A Marine veterans pled guilty this week to the March 2022 firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic while an active-duty member of the Marine Corps stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.
Chance Brannon entered his guilty plea on Thursday, Nov. 30 to a four-count federal indictment.. The four charges included, according to the Department of Justice, “conspiracy, malicious destruction of property by fire and explosives, possession of an unregistered destructive device, and intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility.”
Brannon, 24, along with co-defendant Tibut Ergul, threw a molotov cocktail into an Orange County Planned Parenthood clinic on March 13, 2022. The explosive hit the entrance, setting fire to and damaging the building. In his guilty plea, Brannon said he and Ergul chose the Planned Parenthood site to scare healthcare workers from providing abortion care and frighten women seeking abortions.
Following the March 2022 bombing, Brannon and Ergul looked to do additional attacks. That desire was bolstered after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade that summer. They also began communicating and advising a third defendant, Xavier Batten from Florida, on how to carry out an attack like their action in Orange County.
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The FBI, NCIS and local Costa Mesa law enforcement investigated the bombing. Brannon was eventually arrested in June 2023, more than a year after the attack.
“This defendant exemplifies the insidious danger posed by domestic extremism,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada said in a Department of Justice statement. “The defendant, who was a member of the U.S. military, admitted not only to attacking a Planned Parenthood facility but also to planning for attacks on the power grid and a pride celebration at Dodger Stadium. We must never waver in our commitment to protect the American people from violent extremist ideology.”
At the time of their arrest, Brannon and Ergul were discussing and planning additional terror attacks. Targets included another Planned Parenthood clinic and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles during the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Pride Night (Brannon was arrested days before the event). Brannon and his fellow conspirators also planned to attack the power grid — a terror tactic that is becoming popular among far-right extremists — with the intention of starting a “race war.” According to the Department of Justice, Brannon had a thumb drive hidden in a necklace with the Marine Corps motto “semper fidelis” on it. The drive had both operational plans and logistics, including needed gear. Brannon had already been stockpiling material for these attacks, including a rifle and two pistols. The indictment also noted that he had a recording of the white supremacist, Islamophobic attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019.
Brannon is one of several active-duty or veteran service members indicted or convicted for their involvement in far-right extremist activity in recent years. That included an active-duty Army soldier who was a member of a Satanic far-right group who wanted to ambush his comrades while overseas, as well as an Air Force security officer who killed a federal agent in the hopes of starting a second civil war. Last month another ex Marine pleaded guilty on charges of conspiring with Neo Nazis to attack the power grid.
Extremist groups often try to recruit veterans, or send members into the military in order to gain combat skills. The Department of Defense has acknowledged there is an extremism problem in the military, but has struggled with how to identify and screen for extremist ideology.
Ergul and Batten pled not guilty to the charges against them, and their trial is set for March 19, 2024.
Brannon’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 15, 2024. He faces five to 20 years in prison.
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