A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted four fringe militia members on four counts related to plotting attacks against the government.
Frederick Thomas, 73, of Cleveland, portrayed as the leader of the group, and Emory Dan Roberts, 67, of Toccoa were formally indicted by a grand jury with conspiring to possess an unregistered explosive device and illegally possessing an unregistered silencer.
Ray H. Adams, 65, and Samuel J. Crump, 68, both of Toccoa, were indicted on counts of conspiracy to possess and produce a biological toxin and attempted production of a biological toxin.
Each of the suspects were arrested Tuesday — two were arrested in Cornelia while the other two were arrested in Stephens County — according to Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell.
In a federal criminal complaint, the government has 30 days to indict the defendants, as is common procedure.
According to an indictment filed with the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, Thomas and Roberts held meetings with the other defendants, as well as others who are unknown "to discuss the formation of a covert militia group and to plan, among other activities, armed attacks on government buildings and federal government employees, including law enforcement agents."
Each of the men made an initial appearance Wednesday in Judge Susan S. Cole's courtroom in U.S. District Court in Gainesville.
During that hearing, a preliminary and detention hearing was set for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 9. Following the indictment, the preliminary hearing is not required, but the detention hearing is still scheduled. An arraignment hearing has not been scheduled.
An undercover FBI agent, as well as a confidential source currently out on bond for pending felony state charges, recorded various meetings between members of the militia group. According to a criminal complaint, during one of those meetings, Thomas discussed a "bucket list" that included taking out a list of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders and members of the media.
Those meetings had been taking place since at least March, and Thomas suggested obtaining silencers in any way necessary including by stealing or attacking a manufacturer's truck, the indictment states.
The indictment claims Thomas created a list of weapons, which he provided to "an individual known to the grand jury," who Thomas believed would help.
Thomas and Roberts also allegedly met with an idividual, who they believed was a dealer of unregistered silencers and destructive devices, and agreed to purchase the items.
On or about Nov. 1, Thomas and Roberts met with the same person and exchanged money for a silencer and what they believed were explosives, the indictment states.
The men also discussed acquiring TNT to make their own destructive devices, according to the indictment.
Also according to the complaint, Thomas discussed tactics to kill anyone he deemed as "anti-American or enemies of America."
"Of course, a .40 (caliber) Smith & Wesson or .45 ACP is just as good, even better cause it makes the whole head explode," the complaint says he told an investigator.
During the meetings, the men discussed killing members of the Department of Justice, including personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and police, according to court documents.
The group also discussed obtaining and using ricin, a biological toxin that can be fatal if ingested or inhaled, the indictment states.
Since at least Sept. 17, Crump and Adams conspired to develop and produce ricin for use as a weapon, according to the indictment.
The indictment states that Crump and Adams met at Adams' home in mid-October. During the meeting, "Adams removed a castor bean from a bin in a storage shed containing other castor beans."
The group's plan included producing 10 pounds of ricin and spreading it throughout several U.S. cities including Atlanta, Washington, Newark, N.J., Jacksonville, Fla., and New Orleans. Crump suggested the ricin could be released on interstates where it would be spread by other cars, court documents state.
The four men have each been appointed public defenders. Thomas will be represented by Jeffrey Ertel and Roberts by Michael Trost.
Gainesville attorney Daniel Summer was appointed to represent Crump and said, "I prefer to try the case within the confines of the courthouse rather than the streets, because I know there's a lot of media attention. Therefore, to be circumspect, we'll confine our comments to those made in open court."
Adams will be represented by Gainesville attorney Barry Lombardo, but when contacted, Lombardo declined to comment on the indictment.
Attorneys representing the other two defendants could not be reached for comment Friday.
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."