St. Louis-area man victim in federal extortion trial, linked to online hate group
A St. Louis-area man is a central witness in a federal trial that began this week in New Hampshire that offers a look into an online hate group that venerates mass murderers, encourages societal unrest and expresses hatred for police, African Americans and other groups.
Benjamin M. Lambert was identified Tuesday by federal prosecutors both as a victim in the case and a former member of the hate group the Bowl Patrol, according to media reports.
He is expected to testify against another former Bowl Patrol member, Christopher Cantwell, a New Hampshire resident accused of threatening in June 2019 to rape Lambert’s wife or send his followers to do so. Cantwell also reported Lambert to child protection officials for being a Bowl Patrol member and for alleged drug use, prosecutors have said.
Cantwell is facing charges in the federal trial of threatening, extortion and cyberstalking.
Cantwell is often referred to as “the Crying Nazi,” for a video in which he learned there was a warrant out for his arrest for his activities during the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A lawyer involved in the federal trial wrote in a recent court filing that, “The Bowl Patrol characterizes mass-murderers acting against Jews, racial minorities and/or homosexuals as ‘saints’ worthy of honor and reverence.” The group also discussed ““terror tactics” that listeners could use to “ramp up tension in your local community,” the lawyer wrote.
Lambert’s identity had been protected by prosecutors, although he was outed online over the summer. The leader of the Bowl Patrol, who called himself “Vic Mackey,” has also been outed as a California pizza delivery driver.
Lambert, who went by the online name “Cheddar Mane,” did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him for this story.
In a statement to a journalist for The Informant, which reports on hate groups and extremism in America, Lambert apologized and said, “I am beginning the process of removing myself from this dark, hateful ideology and poisonous culture completely.”
“I know that many will find it hard to forgive me, but my actions and words moving forward will be the proof that what I said was not indicative of who I truly am,” Lambert said in the statement.
Lambert grew up in St. Charles County, public records show.
In a 2017 podcast, Lambert said he lived in St. Louis and went to the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but didn’t graduate because he believed he would be “riddled with debt” with nothing to show for it.
He also said he once worked for St. Louis License Collector Michael P. McMillan, who is now head of the Urban League.
McMillan said in a series of text messages that he remembered Lambert, and said he never saw signs of racism or extremism. Instead, he saw the “exact opposite,” saying Lambert was, “Very open minded and very comfortable working in a majority African American environment.”
Public records show Lambert lived in St. Louis for years, then briefly in Kirkwood before moving to Lincoln County.
Online, he uses racial slurs to discuss his time in St. Louis.
He said on the podcast that he began writing for Borderland Alternative Media, a now-defunct right-wing website, when he was a stay-at-home dad to try and “force some effective change on society.” He said he was writing and making Facebook videos and “doing whatever I can to make sure that my children have a future in the United States.”
Cantwell’s lawyers claim Lambert was a prominent Bowl Patrol member and a regular on the group’s “Bowlcast” podcast on the Telegram app.
The Bowl Patrol
Bowl Patrol members admire Dylann Roof, who fatally shot nine Black parishioners during a Bible study at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015. They paste Roof’s bowl haircut into memes, including onto the heads of other mass murderers. They even wear it on clothing and refer to others as “bowlther” instead of brother.
Court documents in Cantwell’s case say that when FBI agents interviewed Lambert at work, he was wearing a sweatshirt with the Bowlcast logo — Roof’s bowl cut on a shield. Lambert’s employer is not named.
Cantwell became involved with Bowl Patrol in late 2017 or early 2018, according to a federal search warrant, after members reached out to him while he was in jail in Virginia.
But he told the FBI that members began “ridiculing and harassing him” after he failed to offer enough support for Robert Bowers, who killed 11 at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.
Prosecutors and Lambert’s lawyers said in court filings that Lambert and other Bowl Patrol members began prank calling Cantwell’s “Radical Agenda” live-streamed talk show. Cantwell’s lawyer said Lambert and “Vic Mackey” led the harassment. Prosecutors say Cantwell had identified Lambert and was threatening to release his name if Lambert did not identify Mackey.
Cantwell eventually went to police and the FBI to complain, calling the Bowl Patrol a “neo-Nazi terrorist group,” court filings show. He also confessed to threatening Lambert, authorities said.
When investigators raided Cantwell’s home, they found a pistol in a hidden case magnetically attached to the underside of his car and six handguns, four shotguns, two rifles, a crossbow and a machete. They also found letters and money from Cantwell “fans” in the U.S. and Europe.
The FBI agents who interviewed Lambert said the Bowlcasts promoted violence, Cantwell’s lawyer said in a court filing. Agents told Lambert, “If you happen to inspire somebody … [who] goes and does these things and you have inspired them to go commit an act of violence … there is accountability there.”
But Lambert claimed the Bowl Patrol was “‘performance art” and that when he says “(expletive) the cops, rape the cops, kill … it’s just (expletive) and not serious expressions of intent.” He also called the Bowl Patrol a “think tank.”
In one filing opposing Cantwell’s attempt to introduce some evidence, prosecutors wrote, “In light of the First Amendment, it would be extraordinarily unusual, if not legally impossible, to prosecute a Bowl Patrol member for expressing even the most abhorrent racist and hateful views during a Bowlcast.”