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Maryland woman, Florida man charged with planning attack on Baltimore’s power grid

Feb. 6, 2023 Updated Mon., Feb. 6, 2023 at 9:11 p.m.

The exterior of Baltimore City Hall.    (Ulysses Muñoz/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
The exterior of Baltimore City Hall.   (Ulysses Muñoz/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
By Lilly Price The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE – A Maryland woman and a Florida man were federally charged with conspiracy to attack a Baltimore power grid, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland announced Monday.

Sarah Beth Clendaniel, of Catonsville, Maryland, and Brandon Clint Russell, of Orlando, Florida, plotted to shoot and destroy multiple electrical substations in the Baltimore region to further their racial and ethnic violent extremist beliefs, U.S. Attorney Erek Barron said at the news conference. Russell is the founder of a neo-Nazi group.

“Identifying and disrupting terrorist plots, both foreign and domestic is one of the FBI top priorities,” said Thomas Sobocinski, an FBI special agent in charge of Baltimore’s task force. Damaging an electrical substation could cause power outages that would affect hospitals, businesses and homes, he said.

Members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Taskforce took Clendaniel and Russell into custody last week. Sobocinski said Russell and Clendaniel have been planning to attack Maryland substations since June. Clendaniel targeted five substations and planned to retrieve a weapon while Russell shared maps of power grids and discussed how to inflict maximum chaos by attacking several at once, Sobocinski said.

“The accused were not just talking but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals. Russell provided instructions and location information. He described attacking the power transformers as the “greatest thing somebody can do.” In her own words, Clendaniel said she was “determined to do this.” She added it would “lay this city to waste,” Sobocinski said.

Barron said Maryland and federal law enforcement officials are “using every legal means necessary to keep Marylanders safe and to disrupt hate-fueled violence.”

“When we are united, hate cannot win,” he said.

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