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Man accused of plotting to destroy Baltimore's electrical grid has new defender

Empty juror chairs inside a courtroom
Posted at 7:06 PM, Jun 26, 2024

BALTIMORE — The man accused of setting up a plot to sabotage Baltimore's electrical grid has a new defender.

The ACLU announced they've joined Brandon Clint Russell's defense team in a limited capacity.

Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney with ACLU's National Security Project, said "every person is entitled to a defense."

Her full statement can be found below:

“Every person is entitled to a defense, and we joined Mr. Russell’s defense team for the limited purpose of challenging the government’s secretive warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. For the ACLU, this is about government abuse of power.

 Based on the government’s own disclosures, we have good reason to believe that Mr. Russell was subjected to Section 702 surveillance and his case is a rare and important opportunity to challenge the government’s practice of conducting warrantless “backdoor searches” of its Section 702 databases to locate the communications of Americans.

 We have long argued that Section 702 surveillance is unconstitutional and that it disproportionately impacts people of color and Muslims at home and abroad. Especially as recently expanded and reauthorized by Congress, this spying authority could be further abused by a future administration against political opponents, protest movements, and civil society organizations, as well as racial and religious minorities, abortion providers, and LGBTQ people.

 In defending the Fourth Amendment rights at stake in this case, we seek to ensure that all Americans are protected from warrantless government surveillance.”

Ashley Gorski, senior staff with ACLU's National Security Project

Russell along with Sarah Beth Clendaniel allegedly planned these acts to "completely destroy [the] whole city."

Charging documents say the attacks were supposed to happen "when there is greatest strain on the grid," like "when everyone is using electricity to either heat or cool their homes."

According to the FBI, Clendaniel and Russell had known each other since 2018.

Court documents also revealed that both Clendaniel and Russell have criminal histories.