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Crime & Courts

Anchorage man learned about Holocaust as part of plea agreement for federal weapons violations

An Anchorage man was required to learn about the Holocaust and read about overcoming extremist beliefs as part of a plea agreement for illegally owning a machine gun and silencers. He was sentenced for the crimes Wednesday.

Investigators and prosecutors had expressed concern that Michael Graves, now 21, could have potentially used the weapons in his possession to commit a mass shooting because of a number of tweets he posted that featured violent rhetoric aimed at minority groups.

Graves was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison, time that he has already served since his arrest. He will be on supervised release for the next three years. As part of a plea agreement, Graves also read specific books and took classes during his incarceration that were aimed at moving him away from extremist viewpoints.

Graves, who spoke at Wednesday’s hearing, said he’s a better person because of the educational experience.

“I want to apologize to everyone that’s here about what I said online,” he said during the hearing. “I was on a network with creed individuals who said similar things to what I had said. On reflection of those things, I see how horrid a lot of these are and I’m sorry for what I said. I do not believe in prejudice or violence of any kind.”

Federal investigators received an online tip at the end of April 2019 containing concerns that Graves may harm someone because of his posts on Twitter, according to an affidavit. Graves' posts, read by an FBI Special Agent in a hearing a month later, included calls for violence against Muslim and Jewish people.

In April 2019, a package addressed to Graves was flagged by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in California, according to the affidavit. Inside the package was a full auto selector switch, which is designed and intended to convert a semi-automatic pistol into a machine gun, prosecutors said.

A U.S. Postal Inspection Service employee delivered the package to Graves while FBI agents surveilled the property, the affidavit said. Investigators then knocked on Graves' door and found the device in his pocket, according to the affidavit.

While searching his house, investigators found three silencers that Graves told them he’d made, prosecutors said. All machine guns and silencers are required to be registered, which Graves had not done.

During his incarceration, Graves read “Rising Out of Hatred” and “Educated," which were meant to encourage him to move away from extremist viewpoints. He was also required to learn about the Holocaust. Graves wrote essays about what he learned, including reflections on the materials.

“The overall goal is to lean forward as much as possible and try to be creative to stop mass shooters, recognizing that ... mass shooters over the last few years have engaged in acts that bear a lot of similarities,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonas Walker said. “One of the similarities is it all starts with a grievance, and that grievance is particular to the person. From what we’ve seen is that people latch on to information that enables them to transition that grievance to action.”

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that the educational requirements were fulfilled as part of a plea agreement between Graves and the U.S. government, not part of the sentence. Because Graves fulfilled the requirements, the government recommended the 18-month sentence.

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