GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man who pleaded guilty to federal explosives charges in what prosecutors described as a plot against the government testified in federal court Thursday that two other men accused in the plot aren’t violent and weren’t seriously planning any attacks.
Dan Roberts testified in the trial of Ray Adams, 57, and Samuel Crump, 70, before U.S. District Judge Richard Story in Gainesville. Adams and Crump face charges of conspiring and attempting to make ricin.
Roberts, Adams, Crump and Frederick Thomas were arrested in November 2011after surveillance by an undercover informant who infiltrated their meetings at homes, during car rides and at a Waffle House restaurant.
Roberts and Thomas pleaded guilty in April 2012 to conspiring to get an unregistered explosive and an illegal gun silencer. Story sentenced them each to serve five years in prison.
Prosecutors say Crump and Adams conspired to make the toxin ricin to use against government officials and federal buildings, while defense attorneys have said the pair was simply talking big and never intended to follow through on the bravado.
Roberts testified that he had been a member of a group called the Militia of Georgia, but that he and Thomas started talking in late 2010 about forming a new militia group. At various times between April and September of 2011, Roberts, Thomas and others held meetings that were sometimes attended by Adams and Crump.
During testimony last week by Joe Sims, the government informant who infiltrated the group, prosecutors played tapes Sims made of conversations between Roberts, Thomas, Adams, Crump and others. In the recorded discussions, the men can be heard talking about a wide variety of topics, including recruiting new members, what kind of weapons they would need for an armed uprising and how they could use toxins to poison government officials.
Roberts said he had known Crump for more than a year before their arrest and said they shared a mutual interest in motorcycles. Crump was an outgoing person with a good social life who was interesting to talk to, Roberts said. Roberts met Adams in a Wal-Mart parking lot before a meeting at Thomas’ house several months before their arrest. Adams was a quiet person, he said.
When questioned by defense attorneys, Roberts testified that the men had no violent intentions and that most of their talk and activity centered on emergency preparedness, including securing food, learning first aid and target practice. Sometimes they talked about their dislike of the federal government, but they never planned to carry out any violence against the government, he said.
When federal prosecutor Bill McKinnon cross examined Roberts, he repeatedly said he couldn’t remember details of the conversations the men had and at times seemed to freeze up. When McKinnon asked him about specific comments about potential violent acts pulled from transcripts of the conversations, Roberts said over and over it was just talk.
McKinnon asked Roberts about a conversation he and Crump had during which Crump talked about making ricin and going to Washington, D.C., to use it to harm people.
“Based on those discussions you had with Mr. Crump, you thought Mr. Crump was dangerous didn’t you?” McKinnon asked.
After a long pause, Roberts replied, “Yes, sir.”
But when Adams’ defense attorney Barry Lombardo later asked him, “Were you of the opinion that Mr. Crump was going to go out and start killing people?” Roberts replied, “No, sir.”
The jury also heard from several other defense witnesses for Adams, including his former boss and a neighbor.
Defense attorneys called Sims’ ex-wife of nine years, Leanne Bowen, in an attempt to discredit Sims, an important witness for the prosecution. When Adams’ defense attorney Ed Tolley asked her about Sims’ reputation for truthfulness, she said simply, “He’s a liar.” She also testified that Sims had a violent and tumultuous manner.
Adams’ attorneys plan to call one or two more witnesses and Crump’s attorney Dan Summer plans to call several character witnesses. Story said it seems very likely that closing arguments will be delivered Friday.
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