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US far-right podcaster charged after machine guns found in basement | Pennsylvania

US far-right podcaster charged after machine guns found in basement | Pennsylvania

Federal prosecutors have charged an “alt-right” podcaster who espoused strong anti-government views with assembling an arsenal of weapons, including machine guns, in the locked basement at a home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

They also charged his father, the Daily Beast reported.

The pair, Joseph Raymond Berger, 67, and Joseph Paul Berger, 32, were arrested last week and charged with multiple firearms offenses including possessing machine guns, possessing non-registered firearms and possessing non-registered silencers.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

According to a detention memo filed by prosecutors, the cache included eight AK-style rifles, two C308 .308 Winchester caliber rifles, two MP5K submachine guns, and one RPK-style machine gun.

Prosecutors claimed in opposition to a bail request that the younger man, a navy veteran, “regularly espouses anti-government and anti-law enforcement views”.

“To be sure, the defendant’s views do not form the basis for these charges, but they provide strong evidence of his anti-government ethos,” they argued. “Based on these views, it is highly unlikely that the defendant will respect or abide by conditions of release set by this court, thereby making him a danger to the community and a risk of flight.”

Their lawyer, Eric Winter, argued in response that Joseph Berger had never incited real-life violence, carried no criminal record, and his views represented political expression.

The government cited a podcast episode of Alt-Right Armory in which Berger, the host, said that a “white man with a rifle can be very dangerous to the system indeed if he has the right motivation”.

Prosecutors also claimed that Berger “extolls the values of police murderer Eric Frein and fantasizes about the cost that could be incurred by a group of people like Frein”, referring to the 2014 murder of a Pennsylvania state trooper in an ambush. Frein was later captured, convicted and sentenced to death.

The defendant, prosecutors said, encouraged listeners to target “not only police, but “legislators, lobbyists and leftwing billionaires” for assassination with explosives.

Berger goes by the moniker “GlockDoctor1488” – 1488 being a popular coded signal among neo-Nazis, with “14” referencing the slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” and “88” standing in for “Heil Hitler”.

In 2019, Berger reportedly disrupted an event at a public library in Philadelphia where the former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was speaking. At the event, Berger reportedly shouted: “Fuck you, you anti-white piece of shit! You will not replace us!”

The indictment alleges that the Bergers illegally possessed 13 fully-automatic machine guns and 12 silencers. They were arrested after agents with Customs and Border Protection intercepted three firearms silencers which had been illegally imported and addressed to them at their home.

Investigators then obtained a search warrant for the home and recovered from the basement the 12 firearms suppressors/silencers and 13 fully-automatic machine guns, according to court documents. Agents also discovered a 3D printer on a table, with the components needed to build so-called ghost guns – guns with no serial number identification.

The weapons, the indictment said, had originally been purchased as semi-automatic firearms, and then converted into unregistered, fully automatic machine guns that could fire hundreds of rounds a minute.

“The defendants allegedly possessed a stockpile of unregistered fully-automatic machine guns and silencers in violation of the National Firearms Act,” said US attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “These weapons are extremely dangerous, which is why there are laws regulating their possession.”

“As the indictment alleges, possession of illegal firearms like these, threatens the safety of the general public, especially when in the wrong hands,” added Matthew Varisco, special agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia field division.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum possible sentence of 30 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $270,000 fine and a $300 special assessment.

This article was corrected on 13 February 2022. Terry McAuliffe was no longer the governor of Virginia when the library incident occurred in 2019.


https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/12/podcaster-arrested-machine-guns-weapons-basement