The informant, Joe Sims, testified in the trial of Samuel Crump and Ray Adams before U.S. District Judge Richard Story in Gainesville. Prosecutors also played recordings of conversations Sims made secretly that include voices Sims said belong to Crump, Adams and others.
Crump, 70, and Adams, 57, were among four men arrested in November 2011 after Sims made recordings at their meetings at homes, during car rides and at a Waffle House restaurant. They face charges of conspiring and attempting to make ricin.
Prosecutors say Crump and Adams conspired to make the toxin to use against government officials and federal buildings, while defense attorneys have said the pair were simply talking big and never intended to follow through on their bravado.
The two other men, Frederick Thomas and Dan Roberts, pleaded guilty in April 2012 to conspiring to get an unregistered explosive and an illegal gun silencer. Story sentenced each of them to five years in prison.
Federal prosecutor William McKinnon on Wednesday played from multiple recordings made by Sims between April and September 2011. The recordings captured meetings between Crump, Adams, Thomas, Roberts and others as they discussed plans for a Georgia militia group.
Sims contacted the FBI in mid-2010 when he was in jail in South Carolina on a child molestation charge that was later dropped and a child pornography charge. Sims eventually pleaded guilty to the latter charge.
Sims told agents he had been involved in militia groups and had information about possible upcoming attacks in Georgia. Sims’ tip didn’t pan out. But once Sims was out on bond, federal agents took him up on an offer to infiltrate a militia group he had belonged to and to provide information to authorities, the agent said.
Sims contacted old militia friends and was invited to join them for meetings beginning in March of 2011, and federal agents had him wear a recording device to the meetings.
In the recorded discussions, the men can be heard talking about a wide variety of topics, including recruiting new members, what kind of weapons they would need for an armed uprising and how they could use toxins to poison government officials. Sims, who said he had participated in militia groups for about a decade, testified that the conversations were unusual because they talked so much about violence and killing innocent people.
At one point when Sims is heard saying he could kill someone in self-defense, a voice identified as Adams is heard saying he could be proactive and adds, “When it comes down to it, I can kill somebody.”
The voice identified as Crump is heard talking about his grudges against the federal government and discussing the toxin ricin, including saying Adams can make it.
Lawyers for Adams and Crump, who will have a chance to cross-examine Sims later, said in their opening statements that all of that was a lot of talk, that their clients never had the means or intent to go through with the plots they discussed. They have also insisted that Adams and Crump weren’t militia members and were just hanging out and talking about things that frustrated them.
Men can be heard in the recordings talking about the possibility of using guerrilla warfare against the federal government to provoke what they believed would be a heavy-handed response that could lead to an armed uprising by the public. McKinnon repeatedly asked Sims to confirm that Adams and Crump were present during discussions of plans for violent acts to show that the intent was there.
McKinnon also repeatedly asked Sims if he arranged any of the meetings that were recorded and whether Sims had contact with Adams and Crump between meetings, and Sims said he did not. Defense attorneys have raised concerns about authorities’ use of an informant and have said he prodded the men into making some of the plans.
Defense attorneys have also said Sims was willing to do these things to get his own charges or sentence reduced. During testimony Tuesday, McKinnon repeatedly asked the federal agent who was Sims’ main law enforcement contact was asked to confirm that federal agents didn’t promise Sims that they would interfere with the charges he faced in South Carolina.