A militia member indicted in what the FBI once characterized as a terror plot to blow up a west-central Minnesota police station pleaded guilty Friday to weapons charges.
Buford Braden Rogers, 25, of Montevideo, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of possessing a firearm illegally and one count of possessing an unregistered destructive device, namely "two black powder and nail devices," which he admitted he made himself.
Two other counts, including charges related to possessing two Molotov cocktails and a pipe bomb, are expected to be dismissed at sentencing.
Prosecutors intend to seek upwards of five years in prison at sentencing, while the defense plans to ask for less than the lowest suggested guideline of 41 months.
Assistant Federal Defender Andrew Mohring noted that despite the initial publicity in the case, Rogers is not charged with terrorism, and he argued his client should be released pending sentencing.
He also said releasing Rogers would correct an "injustice" in the case, saying Rogers has been in segregated custody since evidence was made public that raised speculation about his connection to other cases.
Mohring did not get into specifics but a redacted transcript of Rogers' May 3 interview with the FBI, which was made public last month, suggests a possible connection between Rogers and another Minnesota militia member facing federal charges.
U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery said Rogers would remain in custody "whether the history of this case has been overblown or not."
A sentencing date has not been set.
Authorities say Rogers and members of his family were part of a tiny anti-government militia called the Black Snake Militia and that Rogers was plotting to blow up the Montevideo police station, raid a National Guard Armory and cut off communications to the city, about 95 miles west of Minneapolis.
At the time of his arrest — less than three weeks after the deadly Boston Marathon bombings — FBI officials said they believed they stopped a terrorist attack in its planning stages.
They based their information on a witness from Texas who indicated Rogers had plans to launch an attack in the near future, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Mohring has questioned the witness' reliability. Rogers' father, Jeff Rogers, has said the witness was lying.
According to the redacted transcript of the FBI interview, Rogers told agents that even though he had homemade bombs, he was not violent and didn't know of anyone planning an attack. Rogers also expressed anger at dangerous militia groups, whom he called terrorists, and said he was mad at the people who carried out bombings at the Boston Marathon in April and in Oklahoma City in 1995, the transcript said.
He also said he was using the Internet to try to investigate groups he considered to be dangerous, and that he formed his militia to "do good, not harm people," the transcript said.
Rogers also talked about other people he associated with through his militia, including a man named Keith, whom he described as an intelligence officer who used to work with the Army but is now with the National Guard.
Last month, authorities arrested Keith Novak, whose first name and career match the description of the man Rogers spoke about. Novak, 25, of Maplewood, is charged with fraud for allegedly stealing the personal information of members of his former Army unit to make fake IDs for people in his own militia.
In court Friday, Rogers admitted that he possessed a semi-automatic rifle that accepted a large-capacity magazine, and that he knew he was not allowed to have a firearm due to a 2011 burglary conviction. He also admitted he had stored his nail devices at his father's trailer.
The guilty plea was "conditional," and Mohring is reserving the right to appeal the judge's earlier decision that statements Rogers made to authorities would be included in the case.
Montgomery said if Mohring is successful on that appeal, Rogers' guilty plea will be withdrawn and the case will start over without those statements included as evidence.
Family members who were in court declined comment. Mohring read excerpts of letters from Rogers' father and mother, in which they described him as a man who loves his family.
Rogers told Montgomery he attended high school at Lac qui Parle and made it to the 10th grade. He has a 13-month-old son.
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