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Supremacists held in local county jail

Supremacists held in local county jail

Posted: Thursday, November 6, 2008 8:05 pm

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter Two young men accused of plotting to kill president-elect Barack Obama and others are being held in the Obion County Law Enforcement Complex, according to Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder. Vastbinder confirmed that Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Ark., were received about 5 p.m. Friday after appearing earlier that day in federal court at Jackson. They were escorted to the jail by federal marshals. Vastbinder reported the two men are among 63 federal and 40 state prisoners being held at the jail. “They are federal prisoners. We’ve been told not to allow any news media access to them,” he said. By request of the U.S. Marshals Service, Cowart and Schlesselman are segregated from the rest of the inmate population. “They’ll be with us a while. Normally, we keep federal prisoners until they’re sentenced,” Vastbinder said. Wednesday, a federal grand jury in Memphis indicted the two men on multiple charges. They have pleaded not guilty in Memphis today, speaking only to utter their pleas. Lawrence J. Laurenzi, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced the indictments. They are charged with seven counts of federal law violations, including: • Conspiracy to rob a federal firearms licensee; • Conspir-acy to transport and transportation of a firearm across state lines with intent to commit a crime; • Conspir-acy to transport and transportation of a short-barreled shotgun across state lines; • Posses-sion of a short-barreled shotgun and making a threat against a major candidate for the office of president of the United States. Additional charges may be filed at a later date. “This is an ongoing investigation,” Laurenzi said. According to the indictment, Cowart and Schlesselman conspired with each other, using the Internet for over a month, to steal firearms from a gun store. The indictment states that Cowart had photos of and a floor plan of a firearms store in Madison County and that it was the intent of the defendants to rob this store in order to obtain weapons to support a plan for further robberies and a killing spree. The indictment alleges that Schlesselman sawed off the barrel to a shotgun and transported it as well as other weapons and ammunition across state lines when Cowart picked up Schlesselman from Arkansas. The indictment further alleges that the two defendants also went to two pawn shops and to Walmart where they purchased additional ammunition, rope and ski masks to help them in their robberies and killing spree. It is alleged the two defendants on separate occasions made threats to kill Barack Obama, a major candidate for the office of the president of the United States. According to the affidavit of complaint filed earlier in this case, these threats was made as a culmination to the defendants’ plan of a killing spree. Count One of the indictment carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Counts Two through Five each carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. The charge of making a threat against a presidential candidate carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. This case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Crockett County Sheriff’s Department. The indictment says a plot for a killing spree targeting black people was hatched by Cowart and Schlesselman sometime between Sept. 1 and Oct. 22. The two were initially detained by local authorities in rural West Tennessee about windows being shot out of a black church. Published in The Messenger 11.06.08

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