Extremist linked to threat to Schenectady church, dozens of other threats elsewhere, convicted


The former leader of a violent extremist group in Texas that federal authorities linked to a crash incident at a church in Schenectady in December 2018 was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy across the United States.

John Cameron Denton, 27, of Montgomery, Texas, was convicted of his participation in a conspiracy that led to crush attacks on at least 134 locations from October 2018 to February 2019, the Department of Justice said on Tuesday. Justice in a press release.

Swatting is a harassment tactic that involves deceiving emergency dispatchers into believing that one or more people are in imminent danger of death or bodily harm.

Many conspirators, including Denton, chose targets because they were motivated by racial animosity, the Justice Department said.

The plot targeted journalists, a University of Virginia, a former U.S. cabinet member, a historic African-American church, and an Islamic center in Texas, as well as members of minority groups across the United States.

In December 2018, a phone call threatening Schenectady’s First Reformed Church appeared to be linked to neo-Nazi arrests in the Virginia cases and a series of similar threatening appeals, according to documents filed in federal court in Virginia.

The Schenectady crash incident happened at approximately 2 p.m. on December 28, 2018. A caller told police dispatchers that there were several explosive devices inside the building at 8 N. Church St. , police said.

The appellant referred to someone possibly in the building with weapons.

Officers responded and surrounded the church as they gathered more information. The department also contacted surrounding agencies to obtain additional K-9 officers and equipment. State police and officers from Troy and Sheriff’s Departments in Schenectady and Albany counties assisted.

Members of Schenectady’s special operations squad eventually entered the church and searched the building, confirming that no one was inside or that there were no explosives or weapons.

Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford explained how the incident raised concerns in the community and placed a heavy strain on public safety resources.

“At a time when we need resources for public safety, with something like that, it really worries me, and it should concern our whole community,” said the chief. “So I’m very grateful that the Department of Justice prosecuted him and found the person guilty and sentenced him for doing this to our community.”

Bill Levering, a retired former pastor of the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, did not return a phone message asking for comment on Tuesday.

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