GAINESVILLE, Ga. – A prosecutor said Tuesday that two Georgia men plotted to make a poison to use against government officials and federal buildings, while defense attorneys said the pair were simply talking big and committed no crimes.
The lawyers' claims came during opening statements in the trial of Samuel Crump and Ray Adams before U.S. District Judge Richard Story in Gainesville.
Crump, 70, and Adams, 57, were among four men arrested in November 2011 after an undercover informant made recordings at their meetings at homes, during car rides and at a Waffle House restaurant. They face charges of conspiring and attempting to make ricin.
Two other men, Frederick Thomas and Dan Roberts, pleaded guilty in April 2012 to conspiring to get an unregistered explosive and an illegal gun silencer. Story sentenced each of them to five years in prison.
Federal prosecutor Jeffrey Brown read statements he said the two men made in secretly recorded conversations about their desire to strike the federal government and their willingness to kill people. He also explained to the jury that searches of their homes turned up large quantities of castor beans, which are used to make ricin, as well as a recipe for the toxin and tools used to make it.
"It's their actions, coupled with their own words ... that shows their desire to use ricin to kill innocent people," Brown said, repeatedly stressing that the two men went beyond just words to commit criminal actions.
Barry Lombardo, an attorney for Adams, described his client as a "country boy" who loves to hunt and fish and knows a fair amount about plants. Adams knew castor beans as a solution to get rid of pesky moles and grew castor plants as a decorative hedge along his driveway, Lombardo said.
Lombardo described Crump as having "a bulldog mouth and a chihuahua behind," meaning he was all talk and bluster.
"The evidence shows two things: conversation and castor beans," Lombardo said. "Sammy Crump had some conversations. Ray Adams had some castor beans."
Lombardo also raised concerns about a confidential informant used by law enforcement to infiltrate the group the authorities say Crump and Adams were plotting with. Lombardo said the man prodded Crump and Adams forward so there would be a plot he could reveal to authorities to get his charges or sentence reduced in a separate case.
Dan Summer, an attorney for Crump, said his client was a good man who got caught up in a bad plan and that neither he nor Adams ever belonged to a militia group. Crump wasn't part of a conspiracy, didn't make ricin and never said he would, Summer said.
"All you will hear in this case are the musings of an old man," Summer said.
Scott Matthewson, a retired federal agent who worked on a multi-agency domestic terrorism task force, testified that the FBI was contacted in mid-2010 by Joe Sims, who faced a child molestation charge that was later dropped and a child pornography charge in South Carolina. Sims was eventually convicted of the latter charge.
Sims told agents that he had been involved in militia groups and had information about possible upcoming attacks in Georgia. Sims' tip didn't pan out, but Matthewson took Sims up on an offer to infiltrate a militia group he had belonged to and to provide information to authorities, the agent said.
Sims contacted old militia friends and was invited to join them for meetings in the spring of 2011. Matthewson had him wear a recording device to the meetings and Adams, Crump and others could be heard talking about getting the materials to make ricin and producing it, Matthewson testified.
Over about eight months, Sims recorded meetings among the men and gave the recordings to Matthewson. Matthewson instructed Sims not to make suggestions and instead ask questions to get the men to reveal their plans, the agent testified.
Sims is expected to be on the stand Wednesday morning, and prosecutors said they plan to play audio clips of meetings where Adams and Crump were present and discuss making ricin.