CONCORD, NH – The federal trial against Keene’s “Crying Nazi” Christopher Cantwell started Tuesday in Concord as the white supremacist faces several charges he threatened members of a hate-group with whom he was feuding.
Cantwell, 39, is a former member of the Free Keene libertarian movement but was kicked out after he turned to neo-nazi ideology. Free Keene Leader Ian Freemen reported via Twitter Tuesday that he was barred from attending the trial because Freeman refuses to wear a mask in accordance with the United States District Court’s COVID-19 precautions.
Cantwell has been in jail since January when he was arrested by federal agents in Keene on charges of making threats against white supremacist Ben Lambert, known online as Cheddar Mane, and Lambert’s family. Lambert/Cheddar Mane is a member of a group called The Bowl Patrol.
Cantwell is charged with interstate extortion and making threatening interstate communications, extortionate interstate communications, threatening interstate communications, threatening injury to property or reputation, and cyberstalking, all stem from his alleged efforts to get Lambert/Cheddar Mane to identify Bowl Patrol Leader Vic Mackey.
Cantwell allegedly threatened to rape Lambert/Cheddar Mane’s wife, and call child protective services if he did not give up the real identity of Vic Mackey.
“So if you don’t want me to come and (expletive) your wife in front of your kids, then you should make yourself scarce[.] Give me Vic, it’s your only out.” Cantwell wrote. “Get a (expletive) life or you will lose the one you have,” Cantwell wrote to the alleged victim, according to the new indictments. “you’re the one who is going to suffer cause you’re the one I can get.”
Mackey has subsequently been publicly outed as Sacramento, Calif., resident Andrew Casarez, 27. According to J Weekly, the Jewish News of Northern California, Casarez lives in the suburb of Orangevale with his parents and grandmother. Police seized his 9 mm pistol in July after Casarez was targeted online by an antiracist group, with his identity being revealed online. There was concern Casarez would act out violently and the gun was taken by police, according to J Weekly.
Cantwell’s relationship with members of the Bowl Patrol was initially friendly until Cantwell decided he did not trust them and members of the group began to suspect Cantwell of being an FBI informant, and grew dissatisfied with him.
“Cantwell began to believe that the members of Bowl Patrol were ‘Jews trying to make Nazis look bad,’” Assistant U.S.Attorney Anna Krasinski wrote in an earlier court filing.
Bowl Patrol members started spam calling Cantwell’s podcast, and hacking his website. Cantwell retaliated by contacting Keene police more than 50 times, threatening Lambert/Cheddar Mane and eventually talking to FBI agents, according to court records.
The Bowl Patrol is a group of white supremacists who elevate racist killers like Dylan Roof as part of their online ideology. The group had a podcast in which members discussed killers like Roof admiringly, and they are proficient meme makers. Their interests, though, may go beyond Internet racism.
“The group repeatedly expressed an interest in committing mass violence against minority groups and appreciation for those who killed in such a manner,” Cantwell’s defense attorney Eric Wolpin wrote in a pretrial motion.
The group takes their name from Roof’s bowl-style haircut. Roof is the mass murderer who shot and killed nine African-Americans during a church service in Charleston, South Carolina.
According to Wolpin, Lambert/Cheddar Mane had possible federal charges hanging over him when he agreed to talk to FBI agents about Cantwell.
“At the time Cheddarmane spoke to the FBI about his communications with Cantwell, he legitimately feared that the FBI would pursue him as a criminal rather than vindicate him as a victim,” Cantwell’s attorney Eric Wolpin wrote. “The FBI publicly acknowledged that it was targeting white supremacists for criminal prosecution as domestic terrorists.”
According to Wolpin’s motion, FBI agents discussed Lambert/Cheddar Mane’s own threats to rape and murder someone believed to be investigating members of the white supremacist community. During that conversation last fall, Lambert/Cheddar Mane came away believing it was him or Cantwell, according to Wolpin.
“The Defense intends to show, as described herein, that the alleged victim’s participation in threatening to rape motivated him to please the FBI agents who sought his cooperation in this prosecution,” Wolpin wrote. “More broadly, statements cited herein demonstrate that Cheddarmane and his compatriots knew that the Bowlcast’s (Bowl Patrol podcast) violent and terroristic content would put them at risk of investigation and prosecution by federal law enforcement.“
Cantwell’s initial claim to fame took place in 2017 at the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He earned his nickname after he was seen in an emotional video reacting to news he was going to be arrested at the rally.
Cantwell was convicted in 2018 on two counts of assault and battery for dispersing pepper spray on counter-protesters in Charlottesville. He was given a suspended prison sentence, but ordered to leave the state of Virginia and not come back for five years.
The “Unite the Right” rally saw one counter-protester murdered when white supremacists James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer. Fields pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence.
Reporter Damien Fisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org