CONCORD — A judge has ordered that Christopher Cantwell, a white nationalist from Keene, remain in jail until his upcoming trial on federal threatening and extortion charges.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea K. Johnstone wrote in an order Thursday that Cantwell’s release would present “too serious a risk of danger,” citing his criminal record, substance use, history with firearms and threatening messages he has posted online.
After his Jan. 23 arrest in Keene, law enforcement officers seized 17 firearms and related equipment from his South Lincoln Street home, including “ammunition located in an unlocked Pelican box affixed to the rear underside of his vehicle, which was parked across the street from a school,” Johnstone wrote.
Cantwell has pleaded not guilty to two charges — extortionate interstate communications and threatening interstate communications — which accuse him of threatening to rape someone’s wife and demanding personal information about a third party.
His trial is scheduled for April in U.S. District Court in Concord. He has been in jail since his arrest.
An Internet personality who has spread hateful rhetoric through his podcast and other platforms, Cantwell, 39, became nationally known after he was featured in a Vice News documentary on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017.
The film captured him marching with a crowd of torch-bearing white nationalists, showing off various firearms and claiming that the weekend’s violence — including a deadly vehicular attack by a man with a history of racist and anti-Semitic beliefs — was justified.
He later pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and battery for using a chemical spray on counter-protesters that weekend.
In her detention order, Johnstone cited the case and what she called “a record of non-compliance with bail conditions,” including attempts to harass and intimidate witnesses online and an arrest while out on bail for public swearing and intoxication.
Cantwell has also been convicted of criminal possession of a weapon, according to the order, which does not say when or where the conviction occurred.
Johnstone wrote that Cantwell last used alcohol and marijuana on the day of his arrest and has “a self-reported longstanding history of” misusing substances, including a 2016 broadcast in which he referred to cocaine and methamphetamine use.
In addition to the weapons, law enforcement found “[v]ials of clear liquid and bags of pills” at Cantwell’s home, though Johnstone noted they had yet to be tested.
The search also turned up “boxes of fan mail and donations,” apparently from his online followers.
Johnstone’s order also refers to an incident in Keene last October. According to a police report cited in her order, police responded to the Keene Cinemas after Cantwell posted online, “I just sat down to see Joker, and I have a gun.”
On the officers’ arrival, Cantwell was cooperative, confirmed he had a gun and agreed to leave, according to an order. He claimed the post was a joke, though he later posted about “lowlives and liars who phone in bogus threats to law enforcement.”
Johnstone wrote that Cantwell “legally possessed these firearms.”