Brian Edward Cannon, 36, and Cory Robert Williamson, 28, appeared in federal court Friday in Rome and were denied bond. Terry Eugene Peace, 45, is due for his first court appearance Monday. A criminal complaint charges them with conspiring to receive and possess firearms, specifically pipe bombs and thermite grenades. Thermite grenades are military-grade weapons typically used to destroy vehicles, weapons systems and other equipment.
Christopher Twyman, an attorney for Cannon, declined to comment. Scott Forster, an attorney for Williamson, and Matthew Dodge, an attorney for Peace, did not immediately return after-hours calls or emails seeking comment.
The three were arrested Feb. 15 at a meeting they had set up to buy explosives from a man who turned out to be a confidential law enforcement source, authorities said.
U.S. Attorney Sally Yates, whose office is prosecuting the case, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that plots like this one are a stark reminder that terrorism can have domestic origins.
"You can see that the plans that they had are really scary," she said. "There's no indication that they would not have been successful, and that's not the kind of thing where we can wait and see."
Between Jan. 23 and Feb. 15, the three men participated in online chat discussions about carrying out an operation against the government in February, according to a written statement from an FBI agent. The online chats were monitored by the FBI.
"Peace encouraged members of the militia to review guerrilla warfare tactics, small unit tactics, accumulate supplies and prepare family," the agent's statement says.
In a recorded phone call on Feb. 8, an FBI source told Peace he had a contact who could provide the materials the men sought. Peace said during the conversation, "... if he can hook us up with say 12 pipe bombs that will be sweet," according to the agent's statement.
A second FBI source told agents he had a conversation with Cannon on Feb. 8 during which Cannon said the group planned to "start the fight" with the government by sabotaging power grids, transfer stations and water treatment facilities to create mass hysteria, the agent's statement says. That would push the government to declare martial law, which would push other militias to join the fight.
"Cannon claimed too many militias were in a defensive mode and in order to get them out of the defensive posture, actions would have to take place to force martial law to be declared," the agent's statement said. Cannon also said he wanted to recruit militia members from other parts of the country to join these missions.
An FBI agent testified during a hearing before a magistrate judge Friday that Cannon and Williamson both admitted to planning to target a metro Atlanta police station and its department's patrol vehicles with a guerrilla-style attack, according to the Rome News-Tribune.
The three men arranged a meeting in Cartersville on Feb. 15 with the first FBI source. FBI agents gave their source 12 inactive pipe bombs and two thermite devices, which is what Peace had requested, the agent's statement says. The three men were taken into custody after they took what they thought were explosives from the source.