Alt-Right Podcaster Charged Over ‘Arsenal’ of Full-Auto Machine Guns
A Pennsylvania man who hosts an anti-government podcast called the “Alt-Right Armory,” on which he has encouraged listeners to target “not only police, but ‘legislators, lobbyists, and left-wing billionaires’ for assassination with explosives,” is accused of having “amassed an arsenal of fully automatic machine guns,” according to court filings.
Joseph Paul Berger, a 32-year-old Navy veteran who lives with his parents in Bethlehem Township, was arrested Feb. 7 by federal agents who say they found 13 unregistered machine guns and 12 illegal silencers in a locked room in the basement of the family’s home. The cache included, among other models, eight AK-style rifles, two C308 .308 Winchester caliber rifles, two MP5K submachine guns, and one RPK-style machine gun, according to a detention memo filed by prosecutors.
The weapons were test-fired by a lab expert with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), who “determined that each gun was modified, after purchase, to make it capable of fully automatic fire,” the filing says.
Berger’s father, Joseph Raymond Berger, 67, was arrested along with his son. The two stored the guns in a locked basement room to which only they had access, according to prosecutors. Their lawyer, Eric E. Winter, did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, and no one answered the phone at the Berger home on Friday.
The younger Berger, who works as a certified armorer and machinist and does not have a criminal record, “regularly espouses anti-government and anti-law enforcement views,” the government argued in a motion against releasing Berger on bail. “For example, in the pilot episode of the Alt-Right Armory the defendant notes that a ‘white man with a rifle can be very dangerous to the system indeed if he has the right motivation.’” He then “extolls the values of police murderer Eric Frein and fantasizes about the cost that could be incurred by a group of people like Frein,” the motion continues, emphasizing that Frein in 2014 murdered a Pennsylvania state trooper in an ambush before going on the run. He was subsequently captured, convicted, and sentenced to death.
Berger and his co-host “halfheartedly claim that the discussion is a ‘prank’ and a ‘playful thought,’ and they are not advocating for violence, but it is clear that the discussions are serious,” the filing states.
On his show, prosecutors pointed out, Berger goes by the moniker “GlockDoctor1488,” which begins with what appears to be a nod to the 14-word slogan used by neo-Nazis that states, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” In white supremacist circles, “88” is code for “Heil Hitler,” as “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2019, Berger reportedly disrupted an event at a public library in Philadelphia where former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was speaking, screaming, “Fuck you, you anti-white piece of shit! You will not replace us!”
Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security warned that the upcoming midterm elections could touch off a wave of violence by domestic extremists.
The investigation into Berger began in January 2021, when officers with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) intercepted three packages coming into the U.S. from China. They were addressed to Berger, and contained unregistered silencers. Two of the silencers came with paperwork that included Berger’s cellphone number, the government’s detention memo says.
Based on the seizure of the silencers, the feds obtained a search warrant for Berger’s home. There, they seized the 13 machine guns along with 12 silencers.
But the raid didn’t stop Berger, according to prosecutors. In the months before his arrest, Berger “acquired additional firearms on at least two occasions,” states the detention memo, adding that when Berger was taken into custody this week, agents confiscated five more guns they found inside the house.
Agents also discovered a 3D printer on a table, with the components needed to build so-called ghost guns, which do not have serial numbers and are virtually untraceable.
In court on Thursday, Winter argued that Berger had never incited real-life violence, and defended his client’s views as political expression.
To that end, the government’s detention memo concluded, “To be sure, the defendant’s views do not form the basis for these charges, but they provide strong evidence of his anti-government ethos. Based on these views, it is highly unlikely that the defendant will respect or abide by conditions of release set by this Court, thereby making him a danger to the community and a risk of flight. This risk is compounded because the defendant has never faced criminal charges, let alone the serious federal charges that he now faces here. The only way to ensure that the community is protected and the defendant appears at trial is to detain him.”
Both Bergers have pleaded not guilty.
“This type of firepower is incredibly dangerous if in the wrong hands,” HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge William S. Walker said in a statement. “HSI Philadelphia was pleased to work alongside our partners on this important investigation to ensure the defendants are held accountable for their crimes and not able to terrorize this community or any other.”
Magistrate Judge Pamela Carlos ordered Berger detained pending trial. His dad was released on $25,000 bail. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
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