Federal Grand Jury Charges Three in Molotov Cocktail Attack Last Year on Planned Parenthood Clinic
For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Two Defendants Arraigned, Third Defendant Arrested Late Last Week in Florida
Two California men now named in a four-count federal grand jury indictment were arraigned earlier today on charges alleging they conducted a firebombing attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Orange County in March 2022.
The two defendants arraigned today are Chance Brannon, 23, of San Juan Capistrano, an active-duty Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, and Tibet Ergul, 21, of Irvine.
A third defendant now charged in this case – Xavier Batten, 21, of Brooksville, Florida – was arrested Friday by special agents with the FBI. Batten made his initial appearance on Friday in the Middle District of Florida. He was ordered held without bond pending trial.
The indictment, returned on July 14 and unsealed Friday, charges all three defendants with one count of conspiracy and one count of malicious destruction of property by fire and explosion. Additionally, Brannon and Ergul both are charged with one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device and one misdemeanor count of intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility, which is a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
According to the indictment, in February and March of 2022, the defendants plotted to throw a Molotov cocktail at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa. Brannon and Ergul allegedly chose the target property, obtained the materials necessary to construct a Molotov cocktail, assembled the destructive device, then, during the early morning hours of March 13, 2022, threw the ignited Molotov cocktail at the clinic. The device struck the clinic entrance.
Batten allegedly advised and directed Brannon regarding how to build the Molotov cocktail.
As a result of the fire, the Planned Parenthood Costa Mesa health care clinic was forced to close the following morning and cancel approximately 30 appointments.
Security videos described in court documents show that two men wearing hooded sweatshirts and face masks approached the Planned Parenthood facility at approximately 1 a.m. the day of the attack, ignited a device, and threw the flaming device at the front door of the building. According to court documents, “The device landed against a southern wall next to the glass door and erupted into a fire, which spread up the wall and across the ceiling above the glass door.”
The Costa Mesa Police Department and Fire Department responded to the scene and extinguished the fire. An analysis of evidence collected at the scene showed that the glass container and other materials contained gasoline.
The conspiracy and malicious destruction counts each carry a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. The count of possession of an unregistered destructive device is punishable by up to 10 years. The intentional damage to a reproductive health facility charge carries a statutory maximum penalty of one year in federal prison.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California, Assistant Director Robert R. Wells of the FBI Counterterrorism Division and Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are conducting the ongoing investigation in this matter. The Costa Mesa Police Department provided substantial assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathrynne N. Seiden for the Central District of California is prosecuting this case, with valuable assistance provided by the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Updated July 24, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-800