The Georgia Militia "Scare"
Created By The BATF
"Agent says Starr wasn't present when bomb parts were burried"
"Magistrate delays ruling to examine evidence more closely"
By Audrey Post
The Macon Telegraph
Tuesday, May 7, 1996
A federal agent testified Monday that the founder of a Georgia militia group was not present when alleged pipe-bomb components were buried on his property, and the agent admitted that he did not know for sure whether Robert Edward Starr III was aware the materials were there.
Agent Stephen W. Gillis of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also acknowledged that Starr's co-defendant, William James "Jimmy" McCranie, had said, "I don't want to know anything about it" and walked away when the government's informant was talking about building bombs.
Starr, 34, and McCranie, 30, were in federal court Monday afternoon for a preliminary hearing on charges they conspired to possess unregistered explosive devices.
At the end of the three-hour hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard L. Hodge of Albany delayed ruling on whether to send the case to a grand jury, saying he wanted to examine the evidence more closely. Hodge presided over the hearing because the federal magistrate based in Macon, Claude W. Hicks Jr., attends the same church as Starr.
Part of that evidence is a tape-recording of a short-wave radio program on which Starr spoke, that was broadcast two nights before the defendants were arrested. A homemade tape of the program was made available to the judge until a certified copy arrives from the Nashville, Tenn., radio station that broadcast it.
On that radio show, Starr called in and said he was getting ready to expose a government set-up against him. He said FBI agents had informed him they had received an anonymous telephone call threatening Starr's life, and that's why he was going public.
The ATF's Gillis confirmed the FBI said it had received the death threat against Starr, but he said there was no connection between Starr's calling the radio show and ATF's decision to get the warrants against Starr and McCranie the next day.
"Mr. Starr was arrested not because he intended to build those bombs, but because he intended not to," Starr's attorney, Nancy Lord said. "He intended to expose the government's confidential informants."
Starr and McCranie have been jailed since their April 26 arrests, when agents seized chemicals, pipes and other materials from two parcels of property in Crawford County, one where McCranie lives and the other on land Starr owns.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Wilbur D. Owens Jr. denied bond for the two men, saying the charges were "serious offenses involving allegations of manufacturing explosive devices which are capable of ... destruction of persons or property."
As more than 50 people packed the courtroom Monday, some leaning against the back wall, defense attorneys used what is often a quick, routine proceeding to attack the core of the government's case.
"This is beyond entrapment," Lord said. "It is manufactured evidence. The materials were put on Mr. Starr's property without his knowledge."
"The whole evidence upon which this case was based was fraudulent," she said.
Lord contended that the government's confidential informants were actually "agent provocateurs," instigators sent to infiltrate and set up the 112th Battalion of the Militia-at-Large for the Republic of Georgia.
Lord said it was the "agent provocateurs" who actually buried the pipes and chemicals on Starr's property, which made it easy for agents to find them when they got a search warrant.
"You went right to it. You didn't have to search the whole 16 acres, did you?" Lord asked. Gillis conceded agents did not.
Prosecuter Sharon Ratley objected repeatedly, and the judge agreed, when Lord questioned the agent about whether anyone other that Starr and the government's confidential informants took part in discussions or activities concerning pipe bombs.
Ratley's position was that answering the questions would reveal the identity of the informants. Lord argued that there is no conspiracy against the government when all the participants but one are government agents.
At last week's bond hearing, Lord said Starr pretended to go along with suggestions that the militia build pipe-bombs to find out who was behind the plan. In essence, she said, Starr was conducting an internal investigation of the organization he founded.
Prosecutors contended that other people besides Starr and the informants were present during bomb discussions, as well as when the pipes and chemicals were moved. However, under Lord's questioning, Gillis acknowledged that he had no way of knowing from a confidential informant's tape-recording whether the group was talking about bombs or survival gear when members talked about needing supplies.
Lord finally persuaded the judge to allow the agent to asnwer one question about confidential informants.
Gillis had just testified that someone other than the government's informants had shown up at McCranie's place the day the materials were to be moved to Starr's property -- which would have met the legal definition of a conspiracy. When Lord asked Gillis whether the other militia member actually participated in moving the materials, Ratley objected, again citing the need to protect identities.
"With all due respect, the identity has been revealed," Lord told the Judge.
Hodge instructed the agent to answer.
"I don't know what the other individual did," Gillis said.
One of McCranie's attorneys, Brian Randall, also coaxed Gillis into an admission that the government has no way of knowing exactly what materials were on McCranie's property before they were moved to Starr's land.
Gillis testified that the informant said McCranie was present when the material was moved, but he also acknowledged that he had no way to dispute the defense argument that McCranie wanted the stuff moved because he wanted no part in bomb-making.
From: Helen Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org
Organization: E Pluribus Unum
Subject: Georgia Militia Update
On Monday, May 6, 1996, in a larger court room than was used for the bond hearing, the probable cause (preliminary) hearing for Bob Starr and Jimmy McCranie produced yet another packed house.
After passing through metal detectors, Dr. Nancy Lord was forced to remove her watch and shoes, was not allowed to use the U.S. court library, and the federal agents even hesitated to let her file her motions (play the government's audio tape) in the clerk's office. Instead, they offered to send a U.S. marshal to receive her documents. J.J. Johnson was virtually molested after passing through the metal detectors.
At 2:00 PM, the government introduced the transcript of the bond hearing. Dr. Nancy Lord, attorney for Bob Starr, demanded and was granted the right to cross-examine the government's lone witness - BATF Special Agent Steven Gillis.
Special thanks go out to Agent Gillis for his contradictions, concessions, and confessions while under oath. In his testimony, he ADMITTED the following:
1. There was no interstate commerce, therefore allowing a challenge to federal jurisdiction (U.S. v Lopez).
2. After 10 days, the chemicals found on Starr's property have yet to be tested by any scientific laboratory.
3. Gillis could not identify a specific agreement between anyone except government agents, therefore.... NO CONSPIRACY.
4. Jimmy McCranie was not at the meeting to discuss bomb making, and wanted nothing to do with making bombs.
5. Bob Starr did not want bomb making material on his property.
6. Bob Starr did not have possession of any bomb making material.
7. There never were any pipe bombs, and the 'bomb making factory' consisted of two small sandwich bags of legally obtainable chemicals.
8. Gillis was aware that Starr had numerous conversations with federal law enforcement, and he also knew that Starr had been told by an FBI contact about an FBI threat to his life, one day before the warrant for his arrest was issued.
9. The only people who came to bomb making sessions were government agents.
10. Government informants placed the evidence (bomb making material) on Starr's property.
That's right folks... Special Agent Steven Gillis of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms admitted to all of this in open court.
Has it occurred to anyone that the wrong guys are in jail ???
The prosecution (the feds, AKA the Unabumblers) refused to allow their own audio tape of the April 23 meeting to be replayed in court. This was their damaging evidence ???
U.S. Magistrate Judge Hodges has not yet handed down his decision regarding the disposition of this case. There is no probable cause for trial.
Let us pray for Judge Hodges. Pray for justice, peace and for God's Holy Spirit to move mightily in Judge Hodges' decision.
So much for inside the courtroom; now for the rally, outside...
Over 75 militia supporters, many newcomers, and passersby were surrounded by more than 30 black-suited, heavily armed, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agents, some 100 U.S. Marshals, an unknown number of ATF agents, two SWAT teams, and sniper teams. Government agents and militia members used a good quantity of film taking pictures of each other.
Even though J.J. Johnson had met with the U.S. Marshal Chief on duty in the morning to ensure a peaceful gathering, he was heavily scrutinized all day by at least eight federal agents. Militia and media personnel observed snipers training their rifles upon onlookers outside the courthouse.
A cameraman working for a local CBS affiliate, WMAZ - CH 13, verified that a sniper had his rifle poised at J.J.s back during the TV interview he filmed.
Resident Agent in Charge, Bart McEntire of the BATF, tried to instigate a confrontation with one rally attendee, as he stuck his finger in his face and shouted, "You guys are starting to piss me off"... we have this on audio tape.
Young Bart needs help learning to keep a civil tongue when speaking to his employers. He can be reached at:
BATF Special Agent in Charge
3920 Arkright Rd.
Macon, Georgia 31210
If unavailable, try his pager: (800) 829-2255 PIN 6553060
The media did not hesitate in reporting the overwhelming firepower poised at peaceful militia members, who were armed only with video cameras, 35 mm cameras, 2-way radios, and scanners. One U.S. marshal was kind enough, however, to take a group photo of the militia with a militiaman's camera. He then took one with his own camera, as well. Since the GBI agents hung around in groups, we took group photos of them, too.
As a result of our investigation, we believe we'll soon have our two political prisoners released from jail. We also have compiled enough information, thanks to the hard work of Bob Starr and Jimmy McCranie, to expose not only corrupt government agents in Georgia, but also develop an effective policy to conduct counter-sting operations against government counterintelligence operatives, nationwide.
The battle continues...
This site is still underconstruction, so please bear with us.
Return to the main entrance of ATF
Return to ATF Abuse in the Newspapers
If you have any data to share or report,
please email it here
Your name will be kept strictly confidential (unless you wish it otherwise)