May 30, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Marine Corps Member Sentenced to Federal Prison for Firebombing Clinic and Domestic Terrorism Plots

Man Receives 9-Year Sentence for Neo-Nazi Plots Including Hollywood Hills Home Invasion Plans 

A man from Orange County, convicted of firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa and plotting other violent attacks, including targeting the Orange County power grid and Dodger Stadium during an LGBTQ+ pride night celebration, has been sentenced to 108 months in federal prison.

Chance Brannon, 24, of San Juan Capistrano, an active-duty member of the United States Marine Corps stationed at Camp Pendleton at the time of the firebombing, received the sentence from United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney. Additionally, Judge Carney ordered Brannon to pay $1,000 in restitution. Brannon has been in federal custody since his arrest in June 2023.

Just days before his arrest, Brannon began planning with a friend to rob Jewish residents of the Hollywood Hills. As prosecutors argued in court documents, Brannon’s “use of racial and homophobic slurs, casual expressions of misogyny, and persistent expressions of violent intent went far beyond empty words; rather, the defendant intended – and in many instances planned – to take overt action that would at the very least scare and intimidate women, racial minorities, and the Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities, and would at worst harm or even kill real victims.”

Throughout the early summer of 2023, Brannon and Ergul also discussed and researched how to attack Dodger Stadium on a night celebrating LGBTQ pride, including by using a remote-detonated device. As part of those conversations, Brannon shared a “WW2 sabotage manual” with Ergul, discussed doing “dry runs” to “case” the stadium, and conducted research on Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. According to court documents, Brannon and Ergul were arrested two days before the event.

Brannon was motivated by an extremist neo-nazi ideology, prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. Brannon frequently greeted his friends using “88,” which is coded language for “Heil Hitler,” and he called Adolf Hitler “a great man who loved his people and tried to save us all from the Jews,” According to the sentencing memorandum. Brannon possessed antisemitic writings, drawings, and literature in his bedroom at the time of his arrest and made comments to his fellow Marines, including, “All Jews deserve to die.”

At the time of his arrest, Brannon possessed a short-barreled rifle and two silencers, which he had not registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, in 2022, Brannon placed calls to two foreign adversaries, hoping to offer himself up as a “mole” by providing U.S. intelligence.

Describing Brannon’s actions as “cruel and indefensible domestic terrorism,” Judge Carney highlighted the severity of the offenses committed.

Brannon pleaded guilty in November 2023 to multiple charges, including conspiracy, malicious destruction of property by fire and explosives, possession of an unregistered destructive device, and intentionally damaging a reproductive health services facility, all in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

According to United States Attorney Martin Estrada, Brannon’s actions were fueled by deep-seated hatred, leading him to commit the firebombing and plan further acts of violence, including sparking a race war.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco emphasized that the Justice Department does not tolerate violence used to intimidate and endanger, and Brannon’s prosecution and subsequent sentencing hold him accountable for his actions.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division condemned Brannon’s assault on the Costa Mesa Clinic, emphasizing that such violence has no place in the discourse on reproductive health.

The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, which worked extensively on the case, expressed pride in the collaborative efforts that led to Brannon’s apprehension before further acts of domestic terrorism could be carried out.

Brannon, along with his co-defendants, Tibet Ergul, 22, of Irvine, and Xavier Batten, 21, of Brooksville, Florida, conspired to use a Molotov cocktail to destroy a commercial property in February and March of 2022. Ultimately, they targeted a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa, intending to intimidate pregnant women and deter doctors and staff from providing abortion services.

During the early morning hours of March 13, 2022, Brannon and Ergul ignited and threw the Molotov cocktail at the clinic, igniting a fire before fleeing. They later returned to survey their work. Brannon also counseled Batten on similar attacks and planned further assaults following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Brannon and Ergul also discussed starting a race war by attacking an electrical substation to disrupt the power grid in Orange County. Brannon possessed items indicative of his extremist views, including a rifle inscribed with racial slurs and a recording of the Christchurch mosque shooting.

Brannon’s sentencing follows Batten and Ergul’s plead guilty to criminal charges earlier this year. Their sentencing hearings are scheduled for May.

The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service spearheaded the investigation, with support from the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Costa Mesa Fire Department.

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