in furtherance of white supremacist ideology and now they are being held accountable,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in the release. “The Justice Department will not tolerate the use of violence to advance any extremist ideology and we remain determined to protect our communities from such hateful acts of terror.”
Frost and Cook met in an online chat group in 2019, according to the attorney’s office, and it was Frost who first shared the idea of attacking substations. The two began recruiting people for the conspiracy, circulating reading lists of neo-Nazi and white supremacist literature and creating a propaganda group called “The Front,” which would have taken credit for the substation attacks.
In February 2020, the trio met in Columbus in February 2020 to discuss their plan. Frost gave Cook and Sawall AR-47 rifles and fentanyl-filled suicide necklaces to use if they were caught by law enforcement.
Cook and Sawall spray-painted a swastika flag with the words “Join the Front” under a park bridge. A traffic stop by police stopped the two’s plan to spray paint other neo-Nazi messages around the city.
The co-conspirators met multiple times to plan the attacks in March 2020, including in Texas and Oklahoma, where Cook attempted to recruit underage young people into the plot, according to court documents. They also circulated a guide on recruiting youth among group members.
“At the root of every terrorist plot – whether foreign or domestic – is hate,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Kenneth Parker. “As a society, we must be vigilant against online radicalization, which is a powerful tool used by extremists to recruit both juveniles and adults.”
The men pleaded guilty in February 2022 after being charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. According to court documents, law enforcement found an array of guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, silencers, grenades, and materials to makes bombs, including PVC pipes, batteries and wires.