Buford Rogers, who faces weapons charges in what the FBI once called a 'terror plot' to blow up a police station, is expected to plead guilty, according to a Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 update to a federal court calendar. (AP)
MINNEAPOLIS — The defense attorney for a Minnesota militia member indicted in what authorities once called a “terror plot” to blow up a police station said in court documents Wednesday that his client is not as dangerous as he was made out to be and should be released pending sentencing.
Buford Braden Rogers, 25, of Montevideo, faces weapons charges, including charges related to possessing Molotov cocktails, two “black powder nail devices” and a pipe bomb. He is scheduled to plead guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
He does not face any terror-related charges.
Assistant Federal Defender Andrew Mohring said authorities cast Rogers as a domestic terrorist when he was arrested in May.
“Coming less than three weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings, these accusations were made in an unusually public manner, through press releases and televised interviews,” Mohring wrote.
Eight months later, he said, the case stands in sharp contrast to what was initially publicized, and Rogers’ offenses are limited to possessing firearms and unregistered devices.
“Aggravating circumstances, including terrorism ... let alone a conspiracy to blow things up, are agreed not to apply to this case,” he wrote, adding: “In the end, no additional evidence has been identified to confirm the existence of any plot to attack anyone or anything.”
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office had no comment.
Former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger said terrorism charges can be difficult to bring because they require that the government prove a certain state of mind or intent. He said charging a defendant with an appropriate count that is more straightforward and easier to prove is a legitimate prosecutorial strategy.
“You don’t need to build a castle when a simple hut will do,” he said.
Authorities say Rogers and his family members were part of a tiny anti-government militia called the Black Snack Militia and that Rogers was plotting to blow up the Montevideo police station and raid a National Guard Armory. At the time of his arrest, FBI officials said they believed they stopped a terrorist attack in its planning stages.
According to a redacted transcript of a May 3 interview with the FBI, Rogers told agents he was not violent and didn’t know of anyone planning an attack. He also said he was using the Internet to try to investigate groups he considered to be dangerous, and that he formed his militia to “do good, not harm people,” the transcript said.
When the case began in May, Mohring waived detention proceedings for Rogers and reserved the right to deal with custody issues later on. He said he is raising the issue now, and asked the court to assess Rogers based on the current evidence, not the initial accusations.
Mohring asked that Rogers be allowed to go home, and said any concerns about public safety could be addressed through conditions such as house arrest, supervision, or placement in a halfway house.