A 25-year-old man indicted on a charge of gun and explosives possession is expected to plead guilty on Friday in a case that drew national attention after federal authorities said he was planning a terrorist attack in the western Minnesota town of Montevideo.
Buford “Bucky” Rogers is preparing to change his plea from not guilty to guilty in an appearance before U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery, according to a source familiar with the case.
The FBI announced after a raid in Montevideo on May 3 that Rogers was a member of a group called the Black Snake Militia and that he was plotting to attack the Montevideo police station and National Guard Armory, along with a radio tower. Montevideo, population 5,247, is about 130 miles west of the Twin Cities.
There was no mention of the attacks in a federal grand jury indictment issued on May 22 in which Rogers was charged with four counts: possessing a firearm — a semi-automatic rifle, which is prohibited because of his third-degree burglary conviction in 2011 — and three counts of possessing “unregistered destructive devices.” The devices included two Molotov cocktails, two “black powder nail devices” and a pipe bomb.
Normally, in a plea agreement, some charges against an individual are dropped, and the prosecution and defense agree on the possible range of a prison sentence, although both sides reserve the right to argue for a longer or shorter sentence. It is not known what charge Rogers will plead to or what his sentence will be.
Terrorism role debated
Two former U.S. prosecutors in Minnesota offered sharply different views on what the plea agreement signified.
“It seems to me they made a mountain out of a molehill,” said Jon Hopeman, a former assistant U.S. attorney who is now a Minneapolis defense lawyer. “They came out of the box so strong with so many resources like they had caught the next Timothy McVeigh [the Oklahoma City bomber], and the guy turns about to be a simple, confused lover of guns. The gun laws should be rigorously enforced, but everyone who violates the gun law is not a domestic terrorist.”
However, former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said he was not bothered that Rogers was indicted only on the charge of gun and explosives possession. “Frequently, those are the easiest charges to prove,” Heffelfinger said. “They are not controversial and the elements are easily established, and they frequently carry very high penalties.”
Gun and explosives possession charges can lead to significant prison time, Heffelfinger said, and it does not require proof of intent, which is needed in some terrorism-related charges, he said.
The source of the accusations against Rogers is a man from Texas who had stayed with Rogers’ family but who told authorities he fled when he learned Rogers was planning terrorist acts, according to an FBI agent’s testimony.
That might have been a matter of dispute had the case gone to trial.
Rogers told the FBI that a man had been staying at his father’s house, but that he kicked him out because of his advocacy of violence.
Link to other militia member
It is not known to what degree Rogers cooperated with authorities.
A portion of the transcript of his FBI interview on May 3, unsealed after a formal motion by the Star Tribune, indicated that Rogers provided some information about other militia members, including a Minnesota National Guard member named Keith — an apparent reference to Keith Novak of Maplewood.
Novak was arrested last month on suspicion of stealing the names and Social Security numbers of Army members as part of an identity-theft scheme.
An FBI agent testified in December that Novak belonged to the 44th Spatha Libertas or “Sword of Freedom” militia and that he had discussed bombing a National Security Agency facility in Utah, although he has not been charged with that.
Novak’s case has been forwarded to the federal grand jury for possible indictment.