Former US Soldier Sentenced to 45 Years in Prison for Plotting to Murder Fellow Troops

Bao Zhang
By Bao Zhang
March 6, 2023US News
Former US Soldier Sentenced to 45 Years in Prison for Plotting to Murder Fellow Troops
The Department of Justice (DOJ) logo is pictured on a wall in New York on Dec. 5, 2013. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

A former U.S. soldier was sentenced to 45 years in prison on Friday, March 3, for planning a fatal attack on fellow U.S. service members, according to the Department of Justice.

Ethan Phelan Melzer, aged 24, from Kentucky, pleaded guilty in June 2022 to attempting to murder U.S. service members, providing and attempting to provide support to terrorists, and leaking national defense information.

Melzer was part of the Order of the Nine Angles (O9A) group, a white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Satanist, and jihadist group that promotes extreme violence to bring about the end of Western civilization.

The group, which admires both Hitler and Bin Laden, instructs its followers to perform tasks that include “insight roles,” where they attempt to infiltrate various groups, such as the military and street gangs, to obtain training and experience in violent tactics, prosecutors said in court documents.

Melzer enlisted in the Army in 2018 with the goal of infiltrating it as part of a O9A insight role, according to prosecutors.

He was deployed to Italy in 2019 in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He subscribed to online forums, where he downloaded videos of jihadist attacks on U.S. troops and read neo-Nazi and white supremacist propaganda, prosecutors said.

In May 2020, Melzer was to be reassigned for another deployment, guarding a sensitive military base in Turkey.

After hearing of the deployment and attending briefings, Melzer passed classified information about the deployment to O9A members. He shared the exact location of the base, the number of soldiers guarding it, and how they would be armed, prosecutors said.

On May 23, 2020, five days before his scheduled deployment, an F.B.I source unearthed several of his communications about the planned attack, that had been forwarded to an O9A chat group on Telegram including the source.

By May 26, the source had exposed Melzer’s plans to law enforcement officials, and his deployment was postponed to allow officials to investigate the plot. Military investigators arrested Melzer on May 30 while he was preparing to depart for Turkey. In his bag were O9A books as well as a burner phone he had mentioned in Telegram chats, according to prosecutors.

He was charged in June 2020 with conspiring and attempting to murder military service members.

Judge Gregory H. Woods of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York sentenced Melzer to 45 years in prison.

“He used his membership in the military to pursue an appalling goal: the brutal murder of his fellow U.S. service members in a carefully plotted ambush,” the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams said in a statement on Friday.

On February 2, this year, Melzer wrote a letter to Judge Woods expressing his regret.

“Knowing that I betrayed the trust of my comrades and others that put their faith in me has destroyed me,” he wrote. “Every day and night since my arrest I have thought about the damage I have done to the people who were supposed to trust me with their lives. I asked myself why? I fell into a pit of anger towards the world, and an unhealthy obsession with a group of idiots. It is no one’s fault but my own.”

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