Trump administration quietly files terrorism charges against a white supremacist

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 09 January 2018 17:33 GMT
Attorney General Jeff Seessions' Justice Department has been quiet about its terrorist charges against a white supremacist
Attorney General Jeff Seessions' Justice Department has been quiet about its terrorist charges against a white supremacist (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Department of Justice has quietly slapped a white supremacist with terrorist charges after he allegedly busted into a secure area of an Amtrak train armed, and with plenty of ammunition.

The charges filed against suspected terrorist Taylor Michael Wilson, a 26-year-old white supremacist from Missouri, were accompanied by little of the fuss that usually accompanies terror charges, though.

While the federal government generally hypes up the proceedings — at the very least, blasting out a press release — the Trump administration did nothing of the sort this time, according to an analysis by the Huffington Post.

Mr Wilson has been accused of an attempted terror attack in October, when he pulled the emergency brake on an Amtrak originating out of California, and travelling through a remote part of Nebraska at the time. The sudden stop lurched passengers forward, and made the car go dark. Mr Wilson reportedly had firearms on him, and plenty of ammunition — but was pinned down by Amtrak workers after he was found in the second engine of the train “playing with the controls”, according to the FBI affidavit.

The incident occurred in such a remote part of the country that it took over an hour for the nearest police to arrive on the scene.

Mr Wilson’s case was not treated as a terrorism case at first, and garnered little national media coverage.

A follow up FBI investigation, however, found that the accused had become increasingly radicalized, had been stockpiling weapons (some in a secret stash behind his refrigerator), and had traveled with an “alt-Right Neo Nazi group” to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, when a peaceful protester was killed after a white supremacist drove a car through a crowd.

But even when terror charges were filed, the Justice Department didn’t publicize its catch, even though those types of cases are famous for helping boost the careers of FBI agents. Instead, a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star came across the unsealed records while taking a look at an online docket.

That seemingly delayed response to the attempted attack is in contrast to other high profile events, such as the attempted New York City bombing last month when terrorism charges were filed within days, where the accused is not a white, American man.

It is also seemingly in-line with actions by President Donald Trump himself, who referred to demonstrators at the Charlottesville rally as “very fine people”, and stopped short of condemning white supremacy.

But, charges of domestic terrorism have proven elusive for federal prosecutors for a while now. Critics point to a long history of instances where mass murderers have avoided terrorism charges, especially when they are white men.

For instance, Dylann Roof — who was convicted on murder charges and sentenced to death — never faced terrorism charges, to the guile of commentators and activists. Roof, who killed nine black church goers in Charleston, and appeared to meet at least some standards for domestic terrorism classifications, but was never described as one by officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, who notably avoided those words.

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