Plea deal in works for Guardsman in militia case

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 13, 2014 - 8:00 PM

A federal judge has postponed for 30 days the possible indictment of Keith Novak, whom the FBI suspects of planning to bomb NSA office.

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Keith Michael Novak.

Photo: Sherburne County Sheriff, AP/Sherburne County Sheriff

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Federal prosecutors and a defense attorney will get 30 more days to work out a possible plea agreement that could avoid the indictment of Keith Novak, a Minnesota National Guard member the FBI says is linked to the private militia movement.

On Monday U.S. Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel granted a joint motion, submitted by the defense and U.S. attorney’s office, giving prosecutors until Feb. 13 to file a grand jury indictment.

Novak talked of bombing a National Security Agency office in Utah, according to an FBI agent who testified at a hearing in December.

In their motion last Friday, the two sides said they “are discussing whether a pre-indictment disposition may be appropriate.”

Attorney Paul Murphy, former chief of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in Minneapolis, who is not involved in the case, said “a pre-indictment disposition” means that prosecutors and defense are discussing an agreement in which Novak would plead guilty.

Novak was arrested last month on charges of identity theft — stealing the Social Security numbers and other information of members of the U.S. Army. An FBI agent testified in December that Novak belonged to the 44th Spatha Libertas or “Sword of Freedom” militia and had discussed bombing a National Security Agency facility in Utah, although he has not been charged with that.

Prosecutor Charles Kovats, Jr. and defense attorney W. Anders Folk said in their joint motion that the two sides “believe this case is ‘so unusual or so complex’ that it is ‘unreasonable to expect adequate preparation for pretrial proceedings’ without the requested extension of time.”

They also said the case could include the use of information covered under the federal Classified Information Procedures Act.

Murphy said that could mean that information deemed classified could be presented in a court session closed to the public and media.

Novak has been linked to Buford “Bucky” Rogers, a member of the Black Snake Militia, who pleaded guilty in federal court last week to illegal weapons charges. The FBI said he was planning a terrorist attack in his hometown of Montevideo, Minn., but was not indicted on a charge of that.

In an FBI interview at the time of his arrest last May, Rogers made reference to other militia members, including a man named “Keith” who turns out to be Keith Novak.

“Keith, he’s in the National Guard,” Rogers told the FBI. “All-around nice guy. Paid for gas last time we went up to the Cities.”

In Rogers’ plea agreement, outlined by U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery, there is no reference to his cooperating with prosecutors, which would be typically mentioned if he were a cooperating witness.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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