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Former Camp Pendleton Marine sentenced to 9 years in prison for firebombing Planned Parenthood

A former Camp Pendleton Marine was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison for his role in a firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa.

Chance Brannon, 24, from San Juan Capistrano, pleaded guilty on November 30 to conspiracy, malicious destruction of property by fire and explosives, possession of an unauthorized destructive device and malicious damage to a reproductive health service.

Co-defendants Xavier Batten, 21, of Brooksville, Florida, and Tibet Ergul, 21, of Irvine, have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Brannon’s attorney, Kate Corrigan, argued for a five-year prison sentence, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathrynne Seiden recommended between 78 and 97 months.

Ergul and Brannon lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the entrance of the clinic at 1520 Nutmeg Place during the early morning hours of March 13, 2022. They returned to the clinic about two hours later, according to the FBI.

The two also “discussed starting a race war by attacking an electrical substation with the intent of damaging the substation and disrupting the operation of the Orange County electrical grid,” prosecutors said in court filings.

One of the weapons Brannon planned to use was a Zastava ZPap M70 rifle “with a handwritten Cyrillic message on the folding stock, which roughly translates to ‘Total (racist term for blacks) death,’ prosecutors wrote in the plea deal. Zip file authorities found there was also “recordings of the 2019 Christchurch (New Zealand) Mosque Shooting, a mass shooting in which a white supremacist killed 51 people and injured 40 others,” prosecutors said.

The duo was also accused of discussing and researching “how to attack the parking lot or electrical area of ​​Dodger Stadium on an evening celebrating LGBTQ pride,” prosecutors said.

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Brannon told U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney, “I’m not going to dispute the facts of the case.”

He added: “All I can tell you is that it was stupid and out of hand.”

Brannon said he understands the public “saw it as terroristic and terrible.” He also said he understands if the judge would have difficulty believing he has changed his mind.

“All I can do is live my life better,” he said. “And to do better for the world and others.”

He said he wanted to do more volunteer work in the future.

“I’ve tried to be as productive as I can in custody,” he said.

Corrigan argued that her client was on the autism spectrum, which led to a “rigid way of thinking” that sent the defendant “down a rabbit hole.”

Corrigan noted that much of what prosecutors presented as evidence against her client came from Brannon, who has cooperated with authorities since his arrest. She said he was outspoken about the discussed attack at the Dodger game, which eased concerns since they were arrested two days before the LGBQT event.

Read more: Orange County Marine and another man arrested for a Planned Parenthood firebombing

Brannon met with representatives from Parents for Peace, a support group for families of people who have fallen prey to extremists.

“He has come to understand that what he did was stupid at best and fortunately did not hurt anyone,” Corrigan said.

She argued that Ergul’s plea deal calls for a sentence of 63 to 71 months behind bars, and she pointed to three other firebombing cases in which the suspects received five-year prison terms. Anything beyond that would create “tremendous diversity,” Corrigan said.

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However, Seiden said Brannon’s case was different from the other defendants in the case and the others Corrigan cited. For example, Brannon was caught with guns, one that was illegal under federal law and another under state law, Seiden said.

Brannon was also a student of “other terrorists,” she said.

“He studied mass acts of terrorism,” Seiden said.

He also advised and “mentored” the others, she said. Brannon also had a plan to “rob Jewish homes in LA,” which did not involve the other defendants, Seiden said.

In addition, Brannon was an active-duty Marine at the time, Seiden said.

Carney, the judge, noted that when Brannon became disappointed at not being deployed in combat, he called on embassies in Russia and China to be a “mole.” The judge called it ‘treacherous’ behavior.

Read more: Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood firebombing attack: Third suspect arrested

In his sentencing memo, Carney said Brannon is “highly intelligent” and has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and long-term depression.

He grew up with a “supportive stepfather” and a “loving, deeply involved mother who, as an experienced clinical psychologist, has expert knowledge of resources and treatments for children with his mental health diagnoses,” Carney said.

“On the other hand, Mr. Brannon’s diagnoses contributed to developmental delays, behavioral problems from an early age and rigid thinking,” Carney said. “While in many situations Mr. Brannon demonstrates what the court views as genuine thoughtfulness, generosity and a desire to make a positive impact on his community and the world, in other contexts he exhibits equally troubling behavior that stems from a bad self-righteousness. esteem as a child to hatred of others, turned into action as an adult.”

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When FBI agents questioned Batten in September 2022, Brannon called him a “dumbbell” and told him to “stop talking to the FBI” because it would become “harder to say in his own defense, ‘I was hacked, etc.’ Carney said.

Carney noted that Brannon had other conversations with Batten that included epithets for homosexuals, and with another friend about finding rape victims “annoying” and advocating for them to be assaulted again.

While in the Marines, Brannon “often made sexist and misogynistic jokes, and one Marine recalled him making comments about killing women who had had abortions,” Carney said.

The judge added that women are “disproportionately subjected to many types of violence and harassment. Mr. Brannon’s actions were intended to make another location less safe for them: the private and sensitive space of a medical clinic. That’s him success.”

The fire-bombed clinic was forced to close and 33 patients had to reschedule, Carney said.

“But even more importantly, thousands of women, doctors and their staff who heard about this attack were undoubtedly traumatized,” Carney said.

Carney said he believes Brannon can turn things around for himself with the support of his family, but he added he was concerned the defendant could also relapse.

Carney said he has faith in Brannon’s “great remorse for his actions and his continued desire to make a positive impact on the world,” but, the judge added, “there is no compelling evidence that Mr. Brannon will to stop committing misconduct that he believes to be ‘morally justified’.”

Ergut pleaded guilty to his own charges in February 2024.

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