By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
A former Wyoming Department of Audit employee is the second person with Wyoming connections to be arrested as part of a white supremacist group on Saturday accused of conspiring to riot at a gay Pride event in Idaho, law enforcement authorities said.
James Michael Johnson, 40, who worked as a senior auditor for the Wyoming Department of Audit as of late 2020, was charged with conspiracy to riot along with 30 other members of the group “Patriot Front.”
Johnson now lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Also among the 31 arrested Saturday was Dylan Carter Corio, 21, who, according to the police report, resides in Cheyenne.
The group of 31 Patriot Front members, wearing riot gear, were arrested in the back of a U-Haul truck near a park in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday afternoon.
A tipster told police he saw the group of men, who looked like a “little army,” get into the U-Haul in a hotel parking lot.
Police said the group was planning on rioting. Smoke grenades, shin guards and shields were found in the U-Haul van.
Police pulled the truck over before it could get to the park. As dozens of officers surrounding the U-Haul, the men were escorted out at gunpoint. Their hands were then zip-tied and they were put on their knees before being arrested.
Active In Local Politics
Johnson was active in politics during the 2020 campaign season. Originally, he planned to run for mayor and was often involved in conflict with a former Cheyenne mayor on social media and at city council meetings.
Johnson was asked to leave one city council meeting in 2019 because he ran over his allotted time to speak and started yelling at the mayor and the council members when told his time had expired.
Johnson dropped his bid for mayor and decided to run for city council instead. It was then that he described his political ideology, expressing fears of Cheyenne turning into Denver or Portland with “Black Lives Matter riots and Antifa riots every night.”
State Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, said he was confrontational in his dealings with him and others.
“It’s not surprising that Mr. Johnson was arrested for his part in the planned attack in Idaho,” Brown said. “He displayed very poor judgment and uncivil dialogue with many others during his time in Cheyenne.”
“His group of friends in Cheyenne should take note that this type of “political discourse” is not only highly frowned upon but down right illegal,” Brown said.
Sara Burlingame, Executive Director of Wyoming Equality and former state legislator, told Cowboy State Daily she was not surprised to see that Johnson was arrested on Saturday.
“Was I shocked to see a local darling of the alt-right show up in a lineup of thugs? Of course not,” Burlingame said.
“One word describes it: predictable. This guy harassed our office, made a public spectacle of maligning LGBTQ advocates and was embraced by the state party. Of course he’s hiding out in a U-Haul in Idaho, of course he’s looking to attack defenseless people out celebrating PRIDE,” she said.
Rod Miller, former gubernatorial advisor to two Wyoming governors and now a political columnist for Cowboy State Daily, wrote a letter to the editor in 2020 to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle expressing his concern over Johnson’s use of “divisiveness, fear, hate, and extreme right-wing zealotry” in his bid for city council.
“Johnson marches around downtown armed with a gun or a baseball bat, claiming to be keeping us safe,” Miller wrote. “Johnson’s campaign social media pages are chocked full of hyperbole and right-wing fear.”
Johnson and Corio, along with the other 29 men arrested on Saturday, posted bond on Sunday and are expected to be arraigned on Monday.