Terror plot suspects
History: Thomas is portrayed as ringleader for the group. Spent 30 years in the Navy.
Emory Dan Roberts
History: Roberts' wife says he retired from the sign business, lives off pensions.
Ray H. Adams
History: Adams was a lab technician for the Agricultural Research Service.
Samuel J. Crump
History: CDC confirmed Crump used to work for a contractor on campus.
Prosecutors filed a motion Wednesday afternoon to allow for more time to prepare for a detention hearing on four suspected militia members charged Tuesday with plotting attacks against the government.
The four Northeast Georgia men made their first appearance Wednesday in front of Magistrate Judge Susan S. Cole in Gainesville’s federal courthouse. Preliminary and detention hearings are set for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 9.
The men wore glasses and had either white or graying hair, and had trouble hearing Cole, often cupping their ears during the proceedings, even though she was using a microphone.
Those arrested are Frederick Thomas, 73, of Cleveland, and Emory Dan Roberts, 67, Ray H. Adams, 65, and Samuel J. Crump, 68, all of Toccoa.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the four men were part of a militia group called the Covert Group. A criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia details a monthslong effort by the suspects to carry out attacks against government officials and citizens. They’re accused of attempting to buy explosives and materials to make the biological toxin, ricin.
Thomas, who is portrayed as the ringleader, talked of modeling the actions on the online novel “Absolved,” which involves small groups of citizens attacking U.S. officials, according to court documents. It was written by former Alabamamilitia leader Mike Vanderboegh, who wrote on his blog Wednesday that his book was fiction and said he was skeptical a "pretty geriatric" militia could carry out the attacks the men were accused of planning.
Thomas and another man were arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Cornelia while the other two were arrested in Stephens County, according to Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell.
The four defendants appeared before the court in two separate hearings. A feeble looking Thomas along with Roberts appeared first. The two men are charged with conspiring to possess an unregistered silencer and destructive device.
In a separate hearing immediately following, Crump and Adams made their initial appearance. They are facing charges of attempting to produce and possess the biological toxin, ricin, which can be fatal if inhaled or ingested.
After ensuring Cole they could hear clearly, each of the defendants acknowledged they understood the charges against them and were advised of their rights.
Public defender Jeff Ertl represented the four men; each will be represented by a court-appointed attorney moving forward.
Both the defense and Jeff Brown, representing the federal government, declined to comment on the charges.
Thomas' wife, Charlotte, described the charges as "baloney."
"He spent 30 years in the U.S. Navy. He would not do anything against his country," she said. "He loves his country."
Roberts' wife Margaret said her husband retired from the sign business and lives on pensions. She said FBI agents showed up Tuesday with a search warrant and went through her home, handcuffing her and taking a computer and other items.
"He's never been in trouble with the law. He's not anti-government," she said. "He would never hurt anybody."
The four men are accused of plotting to carry out attacks against government officials and citizens in an effort that began no later than March.
Their plans are laid out in a criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia. The complaint details an investigation involving an undercover agent, as well as a confidential source, currently on bond for pending felony state charges.
The complaint states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed Crump worked in the past for a contractor at the center.
It also states Adams previously worked as a lab technician for a Department of Agriculture agency called the Agricultural Research Service.
In May and June Thomas and Roberts met with the undercover agent and agreed to purchase an unregistered silencer and explosive devices to be used "in attacks against federal buildings," the complaint states.
The confidential source attended several meetings with the suspects, many held at Thomas' Cleveland home, in which their plans were laid out. Thomas informed the group of his "bucket list" consisting of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders and members of the media he felt need to be "taken out," according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Thomas was recorded as saying, "There is no way for us, as militiamen, to save this country, to save Georgia, without doing something that's highly, highly illegal. Murder. That's (expletive) illegal but it's gotta be done."
The complaint also includes Thomas saying "When it comes time to saving the Constitution, that means some people gotta die."
The group discussed obtaining materials in any way necessary including stealing or attacking supply trucks, the complaint states.
The group discussed some potential targets that included personnel from the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, FBI, police and "everybody in the (Department of Justice)," the complaint alleges.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said the case is a reminder that "we must also remain vigilant in protecting our country from citizens within our own borders who threaten our safety and security."
The four men are being held in the Hall County Jail awaiting next week's hearing at which bond will be decided.
Associated Press contributed to this report.