Prosecutors: U.S. Troops At Fort Stewart Formed Militia, Plotted To Assassinate President Obama
Prosecutors in Georgia are charging several active duty members of the military, as well as acquaintances of theirs who are retired from the military, with plotting to form a militia and engage in acts of terror up to and including the assassination of the President:
LUDOWICI, Ga. — Four Army soldiers based in southeast Georgia killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, prosecutors told a judge Monday.
Prosecutors in rural Long County, near the sprawling Army post Fort Stewart, said the militia group composed of active duty and former U.S. military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components and was serious enough to kill two people — former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York — by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.
“This domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk,” prosecutor Isabel Pauley told a Superior Court judge. “Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.”
One of the Fort Stewart soldiers charged in the case, Army Pfc. Michael Burnett, also gave testimony that backed up many of the assertions made by prosecutors. The 26-year-old soldier pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter, illegal gang activity and other charges. He made a deal to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against the three other soldiers.
Prosecutors said the group called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. Pauley said authorities don’t know how many members the militia had.
Burnett, 26, said he knew the group’s leaders from serving with them at Fort Stewart. He agreed to testify against fellow soldiers Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, identified by prosecutors as the militia’s founder and leader, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon.
All are charged by state authorities with malice murder, felony murder, criminal gang activity, aggravated assault and using a firearm while committing a felony. A hearing for the three soldiers was scheduled Thursday.
Prosecutors say Roark, 19, served with the four defendants in the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and became involved with the militia. Pauley said the group believed it had been betrayed by Roark, who left the Army two days before he was killed, and decided the ex-soldier and his girlfriend needed to be silenced.
Burnett testified that on the night of Dec. 4, he and the three other soldiers lured Roark and York to some woods a short distance from the Army post under the guise that they were going target shooting. He said Peden shot Roark’s girlfriend in the head while she was trying to get out of her car. Salmon, he said, made Roark get on his knees and shot him twice in the head. Burnett said Aguigui ordered the killings.
“A loose end is the way Isaac put it,” Burnett said.
Pauley said Aguigui funded the militia using $500,000 in insurance and benefit payments from the death of his pregnant wife a year ago. Aguigui was not charged in his wife’s death, but Pauley told the judge her death was “highly suspicious.”
She said Aguigui used the money to buy $87,000 worth of semiautomatic assault rifles, other guns and bomb components that were recovered from the accused soldiers’ homes and from a storage locker. He also used the insurance payments to buy land for his militia group in Washington state, Pauley said.
In a videotaped interview with military investigators, Pauley said, Aguigui called himself “the nicest cold-blooded murderer you will ever meet.” He used the Army to recruit militia members, who wore distinctive tattoos that resemble an anarchy symbol, she said. Prosecutors say they have no idea how many members belong to the group.
“All members of the group were on active-duty or were former members of the military,” Pauley said. “He targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned.”
The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state’s apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.
There are also charges under the UCMJ pending against the active duty soldiers involved in this plot, but they have not proceeded forward as of this time. At first glance, it’s hard to say whether this was a serious plot or just a bunch of, well, soldiers playing solider, but the act that they were willing to murder to maintain the secrecy of this group, whatever it was, suggests that this was more than mere talk on their part. And, as Jay Bookman puts it, purchasing $87,000 worth of weaponry suggests that they were serious about this in some respect, even if the goals of the organization seem fanciful at first glance.
The military has had problems with white supremacist and other radical groups in the the ranks in the past, of course. Indeed, the man who shot up the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin last month had been in the military in the 90s and was believed to have developed some ties to white supremacist groups during that time. This incident would suggest that the problem still exists.
H/T: The Atlantic Wire