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Maryland woman pleads guilty to planning attack on Baltimore power grid

By Mike Heuer
Maryland resident Sarah Beth Clendaniel faces up to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to conspiring to attack five electrical substations serving Baltimore and being a felon in possession of firearms in 2023. Photo courtesy of Maryland State Police
Maryland resident Sarah Beth Clendaniel faces up to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to conspiring to attack five electrical substations serving Baltimore and being a felon in possession of firearms in 2023. Photo courtesy of Maryland State Police

May 14 (UPI) -- Sarah Beth Clendaniel, 36, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to damage or destroy Baltimore's regional power grid, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Clendaniel is a Catonsville, Md., resident who entered her guilty plea in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

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She pleaded guilty to conspiracy and felony firearms possession and faces up to 20 years in prison for the conspiracy charge and another 15 years for the firearms violation.

If eventually paroled, Clendaniel would face a lifetime of supervised release. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 3.

The DOJ says Clendaniel is a white supremacist who allegedly conspired with Florida resident Brandon Russell to damage or destroy the power grid servicing the greater Baltimore area.

The DOJ says Russell, 28, is a neo-Nazi from Orlando whom Clendaniel met in 2018.

Russell and Clendaniel were "driven by their ideology of racially motivated hatred" and "schemed to attack local power grid facilities," Matthew Olsen, assistance attorney general for national security,said in a news release on Feb. 6, 2023.

Clendaniel, Russell and others from about December 2022 until early February 2023 conspired to attack and damage power generation facilities serving the greater Baltimore area.

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"This alleged planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark," U.S. Attorney of Maryland Erek Barron said.

The pair were arrested on Feb. 3, 2023, and arraigned in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Russell is awaiting trial and, along with Clendaniel, wanted to "accelerate" a societal and governmental collapse by knocking out the electrical power grid serving the greater Baltimore area, according to the DOJ.

Baltimore's population is about 62% black versus about 32% white and has been a black-majority area since the 1970s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Clendaniel's guilty plea includes her admission to using encrypted communications apps to plan and carry out attacks against the regional power grid serving the greater Baltimore area.

They planned to attack multiple substations at the same time to maximize the impact on the power grid and bring about its total collapse.

The pair shared their plans with a confidential informant and wanted that person to help them get a rifle to carry out their planned attack on the power grid by striking five Baltimore Gas and Electric substations on the same day sometime before June of 2023.

Instead, the informant notified law enforcement, which searched Clendaniel's home on Feb. 3, 2023, and found several firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

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Because she is a felon with prior convictions that include robbery and attempted robbery, she cannot legally own or access firearms.

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