U.S. News

Two Georgia men convicted in ricin plot against U.S. government

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A federal jury on Friday convicted two alleged members of a Georgia militia group with conspiring to produce a toxic agent to poison government officials.

The jury in Gainesville, Georgia, convicted Samuel Crump, 71, and Ray Adams, 57, of conspiring to produce ricin for use as a weapon, according to federal court records.

The two men face a maximum punishment of life in prison, although under federal sentencing guidelines will likely serve less time, prosecutors said.

According to the indictment, Adams met in April 2011 with co-conspirators and suggested forming a militia group to attack government buildings with toxins.

In September of that year, Crump allegedly discussed a plan to produce 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of ricin and distribute it to several cities across the United States, the indictment said.

Ricin, a highly toxic substance, is found naturally in castor beans, but it takes a deliberate act to manufacture it and use it to poison people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to even a small amount of ricin can cause death and no known antidote exists.

In that meeting, Crump identified Adams as the man who would make the ricin, the indictment said.

Crump and Adams were two of four alleged North Georgia militia members arrested in late 2011. Authorities said they had been monitoring the group for months with the help of a confidential informant, who recorded conversations about the men’s plans to carry out attacks against federal buildings and employees.

Two of the four, Frederick Thomas and Dan Roberts, pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiracy charges and were sentenced to five years in prison. Thomas was described by federal authorities as the group’s leader.

Thomas had made a list of government employees, politicians and others who he said should be “taken out” to “make the country right again,” prosecutors said in a statement after the sentencing.

Ricin has been involved in several plots against the government.

On Friday, a Mississippi man accused of sending poisoned letters to President Barack Obama and two other public officials pleaded guilty in U.S. court and agreed to a 25-year jail sentence.

Last year, a Texas actress pleaded guilty to making the ricin that was sent in letters to Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Kevin Gray and Lisa Shumaker