A former Old Dominion University student who targeted his school with a fake bomb threat so he could skip class has pleaded guilty to a swatting conspiracy that ended up encompassing a neo- Nazi leader and others who targeted a Black church, a news outlet and a Cabinet secretary.
John William Kirby Kelley, 19, of Vienna, Virginia, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria to conspiring to transmit threats.
A former leader of a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division, John C. Denton, 26, of Montgomery, Texas, pleaded guilty to his own role in the scheme last week.
Kelley suggested his own university as a target for the swatting calls “because he did not want to attend class,” according to court documents, and later earned scorn from his fellow conspirators for targeting an institution that could be easily linked back to him.
According to court documents, authorities began investigating Kelley in November 2018, when Old Dominion received a call that someone armed with an AR-15 had hidden pipe bombs on campus. Police received a call hours later from someone with a similar voice who said he had dialed accidentally. Police and FBI investigators compared the voices on both calls and investigators matched email accounts and phone numbers connecting Kelley to the calls.
Other targets of the conspiracy included the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, then–Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and the offices of news outlet ProPublica, which published articles identifying Denton as an Atomwaffen leader.
Kelley, Denton and other members of the conspiracy used an online forum called Graveyard to discuss possible swatting targets.