Update 4/2/2013 – 10 of the 14 individuals arrested in connection with this case have been cleared and their charges dropped. It is widely speculated that this story may have been contrived by the FBI, making a whole lot of something out of a whole lot of nothing. The update follows the original story below.
Originally posted 5/9/2012
Florida (The Gaslamp Post) – Ten people were arrested over the weekend after an FBI sweep targeting white supremacy groups. Members of the American Front are accused of plotting to start a race war, after investigators say that the group had stockpiled weapons and ammunition, trained in paramilitary skills, and planned to make the toxin, ricin.
The are also reported to have planned an attack on Orlando City Hall, which they believed would attract new members.
Investigators say that Marcus Faella, 39, and his wife, Patricia, 36, were leaders of the St. Cloud chapter of American Front. The are reported to have fortified their rural area property, which is located 5 miles from the nearest paved road. They are said to have fortified their property with railroad ties and concrete pilings, and had reportedly cut holes in the sides of their trailer to accommodate their rifles.
Their base, dubbed the “Aryan Compound,” is where they conducted mandatory AK-47 rifle, knife, and hand-to-hand combat training. One such training session was attended last year by a national guardsman from their Missouri chapter.
Participants in the rifle training were told to pretend that they were shooting at the heads of black people, when aiming at the targets.
Agents say that Mark McGowan, 29, and his wife Jennifer, 25, provided the members with instruction in fighting skills that were intended to be used in a battle against the U.S. government. The group is reported to believe that there is a coming race war, and intended for their group, the American Front, to protect “the white race.”
It is believed that the group had planned to oppose the pro-union demonstrators in Orlando on May Day. They are reported to have fashioned protest signs out of weapons, but it remains unclear if any members had attended.
Also arrested in the sweep were Paul Jackson, 25, and Dustin Perry, 21, Kent McLellan, 22, and Diane Stevens, 28. Two others; Christopher Brooks, 27, and his pal, Richard “Swamp Nazi,” Stockdale, 24, were arrested this past Monday.
All have been charged with criminal conspiracy and hate crimes. Mr. and Mrs. McGowan were also charged with providing paramilitary training because they knew the skills they were teaching were to be put to use against the government. Mr. and Mrs. Faella were held but released after posting a combined $1 Million bond.
(h/t: Daily Mail)
UPDATE 4/2/2013 – 14 individuals total who were alleged to have been tied to the American Front were arrested last year in connection with this case but as of yesterday, only 1 remains charged. Patricia Faella, 37, wife of alleged leader Marcus Faella and Dylan Rettenmaier, 26, were scheduled to stand trial yesterday in federal court according to the Orlando Sentinel.
All charges in the case have been dropped against the following individuals:
Patricia Faella, 37, of St. Cloud
Dylan Rettenmaier, 26, of Palm Bay
Diane Stevens, 29, of Kissimmee
Richard Stockdale, 24, of Kissimmee
Dustin Perry, 22, of Kissimmee
Mark McGowan, 30, and wife Jennifer McGowan, 26 of Canaveral Grove
Paul Jackson, 26, of St. Cloud
Verlin Lewis, 41, of Lynn Haven
John Wyczlinski, 34, of Venice.
So far the charges of participating in paramilitary training and conspiracy to shoot into a building have been dropped against all but Marcus Faella. He faces trial in May and if convicted of running a racist criminal gang, Faella faces the possibility of life in prison.
Christopher Brooks, 28, was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the case, and sentenced to three years in prison. Luke Leger, 32, and Kent McLellan, 22, pleaded no-contest to participating in paramilitary training, and both received four years probation.
The case drew international attention due to the nature of the charges, and the suspects being held for weeks on extremely high bails. Each was reportedly held on $500,000 each.
The decision to drop the charges Monday morning was reached after consultation with Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton, according to a statement released Monday afternoon.
“While the State Attorney respects the public’s right to know what motivated this morning’s dismissals, the State Attorney requests patience from the public as it is inappropriate for him or his assistants to comment until the charges against Marcus Faella are also resolved,” wrote spokesman Richard Wallsh.
Much of the information gathered as a result of a 2-year-long FBI investigation came from an informant who was paid $40,000 for his services. It was this supposed information provided that is believed to have been what authorities had acted on.
Council for Faella and Rettenmaier, attorney Jack Platt in a statement said that nothing the group was doing was anything different that what many Americans are also doing outdoors.
“Our clients did nothing more than what 100,000 people in this country do every year,” said Jack Platt, the Melbourne attorney who represented Rettenmaier and Faella. “They went out in the woods and shot their guns and just hung out.”
…Platt said it was not a white supremacist group, nor organized trainings, but merely friends gathering in the woods. The case has had a negative effect on his clients, he said, and may continue to do so in the future.
“You’re being called a terrorist, and you know very well you didn’t do anything of the sort,” he said. “It will worry you, it will scare you to death. … Given now that they’ve been exonerated, you would hope that people would not hold it against them.”
Patty Kenny, mother of Christopher Brooks reinforced the statement of attorney Platt in saying that the group was just ordinary people hanging out. She reportedly questioned the way that the FBI handled the case.
“I would like the FBI to explain why they gave that guy (the informant) $40,000 and these people lost their jobs,” Kenny said. “They’re struggling because of this. They’ve been branded.”
She said she believed Marcus Faella would be cleared of all charges, too.
“They go out there and they cook and have barbecues,” she said. “I think it was just a bunch of guys having fun, people having fun.”