FOLLANSBEE, W.Va. (WBOY) — A West Virginia man who Federal Bureau of Investigation agents say is a “Reverend” of a “White Racial Religion of Creativity” has been arrested and charged after he allegedly threatened the jury of Robert Bowers, the man who was recently sentenced to death for committing the 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Hardy Lloyd, 45, was arrested and taken into custody early Thursday morning without incident, according to a press release from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The investigation began when Google contacted the FBI about comments made by a user named “Reverend Lloyd,” and grew as Lloyd allegedly sent threatening emails to the jury and witnesses during Bowers’ trial and had others place stickers directing people to a website containing “antisemitic messages” in “predominantly Jewish areas of Pittsburgh,” the DOJ said.
Lloyd was charged federally with obstruction of the due administration of justice, transmitting threats in interstate and foreign commerce and witness tampering. If convicted, the obstruction charge comes with up to 10 years in prison, the threats charge up to five, and the tampering charge up to 20.
An affidavit sent to media along with a press release outlines the investigation into Lloyd that led to his arrest, as well as some of the beliefs of the “Church of Ben Klassen.”
The investigation began on March 21, 2023, before jury selection for Bowers’ trial began on April 24, 2023. Google provided the FBI with information for YouTube user “Reverend Lloyd” over comments advocating “We must start killing jews now,” among other threats to protected groups, the affidavit said. Many of the comments listed in the affidavit promoted a website.
FBI investigators said they were able to determine the account was Lloyd’s, as well as his cities of residency from the information provided by Google.
Investigators then visited the website being promoted in the comments, which says “WELCOME TO THE CHURCH OF BEN KLASSEN (TCBK).” The homepage claims “TCBK was founded in 2003 by, “Rev. LLOYD to maintain the purity of the religious teachings of our Holy Faith. Our beliefs are founded upon the White Racial Religion of Creativity, which Ben Klassen created in 1973,” investigators said.
Investigators said as they were investigating the website they found “an ‘enemies page,’ where LLOYD, seemingly, was publicly doxxing law enforcement and private citizens.” Doxxing refers to the malicious release of someone’s address, often for the purpose of inviting harassment, threats or harm.
Investigators then discovered a Post Office Box in Follansbee, West Virginia, that belonged to Lloyd, as well as a residence he owned nearby, and a vehicle and voter registration in Brooke County.
It was on May 2, 2023, that the FBI said Lloyd began commenting about the Bowers trial on the TCBK website and on the social media site VKonatkte. The FBI included the below VKonatkte post in the affidavit:
Then, the FBI said “GPS location information for the cell phone of LLOYD, obtained via search warrant, revealed that the phone was within an approximate four-mile or less proximity of LLOYD’s residence on May 2, 2023.”
Further posts were made on the social media platform regarding the trial throughout the month of May from the same proximity to the residence, the affidavit alleges, including one that said “Robert Bowers Did Pgh A Favour. Any juror who finds him guilty is guilty of anti-White
racism!!” and one that said “FREE RICHARD [SIC] BOWERS PGH, OR ELSE THERE WILL BE CONSIQUENCES [SIC] !!!”
On May 18, 2023, Lloyd is accused of updating the TCBK website to read:
If anyone has the doxing info, legally, for the 70 jurors on the Richard [sic] Bowers trial in Pgh, send to us so we can legally post said PUBLIC INFO as a useful guide to keep the trial honest. Oh, and we WILL be filing at county records for their names and home/work addresses to LEGALLY POST after the trial is over. Which is keeping with PA state laws regarding doxing of jurors post trial via PUBLIC INFO!! Y’all who are on the jury, make sure to vote what you know in your heart is morally correct.
FREE RICHARD [sic] BOWERS, CITY OF PITTSBURG, OR ELSE THERE WILL BE ‘LEGAL’ CONSIQUENCES [sic] !!!Text allegedly from the Church of Ben Klassen website, according to an FBI affidavit.
Lloyd is also accused of emailing Pittsburgh news stations about his intent to post the jurors’ information after the trial.
The FBI said on May 18 and 19, several different varieties of stickers directing people to a website that redirects to the TCBK website were found in Pittsburgh.
“License plate reader information shows that LLOYD’s vehicle was in the Pittsburgh area on the evening of May 18, 2023, and the early morning hours of May 19, 2023,” the affidavit reads.
On June 2, when the Bowers trial was underway, Lloyd is accused of posting a photograph of victims and witnesses entering the federal courthouse on the “enemies” page, seeking their personal information “so we can post it here.”
The next day, Lloyd made a post containing one of the witnesses’ pictures, their first and last names, and the name of the suburb they lived in, the affidavit said.
After the guilty verdict, the affidavit alleges that Lloyd made the homepage of the TCBK website read “PITTSBURGH MUST BURN TO THE GROUND !!!” and added another post with one of the witnesses’ personal information to the “enemies” page.
Lloyd is accused of sending emails associated with his website that called for violence against Jewish people and other protected groups in the days following the verdict.