A soldier stationed at Fort Riley pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to using social media for distributing instructions for making bombs.
Jarrett William Smith, 24, of Fort Riley, pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing information related to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Kansas.
He changed his plea during a hearing Monday before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree.
Smith joined the Army in June 2017, serving as an infantry soldier trained in combat and tactical operations. He was transferred to Fort Riley in July 2019.
According to court records, the FBI received information in March that Smith messaged people on Facebook how to make improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. He also wrote to others that he wanted to travel to Ukraine to fight with Azov Battalion, a violent, far-right military group.
Smith had never been deployed, according to the U.S. Army.
In September while at Fort Riley, Smith sent an undercover FBI agent specific instructions on how to make an explosive device and improvised napalm. He suggested the agent target an unnamed major news network and former Democratic presidential candidate and Texas state representative Beto O’Rourke.
Smith told FBI investigators in an interview that he disseminated instructions to build explosives to cause “chaos,” and if that chaos resulted in deaths, it didn’t affect him.
Smith’s defense attorney, Rich Federico, said in previous court hearings that Smith was a young man having difficulty transitioning to Army life, and he turned to online forums to engage with people, the Associated Press reported. Federico said Smith was “essentially a chatroom troll.”
The sentencing is scheduled for May 18. Smith faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 for each count.
A spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division said now that Smith has been convicted, his unit is taking "necessary steps to separate him from the Army."
In exchange for Smith’s plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the third charge of distributing information to make explosives and to not file further charges against Smith related to the investigation. They recommended a three-year term of supervised release with no fine imposed. Prosecutors also recommended that the offense levels of the charges be reduced.
The U.S. district judge does not have to follow these sentencing recommendations.