MD Woman Pleads Guilty To Trying To Destroy Baltimore Power Grid

By Pikesville Patch
Posted on 05/14/24 | News Source: Pikesville Patch

Baltimore, MD - May 14, 2024  - A woman described by authorities as a racially motivated extremist pleaded guilty this week to planning an attack on Baltimore's power grid, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland announced in a news release Tuesday.

Sarah Beth Clendaniel, a Catonsville resident, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiring to damage or destroy electrical facilities in Maryland and possessing a firearm as a felon.

According to court documents, from at least December 2022 through February 2023, Clendaniel conspired with Brandon C. Russell, a Florida resident, to damage energy facilities and cause a significant interruption to the Baltimore regional power grid.

“Ms. Clendaniel’s hate-fueled plans to destroy the Baltimore region power grid threatened thousands of innocent lives,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron said in a statement. “But, when law enforcement and the communities we serve are united in partnership, hate cannot win.”

Federal authorities arrested Clendaniel and Russell in February, claiming the duo plotted to shoot up five BGE substations in an attempt to cause a “cascading failure” of the power grid, according to an FBI affidavit.

Russell, a formal Florida National Guard member, is the founder of the violent neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, which targets racial minorities, the Jewish community, the LGBTQ community, journalists, the United States government, and critical infrastructure, according to court documents.

Clendaniel had previously served prison time after she was arrested in 2016 for robbing a Cecil County convenience store using a machete. Clendaniel embraced a white-supremacist ideology during her time in prison, family members told the Baltimore Sun.

Going by online monikers Homunculus and Kali/Nythra88, respectively, Russell and Clendaniel discussed in depth their plans to "completely lay [Baltimore] to waste," according to the criminal complaint.

Court documents show that while speaking to a federal informant on an encrypted chat app, Clendaniel said “If we can pull off what I’m hoping … this would be legendary."

Clendaniel described how there was a "ring" around Baltimore and if they hit a number of them all in the same day, they "would completely destroy this whole city" and "help to break down society," according to court documents.

Clendaniel planned to destroy substations in Reisterstown, Perry Hall, Norrisville and other locations, court documents said.

Clendaniel faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 15 years on the gun charge. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 3.