9 accused of anti-government militia plot to assassinate president
(CNN) — Five more Georgia men were charged in connection with an anti-government militia with ties to Fort Stewart that’s been accused of killing two people and plotting to assassinate President Barack Obama, authorities said Tuesday.
The five defendants were indicted in Liberty County, Georgia, on charges that include violation of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, involving what prosecutors called an “identified criminal street gang” named FEAR, for Forever Enduring, Always Ready.
Four U.S. Army soldiers at Fort Stewart had already been accused of being members of the anarchist group, which was allegedly stockpiling weapons and bomb parts to overthrow the U.S. government, prosecutors said.
The four soldiers are accused of killing former GI Michael Roark and his teenage girlfriend, Tiffany York.
Under one of three indictments returned Monday by a Liberty County grand jury, Christopher Jenderseck was charged with three Street Gang Act violations and two counts of tampering with evidence in the killings of Roark and York in neighboring Long County, said District Attorney Tom Durden and Assistant District Attorney Isabel Pauley of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.
In a second indictment, defendant Timothy Martin Joiner is charged with burglary, theft by taking and two Street Gang Act violations. Adam Dearman is charged with three Street Gang Act offenses.
In the third indictment, Joiner, Adam Dearman, Randall Blake Dearman and Anthony Garner are charged jointly, prosecutors said. Joiner and Randall Dearman each face two counts of burglary, nine counts of entering an auto, two counts of financial transaction card theft, one count of theft by taking, one count of criminal damage to property in the second degree, and 14 counts of Street Gang Act violations, prosecutors said.
In addition, Adam Dearman is indicted on three counts of Street Gang Act violations, and Garner is charged with theft by receiving stolen property and one Street Gang Act count, prosecutors said.
Jenderseck was arrested Tuesday in North Dakota, but Joiner and Garner weren’t in custody, authorities said Tuesday.
Regarding the charges against the four soldiers, a law enforcement official said they had legally purchased at least 18 rifles and handguns in Washington and Georgia.
Uncompleted pipe bombs were also found, and were comprised of store-bought materials, the official said. No sophisticated military grade-explosives were involved in their construction.
One official described the offenses as a murder case and said no federal charges had been filed.
Last month, Pfc. Michael Burnett laid out the elaborate plot, telling a southeast Georgia court that he was part of what prosecutors called “an anarchist group and militia.”
Dressed in his Army uniform, he spoke in a Long County court about the group of Army soldiers and its role in the December deaths of Roark and York.
Roark, he said, was killed because he took money from the group and planned to leave.
“I don’t know how it got to the point where two people got murdered,” Burnett said in court.
He talked about how he and three others accused — Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon — had begun getting together, “just going out shooting guns, just guy stuff.”
“And then Aguigui introduced me to ‘the manuscript,’ that’s what he called it, a book about true patriots,” the soldier said.
The four men became part of a group that aimed “to give the government back to the people,” according to Burnett, who said that revolution was its goal. They called it FEAR — Forever Enduring Always Ready — and spent thousands of dollars buying guns and bomb parts.
The government needed a change, Burnett told the court. “I thought we were the people who would be able to change it.”
It is not clear how capable the group was of carrying out the goals Burnett laid out.
Assistant District Attorney Pauley identified Aguigui as the leader of what she described as “an anarchist group and militia” that included active and former troops.
“Defendant Aguigui actively recruited new members at Fort Stewart (in southeast Georgia) and targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned,” she said.
At the time of their arrest, group members had plotted a number of “acts of domestic terror,” the prosecutor said.
These included “forcibly taking over the ammo control point of Fort Stewart to take the post, bombing vehicles of local and state judicial and political figureheads and federal representatives to include the local department of homeland security, (and plotting) to bomb the fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah.”
Days before he died, Roark had been discharged from the Army, according to Pauley.
Roark and his girlfriend were killed because Aguigui felt the couple was “a loose end,” Burnett said.
Burnett admitted being at the scene of the crime, including watching as a soldier “checked (York’s) pulse and then shot her again.”
As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Burnett pleaded guilty to manslaughter — instead of murder, thus avoiding a possible death sentence — and other charges. He also agreed to testify against the three other soldiers accused in the case.
All four soldiers had also been charged by the military in connection with the two killings. But as their case proceeded through civilian courts, the Army dismissed its charges, according to Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson.
In a statement last month, Larson insisted that Fort Stewart and its affiliated Hunter Army Airfield do not have “a gang or militia problem.”
“Any suspicions of gang activity are actively investigated by CID, (which) recognizes the obvious concerns with the combination of gangs and military-type training,” he said.
“That is why CID monitors and investigates gang and extremist group association with criminal acts in the Army so closely. We believe the reason we are able to maintain a low gang criminal threat status is because of the awareness of and focus on the threat.”
Fort Stewart, about 40 miles southwest of Savannah, is home to the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.
Tens of thousands of troops, their dependents, civilian personnel and contractors live and work on the base, which encompasses 280,000 acres and includes parts of five counties, including Long County, which has about 14,500 residents. Hunter Army Airfield is in Savannah but is officially part of the larger Fort Stewart complex.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks what it characterizes as “hate groups” nationwide, spoke to Aguigui’s father last month.
“I served my country for 20 years and I honor that, take pride in that,” Ed Aguigui told the center, according to the center’s Hatewatch blog. “I don’t know what my son’s views are, and where they came from.”