D.C. Neo-Nazi Nears Plea Deal On Federal Gun Charge

Jeffrey Clark, who said the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims "deserved" it, has been in custody since his November arrest.

WASHINGTON ― A D.C.-based neo-Nazi with extensive ties to the far-right who is facing federal gun and drug charges is likely to accept a plea deal with prosecutors later this month, his federal public defender said at a hearing on Thursday.

Jeffrey Clark, 30, was arrested on Nov. 9, 2018, and charged with illegal possession of a firearm while using or addicted to a controlled substance, a federal crime. Two members of his family had alerted authorities to his increasingly erratic behavior and incendiary rhetoric, including his belief that the victims of the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting ― in which 11 people were killed ― “deserved exactly what happened to them and so much more.” 

On Thursday, Clark, clad in an orange jumpsuit, appeared in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for a status hearing. His attorney David Bos told the judge that they had received a plea offer from the prosecution that they “anticipate that we’ll accept.” U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly set a hearing for July 23. Both Bos and John Cummings, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, declined to provide HuffPost with details of the plea offer, which Kelly indicated was extended on Wednesday.

Clark’s case presented a conundrum for federal prosecutors. The United States lacks a statute that broadly outlaws domestic terrorism, which makes it difficult to prosecute right-wing extremists who may be plotting violence. In Clark’s case, they invoked a rarely used federal law that makes it illegal to possess a firearm while using or addicted to a controlled substance. 

Clark hardly concealed his white supremacist beliefs: He told attendees at a 2017 White House rally that he considered himself a Nazi, he attended the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and he routinely posed for pictures in front of Nazi memorabilia. His relatives told the FBI that they worried he wanted to start a race war.

Like many members of the so-called alt-right, Clark was active on social media platforms, including the Twitter alternative Gab, which is a favorite of racists and anti-Semites. He posted under the username @PureWhiteEvil and identified as DC Bowl Gang, a reference to Dylann Roof’s bowl haircut. In 2015, Roof killed nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in hopes of setting off a race war.

Jeffrey Clark (right), with his late brother Edward.
Jeffrey Clark (right), with his late brother Edward.

Before his arrest, Clark’s neighbors in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of northwest Washington said they often worried that he and his younger brother, Edward, were dangerous. One neighbor told HuffPost that the Clark brothers had become increasingly radical over the last several years after Edward was mugged near a convenience store in Bloomingdale. The neighborhood, historically home to a large black population, has gentrified in the past decade. The Clarks began to carry guns, the neighbor said, adding that they often engaged neighbors in arguments over President Donald Trump.

Edward Clark, 23, shot and killed himself in late October, just days after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, according to court filings in his older brother’s case.

In court filings after Jeffrey Clark’s arrest, the FBI linked him to Robert Bowers, the white nationalist charged in the Pittsburgh killings, saying that Clark’s social media posts suggested that he knew “more about the attack in the Tree-of-Life synagogue, and that there was more to come.” Bos, Clark’s public defender, disputed those claims at initial hearings, and federal investigators involved in the Pittsburgh case said there were no clear links.

Clark has remained in federal custody since his arrest, however, after prosecutors argued that he was “a bomb” that could explode at any minute and a federal magistrate judge said his “menacing” social media posts made him a danger to the public. “He has discussed openly killing Jews and blacks,” U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey said.

At a later hearing, Bos told the court that the large trove of online documents involved in the case, as well as the slang that Clark and other members of alt-right forums used to discuss their beliefs, had complicated the discovery process. Bos and federal prosecutors began ironing out details of a potential plea deal in April.