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2 arrested in plot to attack power grid in Maryland

FBI agents. (Melanie Rodgers Cox/US Air Force)
February 06, 2023

A man and woman were arrested and charged in an alleged “hate-fueled” conspiracy to attack the Maryland power grid and leave thousands without electricity.

Brandon Clint Russell of Orlando, Florida and Sarah Beth Clendaniel of Catonsville, Maryland have both been charged with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility, the FBI’s Baltimore field office and U.S. attorney in Maryland announced Monday.

If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, according to a press release provided to American Military News.

“This planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron said in the release.

Their arrests came a month after two men were charged over Christmas Day attacks on four power substations in Washington State. Those attacks had come just weeks after tens of thousands of people lost power when “targeted” gunfire took out two North Carolina substations.

Officials allege that from at least June last year, Russell planned attacks on electrical substations to further his “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist beliefs,” according to the release.

The criminal complaint notes that Russell was the founder of a local neo-Nazi group, the Atomwaffen Division, with cells in multiple states.

According to the release, Clendaniel collaborated on the attack plans, identifying five substations she would target, and conspired to secure a weapon. 

Clendaniel allegedly said that if successful, their plan “would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste.” 

She allegedly said that they “would completely destroy this whole city” if they targeted a number of substations on the same day, adding that a “good four or five shots through the center of them … should make that happen,” according to the release.

Both Russell and Clendaniel are set to make their initial appearances in court Monday, according to the release.

“The threat posed by domestic violent extremists is evolving and persistent,” said Thomas Sobocinski, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office. “We are united and committed to using every legal means necessary to disrupt violence, including hate-fueled attacks.”