After more than six hours of deliberations, a bond hearing Tuesday for four alleged North Georgia men accused of plotting attacks against the government was again extended.
Magistrate Judge Susan S. Cole stopped the proceedings after hearing testimony from several friends and family members of the defendants, as well as a key FBI agent involved in the case. The hearing will continue at 10 a.m. today, when arguments regarding bond for all four men are expected to be made.
Frederick Thomas, 73, of Cleveland and Emory Dan Roberts, 67, of Toccoa, are charged with conspiring to obtain an explosive device and possessing an unregistered silencer.
Ray H. Adams, 55, and Samuel J. Crump, 68, both of Toccoa, are charged with conspiring and attempting to produce the biological toxin ricin, which can be deadly if ingested or inhaled.
All four men pleaded not guilty in federal court in Gainesville on Nov. 9 during an arraignment hearing. A bond hearing also began during that day, but time didn't allow for the completion, so it continued Tuesday.
During that hearing, prosecutors revealed the men discussed targeting U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
Authorities also said Thomas, described as the group's ringleader, had stockpiled 52 guns and 30,000 rounds of ammunition at his home.
Prosecutors at Tuesday's hearing played several recordings of meetings at which the defendants allegedly discussed plans to attack government officials and buildings using explosives, guns and ricin.
Doug Korneski, domestic terrorism supervisor for the Atlanta FBI office, was called by prosecution attorney Robert McBurney to testify.
Two confidential sources assisted in the investigation into the four members of the fringe militia group known as the Covert Group.
One of those confidential sources is facing felony charges in South Carolina of possession of child pornography and child molestation of a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old, Korneski testified.
He said the source sent letters to the FBI in summer 2010 while he was in jail on the child molestation charge. Those letters indicated the source had knowledge of illegal plans by the militia group.
The FBI didn't offer any incentives to the source for his cooperation, except that it would be made clear to the court prosecuting the charges in South Carolina that the source cooperated in the investigation, Korneski testified.
When administered a polygraph test in July 2010, the source's answers were indicated to be less than truthful.
Defense attorney Jeff Ertel, who represents Thomas, said the confidential source was not credible and should not be considered. But Korneski testified that the information the source provided was consistent with the plans discussed on the recordings.
Many of the recorded meetings took place at Thomas' house in Cleveland.
During a meeting with Thomas, Roberts and a confidential source, Thomas was recorded as saying, "There are people all over the country who are actual enemies of the Constitution."
He further added, "There is no way for us, as militiamen, to save this country, to save Georgia, without doing something that's highly, highly illegal. Murder."
Ertel argued the recordings were taken out of context and the men didn't intend to actually follow through with their plans. He said they actually were attempting to unite Georgia militia factions and become "the governor's army." He said the men wanted to take courses in first aid and gardening to legitimize the movement.
During a meeting, Roberts said, "We are not just redneck (expletive) out to get you."
Among the various conversations between the men, Thomas and Roberts discussed the knowledge their wives had of their plans.
Roberts said in a recording he didn't trust his wife and had no plans to discuss it with her.
But Thomas said in a recording, "My wife pretty much knows what the hell we're doing."
Thomas' wife, Charlotte, testified last week that she had no knowledge of any plans of her husband's to carry out attacks.
"He loves his country," she said of the U.S. Navy veteran. "He's the most patriotic man I've ever met."
After several meetings, Thomas and Roberts reached out to Adams about becoming involved in the plot, Korneski testified.
Adams told the men he knew someone, Crump, who could produce and provide ricin, Korneski said.
After their arrests Nov. 1, a search of Adams' property revealed at least 20 castor bean plants and two buckets full of castor beans. More than a dozen guns also were discovered in Adams' home, Korneski testified.
He also testified a search of Crump's sister's residence, where he was living, revealed castor beans with their outer shell removed, which he said indicated was the initial step to producing ricin.
Defense attorney Dan Summer, who represents Crump, argued his client made no attempt to actually produce ricin.
Summer said Crump made statements that he wanted to take action against the government, but never made any illegal steps to do so.
Defense attorney Barry Lombardo, who represents Adams, argued the castor beans discovered at Adams' property were used to deter moles.
At last week's hearing, prosecutors argued the men are too old and have too many health issues to carry out such an attack.
McBurney countered that the men took concrete steps toward carrying out their plans, which included placing a briefcase explosive inside a federal building in Atlanta and detonating it with a cell phone.
Thomas and Roberts were arrested Nov. 1 when, Korneski said, they met with an undercover agent in a Walmart parking lot in Cleveland and bought what they believed was the briefcase explosive.
Kevin Roberts, nephew of Emory Dan Roberts, said his uncle is an Army veteran and served in Vietnam, where he received several wounds from a mine detonation.
"He is not a violent person and the only prejudice he has ever exhibited is to anyone who mistreats women, children or helpless animals," Kevin Roberts said.
"He may not agree with another person's political views but will strongly support their right to have and express them," he added.