CONCORD — A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced Keene white nationalist Christopher Cantwell to three years and five months in prison for threatening and attempting to extort information from another white nationalist in 2019.
The sentencing comes after several turbulent years for Cantwell, 40, a racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic shock jock who first gained national notoriety for his role in the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and has since been a defendant in multiple criminal cases and lawsuits.
In the federal case, a jury last September found Cantwell guilty of two counts, transmitting extortionate communications and threatening to injure property or reputation. According to evidence presented at trial, Cantwell threatened to reveal publicly information about the family of Benjamin Lambert, a Missouri man Cantwell knew only as the online personality “Cheddar Mane,” if Lambert did not tell him the identity of another pseudonymous white nationalist. Cantwell also threatened to rape Lambert’s wife in front of their children.
The events grew out of a months-long feud between Cantwell and Lambert’s group, known as the “Bowl Patrol,” which used podcasts and other online platforms to glorify hate-fueled violence like the 2015 mass shooting at a Black church in Charleston, S.C.
At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Concord, lawyers presented different interpretations of the events leading up to Cantwell’s threats.
Prosecutors alleged they were part of a long-running campaign to obtain information about Bowl Patrol members and “dox” them by posting the information online. Arguing for a lesser sentence, Cantwell’s defense attorneys claimed Lambert had provoked him, causing him to lose his temper.
Appearing in leg chains and a tan Strafford County Department of Corrections jumpsuit, Cantwell spoke at length about how he had been harassed for months by people he believed to be Bowl Patrol members and why he felt provoked when Lambert entered an online chat group Cantwell was in, prompting the exchange that included the threats.
Cantwell concluded before speaking up again to say that while he didn’t see Lambert as an “innocent victim,” he did “regret whatever discomfort I’ve caused” his wife.
In asking for a longer sentence — four years and three months — Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Z. Krasinski stressed that Cantwell threatened not only Lambert but his family.
The defense asked for a sentence of time served — about 13 months — followed by supervised release.
Judge Paul Barbadoro called Cantwell’s threats “abhorrent,” “horrendous” and “extremely damaging,” noting that threats against family members are often punished more severely.
Barbadoro dismissed the argument that Lambert provoked Cantwell immediately before the threats, though noted Lambert’s role in the prior harassment that had angered Cantwell. Lambert testified at trial that he had made repeated prank calls to Cantwell’s call-in talk show but stopped months before the threats.
The hate-filled online subculture both men belonged to — in which bigotry and references to violence, including rape, that would shock most people are routine — also factored into the sentencing decision, Barbadoro said, because Lambert would have been more desensitized to Cantwell’s language than others.
Even so, the judge said, Cantwell’s behavior was “egregious” enough to warrant more than three years in prison.
Cantwell was arrested without incident in January 2020 at his apartment on South Lincoln Street in Keene. A police officer said at a hearing the following month that six handguns, four shotguns, seven rifles — including two AR-15s — a crossbow, a machete and “several smaller knives” were recovered from Cantwell’s home and vehicle.
Cantwell is no longer allowed to legally possess firearms due to his felony convictions in September.
His attorneys have said he plans to move out of New Hampshire to an unspecified state on the East Coast after his release.
Barbadoro told him he has 14 days to file paperwork if he plans to appeal.
Cantwell and the Bowl Patrol — which takes its name from the hairstyle of the Charleston church shooter — started out on good terms, with Cantwell appearing on the group’s first podcast.
But the relationship soured around late 2018 when, Lambert testified, Bowl Patrol members started to view Cantwell as a sellout who had softened his ideology. Cantwell told the FBI that the feud began after the October 2018 mass killing at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., when “he did not offer the same support for the incident as the Bowl Patrol did,” according to a federal law enforcement officer’s affidavit.
Lambert and others began prank-calling Cantwell during his live shows. Some Bowl Patrol members also apparently defaced Cantwell’s website, though Lambert said he wasn’t part of that. Angered by the harassment, Cantwell complained about it to the FBI multiple times.
Lambert — who has said he left the Bowl Patrol more than a year ago and is trying to distance himself from that ideology — testified that he stopped making the prank calls around March 2019, when Cantwell told him to back off or he’d be doxxed.
Cantwell, however, said in court Wednesday that he continued to experience a constant stream of harassment that he attributed to the Bowl Patrol, though he couldn’t identify specific participants because they remained anonymous. (Cantwell himself has a history of using the web to post harassing, threatening or demeaning statements about perceived adversaries.)
That June, Lambert entered a chat group run by Cantwell — inadvertently, he said — prompting Cantwell to message him privately.
“I guess you forgot the lesson which kept you away for a short while, do you need to be reminded?” Cantwell wrote before adding the name of Lambert’s street.
As the back-and-forth unfolded, Cantwell threatened to dox Lambert, publish images of his family and report Lambert to child protective services if he did not turn over information about the Bowl Patrol’s leader, who went by “Vic Mackey.”
Cantwell also threatened that he or one of his listeners in the misogynistic “incel” subculture would rape Lambert’s wife.
“So if you don’t want me to come and f--- your wife in front of your kids, then you should make yourself scarce,” he wrote. “Give me Vic, it’s your only out.”
Cantwell posted the photos and street name in a social-media group with about 300 people. He also followed through on his threat to call Missouri’s child-protection hotline, describing Lambert’s online persona and saying he wanted to “make this guy uncomfortable.” (Cantwell made no allegations of abuse or neglect, and the authorities did not act on the call.)
Lambert’s wife did not know of her husband’s views or online identity at the time but learned of the threats later, according to trial testimony. Krasinski, the prosecutor, said the situation has been painful for Lambert’s wife, including the fact that pictures of her and her kids remain online.