Four neo-Nazis arrested on gun charges wanted to spark a race war, prosecutors said, and their potential targets included Black Lives Matter protesters
, Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: Getty
In 2016, Liam Collins, then just a teenager living in New Jersey, had a very specific vision for his life. He was going to join the U.S. Marines, get the training he needed, and then form a fascist paramilitary group that would use violence and terror to create a whites-only ethnostate.
“It takes a man’s willpower and heart to make a commitment like this,” Collins wrote at the time on a since-shuttered neo-Nazi web forum called Iron March.
Four years later, in early October of 2020, Collins was discharged from the Marines and moved to Idaho, where he settled down with a crew of fellow self-described fascists. The group was allegedly heavily armed, had conducted weapons training, and had even produced their own propaganda videos in which they displayed support for the violent neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division.
But one day in late October, federal agents arrived. HuffPost first reported that three men — including Collins, another former Marine, and a porn actor — were arrested for a conspiracy to ship illegally altered guns across state lines. Although initial court documents offered no details of the men’s white supremacist activity, a superseding indictment recently filed in federal court (which adds new charges and a new defendant to the existing case) lays out horrifying details of their alleged racism and bloodlust.
All told, the new court documents — along with leaked Iron March messages obtained by anti-fascist activists — paint a frightening portrait of American extremist terror. They show white supremacists finding spaces to organize online and in the military, where they discuss moving to regions where they think they can make inroads among predominantly white populations.
The documents also offer evidence of these white supremacists either surveilling Black Lives Matter demonstrations or discussing how to kill the protesters taking part. Prosecutors allege that on two occasions this summer in Boise, Idaho, one of the neo-Nazi defendants was spotted silently stalking the demonstrations from his car, driving slowly near anti-racist protesters gathered in the state capitol. He later allegedly texted one of the other defendants about forming a “death squad” to massacre Black Lives Matter activists.
Collins, 21, was arrested in Idaho along with Paul Kryscuk, a 35-year-old former porn actor, and Jordan Duncan, a 25-year-old former Marine. The fourth defendant, a 21-year-old active-duty Marine named Justin Wade Hermanson, was arrested in North Carolina as part of the same plot.
A federal grand jury alleges that all four men — who referred to themselves as “Disciple,” “Deacon,” “Soldier” and “Sandman” — participated in a weapons conspiracy to manufacture, transport and sell illegally altered firearms starting in 2019.
The four are facing an array of criminal counts. All of them are charged with conspiracy to manufacture firearms and ship those arms interstate. Collins, Kryscuk and Hermanson are also facing charges of interstate transportation of firearms without a license. Collins and Kryscuk each are charged with an additional count of interstate transportation of unregistered firearms. According to the feds, Collins and Kryscuk could face a maximum of 20 years in prison, Hermanson could face as much as 10 years behind bars, and Duncan could face a maximum of five years. Most defendants don’t end up receiving the maximum sentence.
‘Come Home White Man’
Paul Kryscuk was known as “Pauly Harker” in the porn world, a stage name he used in films in which he’d sexually abuse and humiliate Black women. In 2014, according to a website that monitors racism and abuse in the porn industry, Kryscuk expressed some regret for his role in these films, calling it the “most degrading job” he’d ever done.
But by early 2017 he was back on the job, starring in more vile and racist porn videos, including some in which he specifically lashed out at the Black Lives Matter movement.
It was around this time that he started posting to Iron March, an infamous online gathering place for the most dangerous elements of the far-right, including murderous neo-Nazi groups like the Atomwaffen Division.
“I’ve recently become much more of a virulent racist than I was even a month or two ago,” Kryscuk wrote in one post, according to Iron March chat logs obtained and published online by anti-fascist activists. “There is no possible co-existence with the other races.”
Some of his posts attracted Collins’ attention. Collins had written on Iron March about his dreams of forming a new group called “Fascist Liaison.” It would be a “modern day SS,” a reference to the genocidal paramilitary arm of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party. Members, Collins wrote, would go hiking and camping together, do gym sessions, practice with weapons and eventually buy a plot of land, all in preparation for a race war.
“We’re militants, not Intellectuals,” Collins explained to Kryscuk in one message. “Let me know if you would be interested in joining the Liaison. From then on you can be briefed.”
“I am extremely interested,” Kryscuk responded.
Iron March was shut down in late 2017, but by then, according to federal prosecutors, Collins and Kryscuk were using encrypted messaging apps to recruit other white nationalists to their group. These recruits included the two other defendants — Duncan and Hermanson — who, like Collins, had been stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
By February 2020, Kryscuk had moved to Boise. When he arrived, according to the indictment, he met up with other group members in the area and discussed possibly converting solvent traps, which are gun cleaning devices, into silencers.
Prosecutors allege that he preached to the group that the “final frontier is real life violence.” He claimed that he had been “acquiring some serious skills” and that he had become “pretty lethal.”
Duncan, who would soon begin working as a contractor with the U.S. Navy in Boise, met up with Kryscuk in the city in July. Later that summer the pair, along with two other unidentified group members, participated in training exercises in the desert outside Boise, even filming a propaganda video featuring the four men “outfitted in AtomWaffen masks giving the ‘Heil Hitler’ sign, beneath the image of a black sun,” according to the indictment.
The video ended with a message: “Come home white man.”
The Nazis Of Camp Lejeune
Among the first Iron March users to be exposed in the press was Collins. A Marines spokesperson told Newsweek at the time that a “full investigation” into Collins’ alleged extremism would be initiated.
But by August of 2020, this investigation was still ongoing, Collins remained a Marine, and prosecutors say Duncan and Kryscuk were excitedly telling their fellow fascists about Collins, who they said had “tons of gear and training” and had already recruited three other Marines to their group.
According to the indictment, they also praised Collins for having “sacrificed the most for the cause.”
A Marines spokesman told HuffPost that Collins, a rifleman who reached the rank of lance corporal, was prematurely discharged from the service in September 2020 because “the character of his service” was “incongruent with Marine Corps’ expectations and standards.”
Citing an ongoing administrative process, the spokesman would not elaborate any further.
In his previous posts on Iron March, Collins had been explicit about his motives for joining the military: He wanted to get training he could then use with his fascist paramilitary group. Members of his group, he wrote in one post, would be “required to have served in a nation’s military, whether U.S., UK, or Poland.”
Scholars of white supremacists in America have long warned of precisely this dangerous military-to-paramilitary pipeline.
Veterans and active-duty personnel have historically been among the most effective domestic terrorists, Kathleen Belew, author of “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America,” said in an interview last year after HuffPost exposed seven white nationalist group members in the military.
Current and former military members have “played an instrumental role in moving weapons, training and tactics from military to civilian spaces” and have “dramatically escalated the impact of white power violence on civilian populations,” Belew said.
Of the four defendants named in the latest indictment, three — Collins, Duncan and Hermanson — had served in the Marines and possibly met each other at Camp Lejeune.
Hermanson, by then a corporal, was the only active-duty Marine at the time of the arrests. He was most recently stationed at Camp Lejeune, where he worked as a clerk in the 1st Battalion, 2nd Division.
It’s also where, according to the indictment, he had started going by the name “Sandman” while communicating with the fascist group. He helped recruit and vet at least one other person for the group, the indictment states, and had been viewing Atomwaffen propaganda material.
“The serious allegations are not a reflection of the Marine Corps, do not reflect the oath every Marine takes to support and defend the constitution, and do not align with our core values of honor, courage, and commitment,” the Marines spokesman told HuffPost.
Hermanson and Collins had been assigned to the same unit at Camp Lejeune. But in October, Collins was pushed out of the Marines and joined Duncan and Kryscuk in Boise.
By then the group in Idaho had assembled an arsenal with at least three 9 mm pistols with suppressors, four lightweight semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, and two short barrel rifles, according to the indictment. Kryscuk was also allegedly viewing materials about car bombs, remote detonators and other explosives
They appeared to be inching ever closer to the “real life violence” they craved. One of their potential targets? Those demonstrating during this year’s historic Black Lives Matter uprising.
The ‘Death Squad’
News of the arrests of the first three men came to light after Alicia Garza, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, tweeted that the FBI had visited her home in October and said her name had been found on a list in the home of an Idaho white supremacist.
“This is why this President is so dangerous,” Garza tweeted at the time. “He is stoking fires he has no intention of controlling. I’m ok y’all, but this shit is not ok. Vote this muthafucka out. For real.”
The superseding indictment indicates that the four defendants had started taking more proactive steps to target Black Lives Matter supporters.
Kryscuk, according to court documents, was “within eyesight” of a BLM rally at Boise State University on July 21, “first sitting in his parked vehicle then driving around the rally area slowly, for a total of approximately 20 minutes.” His vehicle was spotted in the area of another BLM rally in Boise on Aug. 21, the superseding indictment alleges.
And on Oct. 1, Kryscuk and Duncan allegedly “discussed their group ... shooting protestors in Boise,” the indictment says.
Prosecutors say that the discussion, which appears to have taken place via text message, went in part like this:
KRYSCUK - “Death squad”
KRYSCUK - “Assassins creed hoodies and suppressed 22 pistols”
DUNCAN - “People freaking tf out”
KRYSCUK - “About what”
DUNCAN - “The end of democracy”
KRYSCUK - “One can hope”
Boise State professor Terry J. Wilson II, a spokesperson for the local Black Lives Matter chapter, told HuffPost that the news of the neo-Nazis stalking his fellow anti-racist demonstrators “reinforces, vindicates and validates why we are here.” He said the BLM demonstrations in Boise were frequently met with antagonism from both members of the far-right and local law enforcement, all of whom were armed.
Wilson also recalled receiving an email from the Department of Homeland Security ahead of one rally warning him and his fellow organizers of “active efforts” to harm protesters. (HuffPost has not independently confirmed this email.)
But Wilson said the Black Lives Matter organizers were unsure of whether they could trust the federal agency. “To us, it sounded like an active effort to keep us from protesting, is what it felt like because of the Trump administration,” Wilson said, “and while we knew there was a threat, we didn’t know it was that imminent.”
Still, he said he was not surprised to learn that neo-Nazis had discussed killing him and his fellow demonstrators.
“Especially with the rhetoric that comes from the Republican Party, the GOP/KKK, we’re not shocked, not surprised, that neo-Nazism is alive in Trump country,” Wilson said.
Idaho, Destination For White Supremacists
In 2017, Kryscuk posted a short manifesto of sorts to Iron March, urging his fellow fascists to prepare to fight a race war. A major priority, Kryscuk wrote, is the “seizing of territory” and “the Balkanization” of America.
He urged people to begin “buying property in remote areas that are already predominantly White and right leaning.”
Then, he instructed, “incrementally start radicalizing your neighbors and friends. Show them that there is no easy way out of this. There will be many Whites that don’t agree with our philosophy. Remember, when the SHTF [shit hits the fan] they will listen to whoever is the strongest and WE are the strongest.”
By 2020, it seemed Kryscuk and his fellow fascists had settled on Idaho as the place to set up shop. It was a somewhat unsurprising selection, as the state and the greater Northwest have attracted white supremacists and other extremists for generations. In the 1980s, the Aryan Nations made its home in Idaho, occupying a sprawling compound in the countryside.
Amy Herzfeld-Copple, an Idaho native and deputy director of the civil rights organization Western States Center, told HuffPost in a statement that although Idaho is increasingly diverse, it also remains “overwhelmingly white” and is still wrestling with its past as a destination for hate groups seeking to create a whites-only ethnostate.
“The combination of relatively affordable land, little-to-no interference from the government and a largely conservative electorate and legislature is a clear draw,” she said. “On top of that, while many Idaho communities have a history of rejecting bigotry, some Idaho elected officials hold far-right views and publicly partner with extremist organizations.”
Herzfeld-Copple added that the extremist threat has been severe this year in Idaho.
“Armed anti-government extremists have resisted public health measures, intimidated officials and broadly undermined democratic practice in the state,” she said.
A Growing Right-Wing Threat
Although the feds allege the defendants plotted to potentially target Black Lives Matter protesters while trying to set up a whites-only ethnostate, none of them are charged with a domestic terrorism-related crime. Because the plot involved guns and not, say, a bomb, no terrorism-related federal statute could be used against the defendants. The First Amendment protects much of the activity of domestic extremist hate groups, and no federal domestic terrorism law broadly covers acts or potential acts of terrorism. Civil liberties proponents worry that such a law would be abused by prosecutors.
There’s certainly reason to worry about federal government overreach against defendants with disfavored political beliefs: Earlier this year, a Trump-appointed federal prosecutor in Tennessee brought rare marijuana-related charges against a member of an anarcho-punk band after he posted online images from a photo shoot for his band in which he was holding a fake Molotov cocktail. But the lack of a federal domestic terrorism statute means that cases involving designated foreign terrorist groups are much easier to bring than cases against domestic extremists plotting violence. The federal government has relied upon a variety of other federal charges to use against white supremacists they consider dangerous.
Just last week, federal prosecutors in California unveiled charges of enticement of a minor and production of child pornography against a member of an anti-government militia group associated with the “boogaloo” movement. The case grew out of an FBI counterterrorism investigation into the death of Federal Protective Service officer David Patrick Underwood. Two men associated with the boogaloo movement have been charged in connection with Underwood’s death.
The charges against the neo-Nazi foursome come as law enforcement officials worry that President Donald Trump’s increasingly unhinged rhetoric about the 2020 election is going to inspire violence from his supporters. Current and former law enforcement officials of both parties say Trump’s lies about mass voter fraud conspiracies could lead to attacks on government officials by right-wing supporters who believe the election was stolen.