SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A former Eagle Scout and U.S. Air Force Academy cadet was convicted Tuesday on federal weapons charges after being caught up in an undercover sweep of white supremacists who claimed they used his 200-acre Ozarks spread for survival training.
Robert N. Joos Jr., 57, was arrested at his home in rural McDonald County in June, when brothers Daniel and Dennis Mahon were taken into custody in Illinois and charged in a 2004 mail bombing that injured a black city official in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Joos was not charged in the bombing, but the Mahons told investigators members of the "movement" used Joos' isolated home for training. They described Joos as a "longtime white supremacist associate and an expert on weapons, explosives, bomb making and general survival skills."
Joos has acknowledged in the past giving survivalist tips but said they involved identifying plants that could be use for food or medicine. He testified Tuesday that he "is not a terrorist" and "absolutely not" a white supremacist.
"I don't condone any of that crap," he testified.
In an interview with the Associated Press before his trial, however, he said he believes in keeping the races separate.
Joos did not react when the verdict was read about a half hour after the jury left to deliberate. His lawyer, Darryl Johnson, said Joos would appeal.
Johnson had advised Joos not to testify and said after the trial that he felt Joos' testimony hurt his case because of its "vagueness" and "because he changed his mind when I asked him direct questions."
Jim Kelleher, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said after the verdict that he could not comment.
Joos faces up to 10 years in prison on each of charge of being a felon in possession of firearms and a felon in possession of explosives. Sentencing has not yet been set.
The government's case stemmed from three recent visits undercover agents made to the property outside Pineville where Joos has lived for more than 20 years. During those visits, undercover agents said they saw weapons and ammunition and Joos told them he had "rifles loaded with armor piercing ammunition" and caves for storing food, weapons and ammunition "to avoid capture or attack by the government or other adversaries," according to an affidavit filed after his arrest.
During the trial, Kelleher repeatedly referred to the 19,000 rounds of ammunition confiscated from Joos' home.
"That's the amount of ammunition Bass Pro might have here in their showroom," he said, referring to the outdoor outfitter.
Several rifles, shotguns and handguns taken from the property were also submitted as evidence.
Joos testified he didn't know who owned the weapons and ammunition and ticked off the names of several people who had access to the rooms where they were found.
He described himself as a "Christian Isrealite" and said he's been a pastor in a small branch of a church called the Sacerdotal Order of the David, which has a handful of followers. A wiry man with graying hair and beard that falls past his chest, Joos said the government has been after him since he started studying for the ministry.
But Kelleher accused Joos of using the church as a cover and characterized him as a weapons expert, who learned a great deal while studying for two and a half years at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Joos left the academy in January 1974 after refusing to retake a test he failed.
Before the Air Force Academy, Joos attended Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School in suburban St. Louis, where he graduated third in his class in 1971 and was a highly decorated Eagle Scout, according to his testimony.
"He probably has a higher IQ than all the attorneys in here," Johnson said after the trial. "He had a lot of potential."