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Former Marine sentenced for Molotov Cocktail attack against Planned Parenthood Clinic


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Former Marine sentenced for Molotov Cocktail attack against Planned Parenthood Clinic


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The U.S. Marine who firebombed a Planned Parenthood clinic and plotted other attacks, including an attack on the Orange County, California, power grid in furtherance of a race war, an attack at Dodger Stadium during an LGBTQI+ pride night celebration, and the home invasions of Jewish homes in Los Angeles was sentenced today to nine years in prison and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution.

Chance Brannon, 24, of San Juan Capistrano, who was an active-duty member of the U.S. Marine Corps stationed at Camp Pendleton at the time of the firebombing, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney. Brannon has been in federal custody since his arrest in June 2023.

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

“The Justice Department does not tolerate the use of violence to intimidate and endanger,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

“This prosecution and today’s sentence hold the defendant accountable for placing lives at risk by launching a brazen attack with an explosive device against a health care facility,” Monaco added.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said, “The defendant violently attacked a reproductive healthcare facility and plotted multiple, potentially deadly assaults to advance his hate-fueled agenda.”

“The defendant’s assault on the Costa Mesa Clinic was designed to terrorize patients seeking reproductive healthcare and the people who provide it. Such violence has no place in the national discourse on reproductive health. The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute those who seek to use threats of violence, force, and destruction of property to target vulnerable communities,” Clarke added.

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California said, “This defendant’s deep-seated hatred led him to commit a firebombing and plan many other acts of violence, including starting a race war.”

“This prosecution sends a message that we will act decisively to protect all members of our community from acts of violence, and that we will remain united against hate” Estrada added.

FBI leadership agreed.

“Brannon’s deep-rooted hatred and extremist views inspired him to target individuals or groups who did not conform to his neo-Nazi worldview and, in one case, led him to carry out a violent attack which could have killed innocent people,” said Acting Assistant Director in Charge Mehtab Syed of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office.

“I’m proud of the hard work and collaboration by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, whose members built this case and apprehended Brannon before additional acts of domestic terrorism could be carried out, as well as the hard work by prosecutors and agents leading to today’s sentencing,” Syed said.

“This case represents the successful interagency coordination between Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Costa Mesa first responders, and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Payne of the NCIS Marine West Field Office. “Such acts of terror in an attempt to preventing access to reproductive health services is intolerable.”

In February and March 2022, Brannon and his co-defendants, Tibet Ergul, 22, of Irvine, California, and Xavier Batten, 21, of Brooksville, Florida, conspired to use a Molotov cocktail to destroy a commercial property. Brannon considered various targets, including the Anti-Defamation League office in San Diego, but ultimately chose to target a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa to scare pregnant women, deter doctors and staff from providing abortion services, and encourage similar violent acts.

According to authorities, during the early morning hours of March 13, 2022, Brannon and Ergul ignited and threw the Molotov cocktail at the clinic, striking the clinic entrance and starting a fire before fleeing. Brannon and Ergul returned hours later to surveil their work. In its sentencing memorandum, the government argued that “rather than allow the judicial and legislative systems to unfold, [Brannon] took matters into his own hands, weaponizing fear and intimidation to achieve his political ends.”

In May 2022, Brannon counseled Batten on how to “get away with” committing a similar attack to the Costa Mesa one. In June 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, its 1973 ruling that recognized a constitutional right to abortion, Brannon and Ergul planned to use a second Molotov cocktail to damage or destroy a second Planned Parenthood clinic. Ultimately, Brannon and Ergul abandoned their plan because they saw law enforcement near the clinic they planned to target.

Officials said, beginning sometime in 2022 and continuing through the time of their arrests, Ergul and Brannon discussed starting a race war by attacking an electrical substation with the goal of disrupting the functioning of the power grid in Orange County. On a thumb drive disguised as a military-style necklace bearing the motto for the Marine Corps, Brannon kept a file containing an operation plan and a gear list for targeting a Southern California Edison substation. Brannon possessed several items on the gear list, including a rifle with “Total [N-word] Death” written in Cyrillic and a recording of the 2019 mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist murdered 51 people and injured 40 others.

According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, Brannon used racial slurs for various minority groups, “made hateful comments towards all non-white individuals,” and discussed “cleans[ing]” the United States of particular ethnic groups. In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Brannon texted a friend, “Can we just be done with elections and have the race war already” and complained that “[p]eople will never do anything if everyone keeps waiting for [a race war] to start on its own.”

According to authorities, throughout the early summer of 2023, Brannon and Ergul also discussed and researched how to attack Dodger Stadium on a night celebrating LGBTQI+ 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.  Brannon and Ergul were arrested two days before the event, according to court documents.

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.”

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, 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 LGBTQI+ communities, and would at worst harm or even kill real victims.”

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.

Batten and Ergul pleaded guilty earlier this year to criminal charges in this case and have sentencing hearings scheduled, respectively, for May 15 and May 30.

The FBI and the NCIS investigated this matter, with substantial assistance from the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Costa Mesa Fire Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathrynne N. Seiden for the Central District of California’s Terrorism and Export Crimes Section is prosecuting this case.


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