Man with ties to extremist group sentenced on weapons charge

A West Virginia man who was accused of selling machine gun conversion devices to followers of a far-right extremist movement has received a five-year prison sentence

Via AP news wire
Wednesday 13 October 2021 21:30
Weapons-West Virginia
Weapons-West Virginia

A West Virginia man who was accused of selling machine gun conversion devices to followers of a far-right extremist movement received a five-year prison sentence Wednesday.

Timothy John Watson pleaded guilty in March in federal court in Martinsburg to possession of an unregistered firearm silencer.

Three other charges against Watson were dismissed. As a part of a plea agreement, Watson was ordered to forfeit the silencer, 3D printers and parts along with items seized in a November 2020 search that prosecutors said are devices used to convert semi-automatic AR-15 rifles into fully automatic machine guns.

Prosecutors said Watson, 31, of Ranson, made and sold hundreds of the devices to nearly 800 people online. Some of those included supporters of the anti-government “boogaloo” movement, the code word they use for their talk of a second civil war. Their prominence has grown during the pandemic as the gun-toting supporters, many dressed in Hawaiian shirts and camouflage garb, attended protests against government shutdowns.

From those sales, the FBI opened investigations involving 58 people, resulting so far in three firearms-related arrests and one conviction, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors had said Watson’s customers included an Air Force sergeant in California accused of fatally shooting a federal security officer and injuring several security personnel earlier in 2020.

Watson’s attorney, Shawn McDermott, previously denied in a court filing that Watson belonged to “any so-called Boogaloo movement,” and said his client “would reject any ideology that is based upon violence.” He said Watson operated a wall hanger business legally and that his products were not designed to create automatic machine guns any more than a clothes hanger made out of metal.

Investigators had said they linked Watson and his online business to the movement through a cooperating defendant in Minnesota who told the FBI he learned about Watson’s website through Facebook boogaloo groups.

The social media giant has tried to crack down on the group and last year announced it had removed hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages and groups linked to the boogaloo movement.

Prosecutors found cryptic comments on Watson’s social media accounts made by apparent sympathizers of the movement. One message between Watson’s Instagram account and a user mentioned dead “redcoats,” an anti-government reference, according to court documents.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in