Militia suspect pleads guilty to federal charges
By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer
BIRMINGHAM — One of five men accused of being part of an anti-government, anti-Mexican militia in Northeast Alabama pleaded guilty to federal explosives and conspiracy charges Monday after admitting he made hand grenades and other weapons for the ragtag bunch.
Bonnell Hughes, 57, of Crossville appeared before a judge a day before his four co-defendants were scheduled to also plead guilty to federal charges in the case.
While agents who conducted a series of raids in April found a cache of munitions at Hughes' home, including 80 hand grenades, 68 explosive projectiles and a machine gun, he denied having any plans to use the weapons.
Court documents filed by prosecutors said Hughes held the rank of captain in a heavily armed group that authorities identified as the Free Militia. Another man, identified as Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46, of Collinsville, held a higher rank, that of major. Dillard lived in a ramshackle camper that was strewn with military gear and painted in a camouflage scheme.
Hughes pleaded guilty to conspiring to make grenades and a silencer, making grenades and possessing grenades and other illegal weapons. Hughes could receive a maximum penalty of 70 years imprisonment and $2 million in fines, but prosecutors said they expected him to receive a term closer to 10 years.
No sentencing date was set.
An informant who infiltrated the militia learned that they planned to conduct a "raid" on another group that they believed to be composed of illegal Mexican immigrants who were firing automatic weapons on weekends near Birmingham, according to the plea agreement signed by Hughes.
"The purpose of this planned `raid' was to seize the illegal immigrants' automatic weapons for use by the militia," the document said.
A federal agent testified previously that the militia planned an attack on Mexicans in Remlap, a small town just north of Birmingham, and actually went there on a reconnaissance mission before their arrests in April.
Documents show four other men are scheduled to plead guilty in the case on Tuesday. The are Dillard; Adam Lynn Cunningham, 41, and James Ray McElroy, 20, both of Collinsville; and Randall Garrett Cole, 22, of Gadsden.
A sixth man, 30-year-old Michael Wayne Bobo, was indicted on charges of being a marijuana user in possession of firearms after agents raided the Trussville home he shared with his parents and found what they described as a huge cache of weapons.
Evidence during a hearing showed that Bobo met with Dillard and McElroy in April and talked about illegal immigrants, anti-government leanings and weapons. But there was no direct mention of Bobo being in the Free Militia, which authorities have also called the Alabama Free Militia.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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