Erek L. Barron, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, announced the arrests and a federal criminal complaint charging Sarah Beth Clendaniel, of Catonsville, Md. and Brandon Clint Russell, of Orlando, with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility. At left is FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski, and at right is Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin. (AP Photos)

By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

The FBI has charged Catonsville, Md. native Sarah Beth Clendaniel and an Orlando, Fla. man, Brandon Clint Russell, with conspiracy to destroy energy facilities in the Baltimore area. 

U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek Barron and FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas Sobocinski announced the filing of the criminal complaint on Feb. 6. 

“This alleged planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark,” said Barron in a press release from the United States Department of Justice. “We are united and committed to using every legal means necessary to disrupt violence, including hate-fueled attacks.”

According to the release, Russell allegedly began colluding to attack electrical substations to advance his racially-motivated, violent and extremist beliefs last June. 

In addition to posting links to open-source maps of the substations, Russell purportedly explained that a small number of attacks could lead to a “cascading failure” of the plants and conferred that he would attack multiple substations in the same day. 

Clendaniel, according to the release, allegedly teamed up with Russell to launch the attacks. She reportedly planned to obtain a weapon and pinpointed five electrical substations as targets. 

Clendaniel also allegedly said that the attacks, if executed on the same day, “would completely destroy this whole city,” according to the release. 

If found guilty, Russell and Clendaniel face up to 20 years in federal prison. 

“Attack on multiple electrical substations in Maryland would have caused suffering to thousands of Americans going about their everyday lives, but the FBI and our partners put a stop to that threat,” said Robert R. Wells, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, in a tweet. “The FBI and our partners will hold accountable all those who commit criminal acts that threaten the safety of those in our communities, regardless of their motivations.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America corps member.