national guard member sentenced for possessing a firearm while engaging in violent extremist online discussions
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National Guard member sentenced for possessing a firearm while engaging in violent online chats

department of justiceA former member of the National Guard was sentenced today to four years and 9 months in prison for unlawfully possessing several firearms while using illegal controlled substances.

According to court documents, on June 3, 2020, Francis Harker, 22, of Norfolk, and an associate discussed “interrupting an unjust stop” by trapping law enforcement at a shopping mall in Virginia Beach.

Harker obtained a semi-automatic rifle the same day as that discussion, and falsely stated on the required purchase paperwork that he was not an unlawful user of any controlled substances, when in fact, he used illegal drugs, including LSD, according to a news release from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The following year, he purchased a handgun and made the same false statement.

In a court authorized search in November 2021, the FBI found firearms and illegal drugs at his residence, as well as approximately 100 blank COVID-19 vaccination cards. Harker, who was a member of the National Guard, took the cards from the National Guard and mailed them across the country.

Harker’s electronic devices and social media accounts contained statements espousing violence towards law enforcement, extremism and white supremacy.

Images he possessed include an image emblazoned with the words “Rape the Cops,” an image of himself doing a Hitler salute, and imagery stating, “there is no god but Hitler.”

Harker also admitted to interacting online with members of a group called “The Base,” which the defendant described as a “group interested in terrorism.”

Also found during the search was a backpack in the trunk of Harker’s car that contained components for several Molotov cocktails.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joe Depadilla and Rebecca Gantt prosecuted the case.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.