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Stranger than Fiction - Authorities Breakup Violent Militia Group Within US Army

Old Sweat

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I spotten this on my provider's news site. This incredible report is posted under the Fair Dealing provision of the Copyright Act.

Military Terror Plot: Murder Case Uncovers Terror Plot By 'Militia' Within U.S. Military

By RUSS BYNUM 08/27/12 01:49 PM ET

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.

Aguigui's attorney, Daveniya Fisher, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. Attorneys for Peden and Salmon both declined to comment Monday.

Also charged in the killings is Salmon's wife, Heather Salmon. Her attorney, Charles Nester, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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.

The Army brought charges against the four accused soldiers in connection with the slayings of Roark and York in March, but has yet to act on them. Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said he could not comment immediately on the militia accusations that emerged in civilian court Monday.

District Attorney Tom Durden said his office has been sharing information with federal authorities, but no charges have been filed in federal court. Jim Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, would not comment on whether a case is pending.
 
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jollyjacktar

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I hope that as more and more of these snakes (including the likes of Hassan) get found, they don't pussy foot around with them should they be convicted.  A smoke, a blindfold and a stake for starters.
 

The Bread Guy

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jollyjacktar said:
I hope that as more and more of these snakes (including the likes of Hassan) get found, they don't ***** foot around with them should they be convicted.  A smoke, a blindfold and a stake for starters.

If these guys get their way, and it's done via the military system, it'll be lethal injection (16 page PDF), not firing squad ....
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against three soldiers in Georgia accused of killing a fellow soldier and his girlfriend and plotting terrorist attacks at their own military base.

District Attorney Tom Durden of Long County said on Thursday that the suspects would face charges of malice murder, felony murder and criminal gang activity. The soldiers, Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon, have not entered pleas.

They are accused of killing a former soldier, Michael Roark, 19, and his girlfriend, Tiffany York, 17, on Dec. 4. Prosecutors say the soldiers were all members of a small anarchist militia called FEAR, or Forever Enduring Always Ready, that plotted the overthrow of Fort Stewart, home of the Army’s Third Infantry Division, about 40 miles southwest of Savannah.

Prosecutors say the militia group comprised an unknown number of active and former members of the military. The group contemplated several attacks, including poisoning the apple crop in Washington State, attacking a dam and assassinating President Obama. The group spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components ....
NYT, 30 Aug 12

Then again, it appears to be lethal injection civvy side, too.
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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"that plotted the overthrow of Fort Stewart, home of the Army’s Third Infantry Division"

If I was their lawyers, I would plead insanity.

You got to be insane if you think that you and four or five of your buddies can overthrow a fort manned by a whole infantry division.

Don't American soldiers have to swear allegiance to the US constitution and indicate that they enter office without any mental reservation?  I am surprized no charge of treason appears to have been laid.
 

Blackadder1916

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Oldgateboatdriver said:
Don't American soldiers have to swear allegiance to the US constitution and indicate that they enter office without any mental reservation?  I am surprized no charge of treason appears to have been laid.

I would be surprised if a charge of treason was laid.  Not only would the actions of this band of idiots (deadly, malevolent idiots but idiots nonetheless) unlikely sustain such a charge but if they were so indicted it would probably bog down the prosecution as to lengthen any trials and appeals.  There have been very few treason trials in the United States (probably around 50 in its entire history and some of those were pardoned/overturned), with the last one in the early 1950s (a case stemming from WW2).  The American take on this offence (legally speaking) is probably a slight bit different than that of Canada or other Commonwealth countries that still tie treasonable acts (at least partially) to personal offences against the sovereign.  To avoid the possibility (as had happened often in English history, including in the colonies) of using "treason" to stifle political/personal opposition, when the Americans formed their constitution they specifically defined treason (the only crime so included) in Article III. 
Section 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
 

MeatheadMick

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Very interesting read. Hard to believe this is a true story, seems like it would make fantastic fiction... but as the saying goes, "you just can't make this s**t up!"
 

Old Sweat

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While these people are innocent until proven guilty, I find it hard to have any sympathy for them. Even more so, after this report on their hearing which appeared in the National Post. It is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provision of the Copyright Act.

U.S. army soldiers accused of killing former serviceman to protect anarchist militia could face death penalty
Associated Press | Aug 31, 2012 12:01 PM ET

LUDOWICI — Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against three Army soldiers accused of killing a former serviceman and his girlfriend to protect an anti-government militia group, officials said Thursday during tense court hearings in which one victim’s stepfather was tackled and handcuffed as he tried to rush the defence table.

Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Pvt. Christopher Salmon and Sgt. Anthony Peden — all active-duty soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart — are each charged with 13 counts including malice murder, felony murder and illegal gang activity in the Dec. 4 slayings.

The case took a stunning turn at an earlier hearing Monday when prosecutors told a Superior Court judge the accused soldiers belonged to an anti-government militia operating within the U.S. military that had stockpiled at least $87,000 worth of guns and bomb components. They said the group had a range of plans — from bombing a park fountain in nearby Savannah to poisoning apple crops in the state of Washington — and its ultimate goal was to overthrow the U.S. government and assassinate the president. However, President Barack Obama was not mentioned by name as their target.

The victims, former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York, were shot in the head in the woods near Fort Stewart in the U.S. state of Georgia. Fishermen found their bodies the day after they were killed.

They took something irreplaceable from me
“I want them gone. I want all of these individuals to disappear,” said Nicholas Lee York, the slain girl’s older brother, who applauded the decision to seek death for the soldiers. “They took something irreplaceable from me.”

District Attorney Tom Durden cites domestic terrorism as an aggravating factor that warrants the death penalty. However, all charges against the soldiers relate directly to the killings. No charges have been filed in state or federal court accusing the three suspects of terrorist plots or acts.

Because they now face capital charges, all three soldiers will need to have new attorneys appointed with death penalty experience. They won’t be arraigned or asked to enter pleas until that happens.

“At this point, there has been no evidence presented to prove anything,” said Keith Higgins, an attorney who represented Aguigui in court Thursday. “The fact that certain statements are being made does not necessarily mean these allegations are true.”

Salmon’s wife, Heather Salmon, has also been charged with murder and other counts. She did not appear in court Thursday and Durden said he will not seek the death penalty for her.

Authorities took extra precautions Thursday as the accused soldiers, in shackles and jailhouse jumpsuits, were brought before the judge for a preliminary hearing. The defendants were brought to the courthouse one-at-a-time, with their hearings scheduled an hour apart. Deputies armed with assault rifles walked in front of and behind them.

Relatives of both victims have been seething since Monday’s hearing after a fourth soldier who says he witnessed both slayings testified about them in detail before pleading guilty to reduced charges. Pfc. Michael Burnett told the judge Roark, whom prosecutors say was helping the militia buy guns, had just left the Army and was considered “a loose end” by Aguigui, the militia’s leader.

Burnett said Roark and his girlfriend were led to the woods. Peden shot York before she could get out of her car, Burnett testified, then paused to check her pulse and shot her again. Roark was forced to kneel on the ground before Salmon shot him twice in the head, Burnett said.

Roark’s father, Brett Roark, yelled at Salmon from his seat in the courtroom, calling the soldier a “Piece of (expletive).” Then during Peden’s turn in the courtroom later, York’s stepfather bolted from his third-row seat in the courtroom gallery and rushed toward the suspect at the defence table.

“You (expletive) killed my kid!” Wesley Thomas cried out before at least four deputies and officers wrestled him to the floor and handcuffed him.

Brett Roark stood in his seat and yelled to the deputies: “Get off him!” and “Let him go!” Both men were led from the courtroom, but neither was charged for the outburst.

The Army brought its own murder charges in the case in March, but dropped them earlier this month. Civilian federal prosecutors won’t say if they’re building a case.

Durden, the state prosecutor, says he doesn’t know how many other members belonged to the militia, which prosecutors say was called F.E.A.R. — Forever Enduring Always Ready. Army authorities have indicated they don’t believe the suspects were part of a large group.

 

Retired AF Guy

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I guess one lesson you can take from this is if you are involved in a criminal enterprise and your colleagues/former colleagues suggest a little trip out into the boonies to go target shooting, it might be a good idea to say, "Thanks, but no thanks," and hightail it out of there.
 

MeatheadMick

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Reading about the family member's outburst in court makes me a little saddened that there were deputies present... they killed 2 kids for christ's sake.
 

Retired AF Guy

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MPMick said:
Reading about the family member's outburst in court makes me a little saddened that there were deputies present... they killed 2 kids for christ's sake.

While i understand the anger and outrage of the parents of the murder victim's, and if I was in a similar position I might have done the same thing, if the parents had gotten their hands on the suspects they could have been arrested for assault (or worse) and thrown in jail. And in this day and age, probably sued by the suspects or their families. Let justice take its course and if found guilty, they will pay for their actions.
 

MeatheadMick

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Retired AF Guy said:
While i understand the anger and outrage of the parents of the murder victim's, and if I was in a similar position I might have done the same thing, if the parents had gotten their hands on the suspects they could have been arrested for assault (or worse) and thrown in jail. And in this day and age, probably sued by the suspects or their families. Let justice take its course and if found guilty, they will pay for their actions.

I hear ya.  It would be a shame for the family to be thrown in jail for a pretty understandable human emotion... Here's hoping the justice system does it's job. At least this is the American Justice System... I've seen far too many slaps on the wrists wrt the Canadian Justice System, but I digress.
 

The Bread Guy

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Bumped with verdicts/sentences on the troops charged:
An Army soldier pleading guilty to killing a teenage girl says he shot her twice in the head only after he thought he saw "the glint of a gun" as her car door opened.

Sgt. Anthony Peden was sentenced to life in prison Thursday by a southeast Georgia judge for the December 2011 slayings of 17-year-old Tiffany York and her boyfriend, former soldier Michael Roark. Prosecutors say the couple was slain by a group of soldiers in woods near Fort Stewart to protect an anti-government militia group to which the killers belonged.

Peden will eligible for parole after 30 years, a lighter sentence than two other defendants who struck plea deals in the case ....
As for the other two, Isaac Aguigui apparently got life in prison without parole, as did Christopher Salmon.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.
 
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