Prosecutor gives white supremacist who idolized Charleston massacre and planned bigger attack absurd plea deal
White supremacist Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, who idolized racist mass shooter Dylann Roof and was planning a large-scale attack of his own, cut a ridiculous plea deal with South Carolina prosecutors.
McDowell, was arrested in an FBI sting in February 2017, after an undercover FBI agent sold McDowell a disabled weapon in a sting that revealed the 30-year-old’s racist past. According to the Huffington Post, McDowell thought he was engaging with fellow white supremacists when he bought the gun and he vowed to “do something on a fucking big scale.”
McDowell took to social media to spew his hateful agenda and posted a number of racist rants on Facebook. He praised Dylann Roof for killing nine African American churchgoers and said Roof did what white supremacists were supposed to do.
In late 2016 Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell posted a link to the website of a synagogue in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and said he would “love to act.” McDowell, who had a prior felony conviction and evidently came into contact with white supremacists when he served time in prison,
McDowell, whose body is littered with racist tattoos, told the undercover federal agent that white supremacists needed to “turn their talk into action.”
But since Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell hadn’t taken action just yet, prosecutors agreed to a deal where he would plead guilty to a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. That charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, but McDowell could be back on the street in less than a year. McDowell’s sentencing range will be between 10 months and just over three years.
The judge could throw the deal out since it isn’t binding and instead sentence McDowell to a longer sentence. But McDowell has a right to appeal if he’s sentenced to more than three years and one month behind bars.
No terrorism charges
In McDowell’s case, a mental health evaluation was ordered by U.S. District Judge R. Bryan Harwell and was filed under seal in December. McDowell’s federal public defender is using his mental issues as a defense saying he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder. According to a prior court filing, McDowell’s “cognitive functioning is very low” and his intellectual ability is “significantly below average.” McDowell received disability benefits until he was 18 because he was classified as mentally disabled, according to USA Today.
Reports point out that one of the major problems with Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell’s case deals with how the white supremacist is being charged. If McDowell had been planning an attack on behalf of ISIS or another designated terrorist organization, he’d also be facing a material support charge in addition to the weapons charge. But he’s not facing terrorism-related charges― just a charge for being a felon in possession of a firearm charge.