An alleged neo-Nazi facing federal explosives charges — and whose roommate has been accused of double-murder — will remain behind bars until trial after a judge reversed his earlier decision to grant him bond.
Brandon Russell is a neo-Nazi who allegedly threatened to kill people and blow up infrastructure in online chat rooms, authorities have said. On his dresser, law enforcement said they found a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun III ruled on Wednesday that Russell, 21, would not be granted bond, reversing his own decision from last Friday that would have granted his conditional release from Pinellas County jail.
Russell is charged with possession of unregistered destructive devices and unlawful storage of explosive material for allegedly storing bomb-making components at his Florida apartment, which authorities discovered during a double-murder investigation into Russell’s roommate, 18-year-old Devon Arthurs.
He also allegedly purchased two hunting rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition after initially talking with police last month, prosecutors said.
Yet McCoun said in his Friday ruling that he was “unable to conclude there is clear and convincing evidence that Defendant represents a threat to any other person and the community should he be released.”
On Monday, McCoun set conditions for his release that included a $200,000 bond, GPS monitoring and home detention at his grandmother’s house.
But the judge ruled Wednesday that evidence presented by the prosecution at a motion hearing to stay Russell’s release changed his mind on whether the young man posed “a risk of harm to others” if he were to be released.
McCoun said that photographs of the evidence gathered at Russell’s Tampa apartment by authorities, the defendant’s explanation for why he had those materials and his purchase of firearms and ammunition after being confronted by police were “highly troubling."
Fuses that were seized at the time of Russell’s arrest also had “no apparent innocent explanation,” McCoun wrote in his decision.
“Upon further consideration, I am obliged to conclude that Defendant’s actions in response to the discovery of the explosive materials and ongoing investigation cast doubts on suggestions of Defendant’s innocent intentions,” he wrote.
Prosecutors at the motion hearing also showed video testimony from Arthurs, where he claimed Russell participated in online neo-Nazi chatrooms and threatened to kill people and bomb infrastructure.
McCoun wrote that although there were concerns with the truthfulness of Arthurs’ statements, they also “cannot be ignored.”
The judge left open the possibility to revisit his order “should circumstances warrant" and wrote that prosecutors must disclose if it is found that Arthurs’ “lied or otherwise mislead law enforcement and the prosecution.”
Russell's attorney, Ian Goldstein, told NBC News on Thursday that while he had no comment on the judge’s reversal, he believed his client was the victim of Arthurs trying to cast blame on anyone other than himself.
“I know he was lying and I anticipate gathering evidence to show that he was lying, so we will readdress the issue when we have that information,” he said.
“He was just making things up — they were so fantastic and so far outside of the scope of the evidence in this case that it’s clear he was just saying whatever he thought he needed to say to deflect attention from him,” he added.
A spokesperson for Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine Thomas said she had no comment on the judge’s reversal at this time.
Arthurs is alleged to have told authorities that he and his other roommates all at one point shared neo-Nazi beliefs. He allegedly confessed to killing two of his roommates when they “disrespected his Muslim faith,” according to Tampa Bay police. He was arrested on two counts of first-degree murder.