MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Acting on a perceived threat to blow up a west-central Minnesota police station, dozens of FBI agents and other law enforcement officers converged on a Montevideo trailer park last year and arrested a man who belonged to a tiny local militia.
Authorities found a cache of weapons in the May 3 search — including Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms — and the FBI said at the time that it had thwarted a terror attack in its planning stages. But Buford Braden Rogers was never charged with terrorism, and his attorney has argued the case was overblown from the start.
Rogers, 25, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to one count of possessing a firearm illegally and one count of possessing an unregistered destructive device, namely "two black powder and nail devices," which he admitted he made himself.
Prosecutors want Rogers sentenced to more than five years in prison, arguing that he is a threat to public safety, noting the items were designed to hurt people. Assistant Federal Defender Andrew Mohring is asking for two years or less. Mohring said his client already was punished when he was cast as a domestic terrorist and "a veritable armada descended on a trailer" less than three weeks after the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.
"That Mr. Rogers was the target of an investigation is unremarkable," Mohring wrote in court documents filed in advance of the sentencing. "However, the publicity that surrounded the investigation addressed an obvious political agenda."
Prosecutors took issue with Mohring's suggestion of an excessive FBI response.
"It is unlikely that the Defendant has the training and experience to determine precisely how many personnel are needed to cordon off a residential neighborhood to protect the citizenry from the shrapnel-laced bombs he constructed," prosecutors wrote. "The government and the public should, and will, continue to defer to the FBI's professional experience on such matters."
The FBI had no comment Friday.
Prosecutors also said criticizing the FBI's response in hindsight is "naive, self-serving and dangerous," noting that at the time, Rogers "was part of a group cheering the Boston bombing, possessed explosive devices, and planned to conduct violent acts imminently."
Mohring said the witness who reported the threat was unreliable, and that aside from the weapons, no evidence has confirmed the existence of a plot to attack anything.
Prosecutors countered by saying the fact that a broader plot was not discovered is not an excuse, but merely "evidences the absence of additional inculpatory behavior."
Authorities say Rogers and members of his family were part of a tiny anti-government militia called the Black Snake Militia and that Rogers was plotting to blow up the Montevideo police station, raid a National Guard Armory and cut off communications to the city, about 95 miles west of Minneapolis.
According to the redacted transcript of an FBI interview, Rogers told agents that even though he had homemade bombs, he was not violent and didn't know of anyone planning an attack. Rogers also expressed anger at dangerous militia groups, members of which he called terrorists, and said he was upset with the people who carried out bombings at the Boston Marathon last year and in Oklahoma City in 1995, the transcript said.
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