ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The defense attorney for a man arrested in what the FBI has called a thwarted terror plot in western Minnesota said Wednesday that authorities have given the public some misinformation about his client, while a local police chief said authorities continue to keep an eye on the anti-government militia group founded by his family.
Buford Rogers, 24, of Montevideo appeared in U.S. District Court in St. Paul for a scheduled detention hearing Wednesday. But his attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Andrew Mohring, asked that the hearing be postponed so he could investigate the accusations.
Rogers is charged with one count of illegally possessing a firearm. He was arrested Friday after FBI agents from the domestic terrorism squad said they found a cache of explosives and weapons in his parents’ mobile home in Montevideo.
The FBI said earlier this week that it stopped a terror attack that was in its planning stages, potentially saving the lives of several Montevideo residents.
“There has been a great deal of information and misinformation that has been released, and it should never have happened, and it should stop,” Mohring said in court Wednesday. When asked after the hearing to elaborate on what the misinformation might be, he said rules prevented him from talking about the case.
An FBI spokesman and the Montevideo police chief declined to respond to Mohring’s statement.
Rogers’ father, Jeff Rogers, has said his son has done nothing wrong, and is being targeted because he is outspoken about his beliefs.
Rogers has not been charged with terror-related counts, and the motive behind the alleged plot and the potential target have not been publicly released. Police say he has militia ties, and he has made anti-government comments on social media.
Montevideo Police Chief Adam Christopher said Rogers and his family started a local anti-government militia group called the Black Snake Militia, which consists of family members and a few friends. Police believe the group is small, with a maximum of about six members.
Christopher said Rogers family members have been public about their anti-government beliefs: They regularly wear camouflage, have flown a flag upside-down at the mobile home as a sign of “distress,” and a homemade sign reading B.S.M., for Black Snake Militia, sits near the door.
Examples of comments he posted to his Facebook page in 2011 say: “The war is here tsa agents are doing random cheeks and shooting people for no reson,” or “together we can fight back they wont take me down with out a fight i hope that you wont go down easy eather.”
Rogers’ page features a military vehicle as his profile picture, and other pictures of him with weapons.
“I don’t think they are hiding anything,” Christopher said of the group. When asked if the Black Snake Militia is focused on any one issue within government, Christopher said the group seems to direct their sentiments toward all facets of government — from the United Nations, to FEMA, to the TSA.
Christopher said authorities have been looking into the group for the last couple of years, and they continue to keep an eye on them. He said until the events leading to the recent discovery of explosives, he’s unaware of any prior threats the group has made.
According to a federal affidavit, authorities searched the mobile home in Montevideo and discovered Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms. The affidavit said Buford was there at the time, and one firearm recovered from the residence was a Romanian AKM assault rifle.
In an interview with authorities, Rogers admitted firing the weapon on two separate occasions at a gun range, the affidavit said. Rogers has a 2011 conviction for felony burglary and is not allowed to have a firearm.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats was not opposed to postponing Rogers’ detention hearing, and said in court that his office is aware of, and abiding by, rules prohibiting pretrial release of information.
U.S. Magistrate Jeanne Graham postponed the hearing, and said if a motion for a gag order was brought before her, she would consider it.
Rogers will remain in custody until the formal detention hearing. A status conference to see if it needs to be postponed further will be held May 17. He also waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, and Graham found there was probable cause for the case to go forward.
Montevideo, a city of about 5,000 people, is about 130 miles west of Minneapolis.
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