Baltimore, Maryland –The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office, announced the filing of a federal criminal complaint charging Sarah Beth Clendaniel, of Catonsville, Maryland, and Brandon Clint Russell, of Orlando, Florida, with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility.
“This alleged planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron. “We are united and committed to using every legal means necessary to disrupt violence, including hate-fueled attacks.”
As alleged in the criminal complaint:
From at least June 2022 to the present, Russell conspired to carry out attacks against critical infrastructure, specifically electrical substations, in furtherance of Russell’s racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist beliefs.
Russell posted links to open-source maps of infrastructure, which included the locations of electrical substations, and he described how a small number of attacks on substations could cause a “cascading failure.” Russell also discussed maximizing the impact of the planned attack by hitting multiple substations at one time.
A Maryland-based woman identified as Sarah Beth Clendaniel, collaborated on a plan to carry out the attacks. Clendaniel conspired to secure a weapon and identified five substations she planned to target. Clendaniel allegedly stated that if they hit a number of them all in the same day, they “would completely destroy this whole city,” and that a “good four or five shots through the center of them . . . should make that happen.” She further added, “[i]t would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste if we could do that successfully.”
“The threat posed by domestic violent extremists is evolving and persistent,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI’s Baltimore field office. “The FBI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement and private sector partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to the safety of our citizens.”
“Driven by their ideology of racially-motivated hatred, the defendants allegedly schemed to attack local power grid facilities,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen. “The Justice Department will not tolerate those who threaten critical infrastructure and imperil communities in the name of domestic violent extremism.”
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. If convicted, Russell and Clendaniel each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to damage an energy facility.