A Gainesville jury quickly convicted two men of conspiring over coffee to make ricin so they could kill federal agents and judges and attack the government they hated so much.
Two weeks after they were seated and began hearing testimony, seven men and five women decided in an hour and a half that Samuel Crump, 71, and Ray Adams, 57, had conspired with each other to make the deadly toxin, finding them guilty of two counts that named both of them. The jury, however, acquitted Adams of a third charge of making ricin.
Crump listened to the verdict with his head in his hands and was teary-eyed when he finally looked up and whispered to his attorney. Adams, who was sometimes called Santa Claus because of his white hair and beard, did not react at all and moved only when he reached for his cane so a federal officer could escort him out of the courtroom.
They will continue to be held in jail, where they have been since their arrest Nov. 1, 2011, and will be sentenced later. They could get life in prison.
Jurors were left Friday afternoon with the question: Did Crump and Adams plot over coffee at a Toccoa Waffle House to make a toxin using castor beans for attacks on government officials?
In closing arguments, defense attorneys stressed to jurors that Crump and Adams were simply boasting and that they never actually made ricin. Federal prosecutors, however, said the men had gathered most of the needed ingredients and were almost at the point of making the poison that has been used experimentally to kill cancer cells.
Defense attorneys explained that while Crump and Adams had bags of castor beans, the two men planned to use them to kill moles and they had the plants as ornamental bushes along their driveway.
Prosecutors reminded jurors of hours of secretly recorded conversations during which Crump and Adams talked with fellow militia members Frederick Thomas, 75, and Dan Roberts, 69 — both of whom have pleaded guilty in the case — about their plans. The recordings were made by informant Joseph Sims, who contacted federal agents while he was in a South Carolina jail on charges that he molested his two step-daughters. The child molestation charges were dropped and Sims was convicted of having child pornography on his computer. Sims, who is now free, is being considered for the federal witness protection program, according to prosecutors and defense attorneys.
“But for Joe Sims, this case wouldn’t be here,” said defense attorney Ed Tolley, who represented Adams.
“This case is not about Joe Sims,” said federal prosecutor Bill McKinnon. “They both hated the government and wanted to do something about it.”
Prosecution witnesses testified that they found traces of “inactive ricin” inside almost three dozen jars of preserves Adams had made. Defense attorneys pointed out that Adams had eaten some of those preserves before he was arrested Nov. 1, 2011.
The Militia of Georgia members met at a Toccoa Waffle House and Shoney’s and at some of their homes to plot and plan their attacks, the government said. Prosecutors showed jurors the hundreds of castor beans the two men had and the recipe they allegedly planned to follow to make the toxin.
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