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Alabama militia members plead guilty to charges

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Four members of an alleged militia that armed itself with makeshift hand grenades and guns pleaded guilty to federal charges Tuesday, but they denied the claims of authorities who portrayed them as being against the government and illegal immigrants.

Appearing one at a time in court, the four said their group didn't have a name and stockpiled weapons with no plan to use them.

The men — who prosecutors said were at the core of a group called the "Free Militia" — said they were worried about terrorism, a failing economy and the possibility of martial law being imposed in the U.S.

"We were scared that some things might deteriorate into some bad things over here, that there could be some more foreign terrorist attacks, and we were just getting ready to defend ourselves," said Raymond Kirk Dillard, a leader of the group.

Neighbors and authorities have described Dillard as railing against the government and Mexicans, but he denied a link between the group's weapons and taking any action against illegal immigrants.

"We weren't planning on attacking anybody, sir," Dillard told U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon.

Whisonant said Dillard, 46, of Collinsville was a militia leader who bestowed a military rank to members.

Dillard pleaded guilty to six charges including conspira-
cy; making 10 unregistered hand grenades and a silencer; illegal possession of a handgun by a convicted felon; and possession of two unregistered gre-nades made by himself and the others.

Adam Lynn Cunningham, 41, and James Ray McElroy, 20, both of Collinsville; and Randall Garrett Cole, 22, of Gadsden, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to make hand grenades and other weapons charges.

The men face possible prison sentences ranging from 10 years to 50 years and fines from $250,000 to $1.5 million.

McElroy, who lived in a makeshift tent near a ramshackle camper occupied by Dillard in DeKalb County, said he "got together with some boys to make some grenades" not realizing it was illegal to have such explosives. Answering questions from Clemon, he said they were scared "of a decline in the economy."

"We were just building them to protect ours and our own," said McElroy. Later, he added: "We were also afraid of terrorists."

"You were afraid of terrorists coming to DeKalb County?" the judge asked.

"To the United States, your honor," McElroy said.

All the men denied that the group had a name, although authorities have said it went by both the Free Militia and Alabama Free Militia. Dillard said one of the men found material on the Internet from a group called the "Free Militia" and printed it out, however.

"We were just reading it, we didn't really have a name," said Dillard.

A fifth man, Bonnell Hughes of Crossville, pleaded guilty on Monday. Another man who was associated with the group also was arrested, but authorities have said he was apparently not a member of the militia.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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