21 July 2023
COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Five members of the white nationalist hate group Patriot Front have been sentenced to several days in jail for conspiring to riot at a Pride event in Idaho.
Judge James Stow sentenced each of the men on Friday to five days in jail with credit for two days already served, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported. Forrest Rankin, Devin Center, Derek Smith, James Julius Johnson and Robert Whitted are also not allowed to be within 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of the Coeur d’Alene City Park while on unsupervised probation for a year.
The men were also fined $1,000 each. If they successfully complete probation they will be able to have the charges dismissed.
A Kootenai County jury on Thursday found them guilty of the riot charge after about an hour of deliberation. The men were accused of planning to riot at the Coeur d’Alene LGBTQ+ Pride event in 2022.
A total of 31 Patriot Front members, including one identified as its founder, were arrested June 11, 2022, after someone reported seeing people loading into a U-Haul van like “a little army” at a hotel parking lot in Coeur d’Alene, police have said.
Police found riot gear, a smoke grenade, shin guards and shields in the van after pulling it over near where the North Idaho Pride Alliance was holding a Pride in the Park event, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White has said.
The group’s documents reportedly outlined a plan to form a column outside City Park and proceed inward, “until barriers to approach are met.” Once “an appropriate amount of confrontational dynamic had been established,” the column would disengage and head down Sherman Avenue.
Defense attorney Robert Sargent said in court Thursday that the men were citizens “who had a right to have their words heard and did not have an intent to harm anyone,” the Coeur d’Alene Press reported. “We don’t convict citizens on mere suspicion.”
But prosecutors said law enforcement prevented the group from carrying out their plan to violently disrupt the event.
Those arrested came from at least 11 states, including Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia and Arkansas. Nearly all of the others arrested are awaiting trial.
Alexander Sisenstein, of Midvale, Utah, pleaded guilty to the same riot charge in November and was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine.
Rioting is generally a misdemeanor in Idaho. Conspiracy to riot is punishable by up to one year in jail, as well as a $5,000 fine and up to two years of probation.
Founded after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, Patriot Front’s manifesto reportedly calls for the formation of a white ethnostate in the United States.