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Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017
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Neo-Nazi roommate of Tampa Palms murder suspect to plead guilty to federal explosives charges

TAMPA — Brandon Russell, the neo-Nazi former roommate of double-murder suspect Devon Arthurs, is expected to plead guilty next week to federal explosives charges.

Russell's attorney, Ian Goldstein, said Wednesday that his client will admit to possessing a destructive device and storing explosive material. Authorities discovered the items at the Tampa Palms apartment where he lived with Arthurs.

A formal change of plea hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in federal court.

Russell will enter an open guilty plea, Goldstein said, meaning no plea agreement has been filed.

"My client is accepting responsibility for having possessed these items," Goldstein said.

The most serious of the two charges carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Russell, 22, was a National Guardsman and the leader of a small-time neo-Nazi group known as Atom Waffen, of which Arthurs was a former member, according to court documents. The pair lived together with two other men, Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman.

Arthurs shot and killed Oneschuk, 18, and Himmelman, 22, in their apartment on May 19, according to prosecutors. He then walked to a nearby smoke shop and held several people at gunpoint before police arrived and persuaded him to surrender.

Arthurs told the officers he had killed his roommates, police said. He led them to the apartment, where Russell, having just returned from Guard duty, stood outside, apparently distraught.

Arthurs said he killed the pair because they were neo-Nazis and they had disrespected his conversion to Islam, according to court documents.

When authorities searched the apartment, they found extremist literature and a framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh among Russell's belongings. In an adjacent garage, they also discovered a cooler containing a chemical substance known as HMTD, an explosive, according to a federal criminal complaint. Nearby were several other bombmaking components, electric matches and empty ammunition casings with fuses.

Arthurs said the items belonged to Russell, authorities said. He also said his roommate had planned to commit acts of terrorism.

Russell, who was allowed to leave the murder scene, was arrested a few days later in the Florida Keys after he was charged in federal court.

Federal prosecutors later argued against Russell's release before trial. They noted that shortly before his arrest, he bought two rifles and more than 500 rounds of ammunition.

In a bond hearing, they also played portions of a Tampa police interrogation of Arthurs. In it, Arthurs said Russell had plans to blow up power lines in the Florida Everglades and launch explosives into a nuclear power plant near Miami.

Goldstein, Russell's attorney, disputed those allegations, saying Arthurs was "insane" and "desperate to save himself."

Russell remains jailed without bail.

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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