Former soldier gets 45 years in prison for plotting with neo-Nazi group to kill other troops
Stars and Stripes March 3, 2023
A former Army paratrooper was sentenced to 45 years in prison Friday for plotting with a violent extremist group to ambush and kill members of his own Italy-based unit, federal law enforcement officials said.
Ethan Phelan Melzer, a 24-year-old from Louisville, Ky., pleaded guilty in June in a federal courtroom in New York to charges of attempting to murder U.S. service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and illegally transmitting national defense information, according to the Justice Department.
Melzer, who was a private assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, planned a jihadist attack on his Army unit in the days leading up to a deployment to Turkey and sent sensitive details about the unit — including information about its location, movements and security — to members of the extremist organization Order of the Nine Angles, according to court documents. The group is a white supremacist, neo-Nazi and pro-jihadist organization.
“Ethan Melzer infiltrated the U.S. Army in service of a neo-Nazi, white supremacist and jihadist group,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “Today’s sentence makes clear that Melzer’s brazen actions backfired and that this office — along with our partners in law enforcement and the military — will work tirelessly to bring traitors like Melzer to justice and to protect the safety and integrity of our armed services.”
Melzer, who also went by the name “Etil Reggad,” enlisted in the Army in 2018 as part of an insight role to further his goals as part of the terrorist organization, according to the Justice Department. He arrived in Italy in October 2019 and subscribed to encrypted online forums in which he downloaded and accessed videos of jihadist attacks on U.S. troops and facilities and jihadist executions of civilians and soldiers, in addition to far-right, neo-Nazi, and other white supremacist propaganda.
In May 2020, Melzer joined a unit set to deploy to Turkey, according to the Justice Department. He learned details about the deployment, mission and location, and then passed the information to members of his terrorist group.
He was arrested May 30 at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza.
Melzer and his co-conspirators used the information that he attained to plan what they referred to as a “jihadi attack” with the objective of causing a “mass casualty” event victimizing his fellow service members. He and others then passed these messages to a purported member of al-Qaida, according to the Justice Department.
Melzer was listed Friday as an inmate at Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn in New York, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
The Army did not immediately respond Friday to comment about when Melzer was discharged from the service.