Suspect to plead guilty in Montevideo weapons case
MINNEAPOLIS -- With his trial less than a week away, accused bomb-maker Buford "Bucky" Rogers has apparently reached a deal with federal prosecutors and will plead guilty.
A change-of-plea hearing has been set for Friday, but the case docket doesn't say what he'll plead guilty to.
His attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Andrew Mohring, declined to comment.
Nicole Engisch, head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota, said she did not have specifics on the plea deal, but she believes it involves dropping some of the four counts against Rogers, as well as a recommendation by the government on an appropriate punishment.
"He is pleading guilty, but the terms aren't public yet," she said. "They will be on Friday."
Rogers, 25, of Montevideo, was to go on trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on three counts of possessing "unregistered destructive devices" -- the way federal law classifies the bombs he allegedly had -- and a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
In May, an FBI SWAT team in armored vehicles raided the mobile home where Rogers' parents lived. Five homemade bombs were among items seized.
Rogers was not there. He lived elsewhere, and was taken into custody as the raid was going on.
The man had formed an outfit named the Black Snake Militia, but membership never grew much beyond Rogers, his brother, his parents and a couple of friends -- one of whom apparently quit and turned government informant.
The informant allegedly told investigators that Rogers had schemed to raid a National Guard armory, blow up Montevideo's police station and topple a communications tower.
Despite government claims of such a plot, Rogers was not charged with terrorism-related crimes. And although the bombs were found on his parents' property, the parents were not charged with a crime.
The change-of-plea notice comes a month after U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery ruled that prosecutors at trial would not be allowed to offer as evidence some statements Rogers made after his arrest. The reason: An FBI agent had overstepped constitutional bounds in the questioning.
Montgomery said some statements were inadmissible because they came before the agent had advised the suspect of his constitutional rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court has said officers can delay reading a suspect his rights if there is an imminent threat to public safety or to law officers. Prosecutors claimed that was the case here, but Montgomery ruled Dec. 6 that some of the agent's questions involved things that weren't an immediate danger to the public or the officers involved in the raid.
Forty-three minutes into his questioning of Rogers, FBI Special Agent Shane Ball advised the man of his rights. ("They kind of changed it a little bit ... since I last heard it," Rogers remarked to Ball.)
After that, the two discussed the bombs, militias and talked guns, and Rogers agreed with Ball that he knew "the difference between a true believer and a patriot."
Rogers even offered to help the FBI.
"Is there any way, I can help you guys catch bad people? Because, I know if I try hard enough, I can get in contact with that (inaudible) I know," according to a transcript of the questioning that Montgomery unsealed last month over defense objections.
Mohring has maintained that his client was concerned about "protecting his country" from Los Zetas, a group U.S. officials consider Mexico's most dangerous drug cartel.
The group was founded in the late 1990s by deserters from the Mexican Army's special forces. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has acknowledged the cartel has members in the state, including rural areas.
In legal filings, Mohring has said Rogers was worried Los Zetas had turned up in the Montevideo area.
Rogers no longer has a right to own or carry a firearm because of a 2011 felony conviction for burglary in Lac qui Parle County. The federal charge against him accuses him of having a Romanian-made assault rifle.
The three bomb-possession counts involve two Molotov cocktails, a pipe bomb and two black powder-and-nails devices that agents say they found at his parents' mobile home and outbuildings in the May raid.
During the questioning, Ball asked Rogers about his experience with explosives.
"OK. Got all your fingers?" the agent asks.
"I'm not a bomb guy," Rogers said.
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