A South Carolina man has been sentenced to less than three years in federal prison for plotting a Dylann Roof copycat shooting.
Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 31, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.
McDowell pleaded guilty in March after reaching a plea deal that would have given him the right to appeal if he’d been sentenced to more than three years. The charge carries a maximum of 10 years, but sentencing guidelines recommend 27 to 33 months.
McDowell’s mental state may have inspired the plea deal. The Huffington Post reports McDowell was diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders, “very low” cognitive functioning and “significantly low” intellect, according to a filing from his lawyer, William F. Nettles.
“I raised McDowell’s mental health history and cognitive disability (IQ in first percentile), which was not accounted for by the guideline,” Nettles said. “The judge decided on the high end.”
The FBI began to watch McDowell after they saw his posts on social media expressing hatred for people of color and admiration for Dylann Roof, the man convicted of killing nine black people in a South Carolina church in 2015.
McDowell also posted about a specific Jewish synagogue, causing agents to believe it would be the target of an attack. He also expressed interest in buying a gun, and this gave the FBI a chance to act. An undercover agent began to converse with McDowell online. The agent met with McDowell in February 2017 and sold him an unusable gun and ammunition for $109. He was later arrested in a Hampton Inn parking lot, and the gun and ammo were recovered from a bag he was carrying. He admitted to purchasing the weapon during an interrogation.
McDowell’s plot fit the federal definition of domestic terrorism, but there is no federal legislation that outlaws acts that fall under that definition. Had he been affiliated with a foreign terrorist group like ISIS, he could have been charged with material support for a terrorist organization. People affiliated with United States-based white supremacist groups like Aryan Nation cannot be persecuted.
Well, that sounds about white.
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