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Judge Denies Bond for 4 Georgia Militia Members

By: Greg Bluestein, Associated Press
By: Greg Bluestein, Associated Press

Judge Denies Bond for 4 Georgia Militia Members

Gainesville, GA (AP) - A federal judge on Wednesday denied bond
to the four Georgia militia men accused of plotting terror attacks
against government employees, siding with prosecutors who feared
the elderly men might lash out against federal officials because
they have nothing to lose.

U.S. Magistrate Susan Cole's ruling echoed concerns from federal
prosecutors who warned that releasing the men risked a deadly
standoff with federal agents who are forced to bring them to court.

"I can only imagine the arrests of these defendants have only
heightened their ill will against the government," Cole said after
a third day of federal hearings. "I'm concerned there would be
government officials and employees in harm's way."

Defense attorneys, who intend to appeal the judge's decision,
said the men never intended to live up to the boastful chatter and
that the charges accusing them of plotting to use guns, explosives
and the biological toxin ricin against federal employees are
overblown.

Frederick Thomas, 73, and Dan Roberts, 67, are accused of
conspiring to obtain an explosive and possessing an unregistered
silencer. Ray Adams, 55, and Samuel Crump, 68, are charged with
conspiring and attempting to make ricin.

The four men were arrested in early November after at least seven months of surveillance by an undercover informant who infiltrated their meetings at a Waffle House, homes and car rides. The dozens of hours of recordings the informant made are the linchpin to the government's case against the four.

In the tapes, the four allegedly boasted of a list of government officials who needed to be "taken out;" talked about scattering ricin from a car speeding down a highway past major U.S. cities; and scouted tax offices. One man said, "We'd have to blow the whole building like Timothy McVeigh," a reference to the man executed for bombing a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.

Defense attorneys said the conversations were taken out of context and that the men were actually planning to unite various militia groups across Georgia to create a legitimate "governor's army" that would be at the state's disposal.

"It's all a hypothetical," said Jeff Ertel, who represents Thomas, the suspected leader of the plot. "This is not a plan to take action now. This is a plan to take action if we are legitimized and if the government calls us into action."

But assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney said the men took a
series of concrete steps toward carrying out a violent plot.

He said the men cased two federal buildings in Atlanta, talked
of targeting U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, obtained an illegal
silencer, amassed small arsenals of weapons, tried to purchase a
briefcase-sized explosive from an undercover agent and attempted to
make ricin from castor beans.

"We've moved beyond hypotheticals," he said.

McBurney warned that releasing the men risks giving them exactly
what they want: A galvanizing standoff with federal agents whom
they could portray as "jackbooted thugs taking action against elderly patriots."

The four played very different roles in the plot, according to court testimony. Thomas was described as the "thought leader" who
helped host meetings and recruit new members. He is accused of
scouting the two federal buildings with the informant and leading
the effort, along with Roberts, to get an illegal silencer and buy
explosives from an undercover agent.

Prosecutors said the men brought Crump and Adams into the mix
after Roberts talked of obtaining a "silent killer" -- the toxin ricin, which can be lethal in small doses. Crump had memorized the recipe for the poison, prosecutors said, and Adams had the know-how to make it as a former government lab technician.

Defense attorneys, though, heaped scorn on the informant, who
recorded the conversations while on bond on South Carolina charges
that he sexually abused two girls and had child pornography. They
called him an "instigator" and a "scoundrel" and questioned why
he's free while their clients are facing stiff penalties.

And they claimed prosecutors were making too much of idle chatter from elderly men complaining at gatherings in local restaurants and at each other's homes.

"The government doesn't have a strong case. Surely there was talk about ricin, but it was ridiculous," said Dan Summer, who represents Crump. "It was like an old man in the stages of senility talking out of the side of his mouth."

Witnesses called over three days of hearings said the men were
loyal to the government and often gave back to the community.
Roberts, for instance, had an animal shelter at his home with 20
dogs and 30 cats. And Melissa Adams said her father spent many
holidays playing Santa Claus for children.

"He may be intimidating at times, but on the inside he's just a teddy bear," she said of her dad, a big man with a busy beard. "He has his disgruntles just like the rest of the country, with the economy, but that's all they were -- small disgruntles."

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Lawyer: Men Accused in Militia Plot Had No Plans

Gainesville, GA (AP) - Prosecutors have described a group of
four Georgia militia members as a dangerous cabal plotting to
unleash an arsenal of weapons and poison on the federal government.

Their attorneys described them Tuesday as a bunch of ailing old men
shooting the breeze with no specific plans and targeted by an
informant with a checkered past.

Troubling recordings of the men talking were played in federal
court Tuesday at their bond hearing. One told the others they need
to "do whatever it takes" and another declared: "The first ones
that need to die are the ones in the government buildings."

Their attorneys said the recordings showed the men exercising
their constitutional rights to arm themselves and express their
political views. They said comments about the alleged plot that
were taken out of context, and attacked the credibility of the
undercover informant who recorded them.

Frederick Thomas, 73, and Dan Roberts, 67, are accused of
conspiring to obtain an explosive and possessing an unregistered
silencer. Ray Adams, 55, and Samuel Crump, 68, are charged with
conspiring and attempting to make ricin, a deadly biological toxin.

Thomas' defense attorney, Jeff Ertel, said the group was
planning to unite the various militia factions in Georgia into a
"governor's army" to serve the state. An FBI agent testified they
planned to reach new members at militia gatherings and through
courses in First Aid and gardening.

But prosecutors said the men took a series of concrete steps
toward carrying out a violent plot. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert
McBurney said the men cased two federal buildings in Atlanta,
obtained an illegal silencer, tried to purchase a briefcase-sized
explosive from an undercover agent and attempted to make ricin from
castor beans.

He also said that Thomas, described as the ringleader, talked of
targeting U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former U.S. Rep.
Cynthia McKinney. And he said Thomas had stockpiled a small arsenal of weapons -- 52 guns and 30,000 rounds of ammunition -- at his home in the Georgia mountains.

Ertel used part of Tuesday's hearing to attack the credibility of the confidential informant who recorded the conversations. He said the informant has had a series of legal troubles, including two recent charges in South Carolina of child pornography and child molestation that involved a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old. Those charges are still pending, but the informant was released from jail on bond.

The prosecutor said the informant first contacted FBI agents in
July 2010 and that authorities are confident in his credibility because his statements were corroborated by other sources and by the audio recordings. He played several recordings, including one clip of Thomas speaking of targeting "enemies of the Constitution" with weapons and explosives.

He also played aloud another tape where Thomas talked of attacking "civilian government operatives" with the FBI and other government agencies. Roberts was heard telling the group to "do whatever it takes" and Adams said on the tape: "The first ones that need to die are the ones in the government buildings."

Some family members of the suspects quietly shook their heads as
the tapes played Tuesday.

The four allegedly boasted of a list of government officials who
needed to be "taken out;" talked about scattering ricin from a plane or a car speeding down a highway past major U.S. cities; and scouted tax offices, with one man saying, "We'd have to blow the whole building like Timothy McVeigh," a reference to the man executed for bombing a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Federal investigators said they had the men under surveillance
for at least seven months, using an undercover informant to
infiltrate their meetings at a Waffle House, homes and other
places, before finally arresting them in early November. The
arrests came in early November, just days after authorities
discovered evidence they were trying to extract ricin from castor
beans at Adams' home.

At the hearing, attorneys for the four men gave a glimpse into their defense strategies.

Thomas' lawyer suggested his client, a great-grandfather who
suffers from a long list of illnesses, was too old and infirm to carry out the plot. Roberts' attorney contended he was a "bump on the log" who didn't intend to carry out any attacks. Barry Lombardo, who represents Adams, said the only proof against his client is a few "harmless" castor bean plants.

And Crump's attorney, Dan Summer, said prosecutors only had a
few muffled recordings as evidence his client was trying to make a
bioterror weapon. He said Crump was only being boastful, and would
never have actually tried to make the toxin.

"Mr. Crump was puffing, bragging," said Summer. "Isn't that what he was doing, talking smack?"

Relatives of the men have repeatedly said they were patriotic,
law-abiding citizens who were just making idle chatter, and even
some federal investigators privately refer to them as "The Gang
Who Couldn't Shoot Straight."

Some details from the hearing even elicited stifled grins from
the crowd, such as when investigators said Thomas got lost on his
way to Atlanta and refused to use his GPS for fear of being tracked
by the government.

But authorities said the charges are no laughing matter. McBurney said investigators grew particularly alarmed when they discovered that Adams and Crump managed to get a bucket of castor beans, which later tested positive for ricin. The men were arrested a day after the discovery.

"Prior to that there had been a lot of talk," Korneski said. "Once we determined they had the main ingredient, it significantly increased our concern."

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4 Georgia Militia Suspects Plead Not Guilty

Atlanta, GA (AP) - Four suspected members of a Georgia militia
charged with plotting attacks with toxins and explosives against
government officials have pleaded not guilty to charges against
them.

The four men appeared at a bond hearing at a Gainesville federal
courthouse on Wednesday. Prosecutors say the men talked of
assassinating U.S. Attorney General and former U.S. Rep. Cynthia
McKinney, among others.

Prosecutors have accused 73-year-old Frederick Thomas and
67-year-old Dan Roberts of conspiring to obtain an explosive and
possessing an unregistered silencer.

Authorities also charged 55-year-old Ray Adams and 68-year-old
Samuel Crump with conspiring and attempting to make ricin, a
biological toxin that can be lethal in small doses.

If convicted, the men could face more than a decade in prison.
Attorneys and relatives of the men say the charges are baseless.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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