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Federal prosecutors are investigating an Atlanta-based Black extremist group preaching violence against the U.S. government as part of a wide-ranging criminal probe, according to a report.
The Black Hammer Party, allegedly involved in arming and recruiting homeless men, is under joint investigation by the FBI and the Fayetteville, Georgia Police Department for a slew of potential charges ranging from weapons and narcotics offenses, kidnapping and human trafficking, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The report cited testimony from Fayetteville Police Street Gang Investigator Diana Snider, who took the stand during the trial for Black Hammer leader Augustus Claudius Romain Jr., 36, known as Gazi Kodzo, and a top lieutenant, 21-year-old Xavier “Keno” Rushin in connection to the alleged kidnapping and sexual assault of gang recruits held against their will in a garage.
Snider testified that she read a newspaper story about the Black Hammer Party months ago around the same time she was contacted by the FBI about moving investigations into the extremist group to the Atlanta suburb of Fayetteville. Though she told the court no charges have yet been filed in that investigation, the group was under surveillance for allegedly arming homeless men and for its aggressive panhandling tactics targeting college students for donations near Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta.
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According to a recent federal indictment unsealed in Tampa, Florida, Romain and the Black Hammer Party were involved in an alleged scheme with a Russian citizen with ties to the Kremlin aiming to sow discord in the U.S. by paying fringe groups to protest and infiltrate local political movements.
In addition to the Atlanta-based Black Hammer Party, the indictment named other groups in Florida and California.
Romain and Rushin remain held without bond on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit a felon and taking part in street gang activity after an alleged recruit to their organization dialed 911 about being trapped in the garage of a home.
During Tuesday’s hearing, conspiracy charges were dropped against both men, but Romain remains also charged with forcibly sodomizing one of the alleged victims.
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Snider testified that Romain was under investigation for using sex as a way of obtaining rank in the Black Hammer Party, and authorities were investigating three other alleged kidnappings tied to the same house. One victim claimed he was sexually assaulted at gunpoint for refusing Romain’s 8 p.m. bedtime order so that the group could get up early the next morning for a protest.