On Tuesday, Jan. 11, a leader of the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division was sentenced to a seven-year prison term for his role in a plot to threaten and intimidate journalists and Jewish activists, including one in the Phoenix area.
Kaleb Cole, 26, and three others mailed and delivered threatening posters to the victims at the end of January 2020. One of the journalists targeted was Mala Blomquist, who at the time was the editor-in-chief of Arizona Jewish Life. A poster featuring a hooded figure wearing a skeleton mask and preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail at a house was glued to a front bedroom window of Blomquist’s home. The poster contained her name and address and the message, “Your actions have consequences. Our patience has its limits. You have been visited by your local Nazis.” Cole created the poster.
Cole was the last of the Atomwaffen members involved in this case to be sentenced and the only one who requested that his case go to trial. The three others involved, Cameron Shea, Johnny Roman Garza and Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, pled guilty and were previously sentenced. The longest sentence prior to Cole’s was Shea, who received a three-year prison term. Cole’s attorneys were requesting that he also get a 36-month sentence.
Blomquist, who is not Jewish, traveled to Seattle to testify at Cole’s trial in September 2021. A jury in the Western District of Washington convicted Cole of one count of interfering with a federally protected activity because of religion, three counts of mailing threatening communications, and one count of conspiring with other Atomwaffen members to commit three offenses against the United States – interference with federally-protected activities because of religion, mailing threatening communications and cyberstalking.
At trial, other victims described how receiving the posters impacted them. Some moved from their homes for a time or installed security systems. One purchased a gun and took a firearms safety class. One left her job as a journalist. Blomquist did not leave her home alone for a month and installed a security system. When she checked her mail, she opened her mailbox with a long stick. “Just in case there was an explosive device inside,” she said.
At the sentencing on Jan. 11, Cole’s grandmother vouched for his character. “He cares about his family and just wants to be a productive member of society,” she said about her grandson. She also added, “He’s not interested in hurting anybody. He’s always been good and helpful to us.” She requested that Cole be moved from where he is currently incarcerated in Washington State to a facility closer to where they live in Phoenix.
Before delivering the sentence, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour remarked how the others involved had shown remorse and apologized during their sentencing dates. Cole never took the stand during his trial, nor did he make any statement at his sentencing.
“I find Mr. Cole’s clear and unequivocal hate of members of the Jewish faith to be particularly odious,” said Judge Coughenour, continuing to state that the world was richer due to contributions from Jewish Americans such as astronomer Carl Sagan, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and actor Paul Newman – “Yes, Paul Newman,” he repeated.
“Kaleb Cole helped lead a violent, nationwide neo-Nazi group. He repeatedly promoted violence, stockpiled weapons, and organized ‘hate camps,’” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown in a Department of Justice statement. “Today, the community and those Mr. Cole and his co-conspirators targeted stand-up to say hate has no place here. He tried to intimidate journalists and advocates with hate-filled and threatening posters, tried to amplify their fear. Instead, they faced him in court and their courage has resulted in the federal prison sentence imposed today.”
Blomquist is satisfied with the sentencing results but mostly glad that the almost two-year ordeal is now over. “Testifying at his trial was one of the most terrifying things that I have ever done,” she said. “I feel that the others involved have denounced Atomwaffen and white supremacy, but I think that Cole believes the ideation and will just find like-minded people in prison and continue to be filled with hate.” JN
Blomquist is now the editor of the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.