Judge won’t toss evidence in plot against Obama
Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 9:06 pm
JACKSON (AP) — A federal judge has refused to throw out prosecution evidence against two white supremacists charged with plotting to kill President Obama and dozens of other black people.
The ruling by Judge J. Daniel Breen means prosecutors can show a trial jury the guns, swords, computer files and other items seized from Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman when they were arrested late last year.
Breen also refused to dismiss statements Cowart and Schlesselman made to federal investigators.
Cowart, 20, of Bells and Schlesselman, 18, of Helena-West Helena, Ark., are awaiting trial without bond. No trial date has been set. They are being held in the Obion County Law Enforcement Complex.
Defense lawyers argued at a two-day hearing before Breen last month that Cowart and Schlesselman were arrested and searched without warrants and government evidence against them should be dismissed. Breen rejected those arguments in a ruling filed Friday.
Authorities describe Cowart and Schlesselman as white supremacist skinheads who met over the Internet and hatched a plot for a cross-country robbery and killing spree that was to culminate with an attack on Obama, who was then the Democratic candidate for president.
When arrested, Cowart and Schlesselman were staying with Cowart’s maternal grandparents in rural northwest Tennessee. Much of the government’s evidence against the two was seized by Haywood County sheriff’s deputies from the grandparents’ residence.
While the deputies did not have a search warrant, Breen said, they had the grandfather’s permission to search the house.
Items seized from the residence included a sawed-off shotgun, a high-power rifle, a handgun and several swords and knives. Authorities also seized computers, cell phones and other items from the Tennessee residence and from the home of Schlesselman’s father in Arkansas.
Federal investigators were called in after the arrests and took both written and recorded statements from Cowart and Schlesselman in which authorities say they talked about their plans, which included shooting at Obama from a speeding car while wearing white tuxedoes and top hats.
“(T)he interrogating agents made reasonable efforts to inform both defendants of their constitutional rights, ensure their understanding of these rights and obtain voluntary waivers,” Breen said in his ruling.
Cowart and Schlesselman are charged in federal indictments with possessing an illegal firearm, carrying guns across state lines to commit crimes of violence, planning to rob a licensed firearms dealer and threatening a presidential candidate.
Published in The Messenger 6.9.09
Barack Obama, Daniel Cowart, Paul Schlesselman