Judge Frees Terrorist-in-Training Because Whiteness Is a Helluva Alibi

Brandon Russell (Pinellas County Jail)
Brandon Russell (Pinellas County Jail)

Even though the man was a member of one of the most dangerous terror communities in the country; despite the fact that he knew how to make bombs; with the knowledge that he was in possession of bomb-making materials; even after he exhibited every single trait of what law-enforcement officers, Homeland Security experts and Army investigators describe as “America’s biggest threat to national security”—a federal judge released neo-Nazi Brandon Russell on bond Friday, because the judge says that he saw no evidence that Russell was a danger to anyone.


But mostly because Russell was white.

I do not have a desire to be white. It looks too constraining, the food is too mayonnaise- and mustard-based, and I have grown fond of clapping on the beat. However, after looking at cases like the saga of Brandon Russell, even though I am a proud, unapologetic man of African descent, I am comfortable enough in my blackness to admit one thing:

Being white must be amazing!

According to NBC News, Russell was living in white supremacist utopia with three fellow neofascist members of the Army National Guard (because, for whatever reason, if they aren’t living in their mother’s basement—white nationalists always have roommates) when one of his homeboys, Devon Arthurs, went apeshit crazy.

Arthurs held three people hostage in a Tampa, Fla., smoke shop (yeah, that’s another thing about neo-Nazis: They vape a lot) and announced that he had converted to Islam and killed two of his roommates, claiming that his victims were white supremacists who were planning to go on a killing and bombing spree.

While this story might already seem nuts to most people (including the part about a nonblack guy named Devon), it is pretty routine for white people in Florida. But don’t worry, it gets more interesting—even on the Sunshine State’s Caucasian scale of craziness.

Russell, the surviving roommate who wasn’t killed in the prevape store slaughter by the Nazi-turned-Muslim part-time soldier, received a visit from police because cops are usually forced to follow up on leads from Army Nazi double murderers who reveal terrorist plots. It’s kind of their thing.


When a law-enforcement officer contacted Russell ... you know what? It is difficult for me to construct a paragraph containing all of the dangerous, crazy paraphernalia in Russell’s possession. So here is a list:

  • A cooler containing a “white, cakelike substance.” It turned out to be HMTD (no, not the shitty Android phone or the web programming language)—a highly explosive chemical that law-enforcement officers call “the new weapon of choice” among terrorists;
  • A framed photograph of Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing;
  • A copy of The Turner Diaries, and other white supremacist literature;
  • Electric matches, fuses and other bomb-detonating devices;
  • A copy of Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf.

During the interview, Russell also admitted that he had organized his own neo-Nazi group, named “Atomwaffen,” which is German for “atomic weapon.”


So, of course, you know what happened next:

Police took note of all this dangerous, extremist evidence, in conjunction with the testimony of Arthurs’ statement that Russell was planning to “bomb infrastructure,” and then did what any police in America would do: They said “Aight, bruh,” and left Russell alone.


This is why it must be so lovely being white!

First of all, where do you even get white-cake explosive powder? Is there a secret Caucasian supermarket that sells stuff white people buy? Because in conducting our own scientific research, The Root staff could not recall a “white terrorist” section in Books-a-Million or Barnes & Noble. (And we looked everywhere. There was a young-adult section, classic literature and even the section that sells Caucasian cookbooks that require people of color to double all the seasoning ingredients—but we could not find The Turner Diaries or even the Cliffs Notes to Mein Kampf.)


And how is it that no one alerted authorities when Russell showed up at Hobby Lobby with a photo of terrorist McVeigh and a coupon for half-off framing? It’s the same reason that no one skips social studies class even when a white guy comes to homeroom wearing a black trench coat in June—because whiteness is never associated with danger. They are usually off their meds or have played too many video games. They’re just “troubled,” at most.

But mostly, they’re just white.

The Washington Post reports that as soon as the cops left, Russell went to the gun store and bought a cache of hunting weapons because that’s what crazy, Nazi bomb-makers do to wind down after a long day of police interrogation. In their defense, as soon as investigators heard about this, they doubled back and arrested Russell.


Once he was in the custody of federal authorities, Russell attended a bail hearing. There are two things a judge is supposed to consider in a bail hearing: whether the person poses a danger to the community and the likelihood that the person charged with a crime will flee. Federal prosecutors looked at the mountain of evidence and were sure that the judge would see that Russell was a danger to the public.

But when U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun III presided over the bail hearing, he determined that the bomb-making equipment, the fact that Russell was the self-confessed leader of a white supremacist gang, the inspirational photo of a mass murderer, the testimony of a close friend who said that Russell was planning to kill, the statements from terrorism experts who say that far-right nationalists are a bigger threat than Islamic jihadists, and the Department of Homeland Security report that warns against these groups—all of this, combined—wasn’t enough evidence for him to deny bail to Russell. McCoun said that he did not believe that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Russell posed a threat to the community.


But mostly because he was white.

I do not like when people use the lazy, subjectively speculative prefix of “If he was black ... ”


But if Russell were a 21-year-old gang leader with a stockpile of weapons and a witness who said that he was planning to commit a crime, we all know what the outcome of the bail hearing would be. Hell—if police caught a black gangbanger with a cooler filled with white powder that turned out to be cocaine, he might never see the light of day again.

But Russell is white, which affords him the great American option of a second chance. Even though Russell lives in the state where people attack Wendy’s workers with alligators in the drive-thru window, Florida is still in America. And in America, being white trumps everything else, including facts, justice and even public safety.


And that must feel amazing.

Read more at NBC News and the Washington Post. 

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From the Tampa Bay Times:

Russell, 21, will have to post a $200,000 bond to get out of jail, according to a Tuesday order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III. Afterward, Russell would be confined with an electronic monitor to his grandmother’s home in Orlando.

I got a stray bobcat in my subdivision, now this?