Militia member gets house arrest

| Thursday, June 12, 2008

A federal judge in Johnstown on Wednesday declined to jail a Clearfield County man accused of telling undercover agents last year that he planned to visit Pittsburgh to shoot black people from a Downtown high-rise.

Bradley T. Kahle, 60, of Troutville had been in custody since Sunday, when the Pittsburgh Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested him and others on weapons charges. Agents discovered 16 improvised explosive devices while searching the home of the Vietnam veteran and self-proclaimed militiaman.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Pete Pesto said he wasn't convinced that Kahle posed a threat.

"I get no indication he was about to go from talking to doing," said Pesto, who placed Kahle on house arrest with electronic monitoring.

A federal judge in Pittsburgh was not as lenient with two others arrested Sunday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Amy Reynolds Hay ordered Marvin Hall, 49, of Rimersburg in Clarion County, and Perry D. Landis, 62, of Sabula in Clearfield County to remain jailed pending trial.

Hall did not admit militia membership, but said he would join one called 91st Warrior if he had to, testified FBI Special Agent Daniel Yocca, who said that Landis was sergeant-at-arms of the Brookville Tiger Militia in Jefferson County.

Kahle swore-in four undercover agents as members of the so-called Pennsylvania Citizens Militia, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Picking.

Yocca said undercover agents first encountered Hall at a flamethrower party, an annual get-together hosted by Morgan A. Jones of Lucinda in Clarion County. At these parties -- which Yocca said attracted militia members, gun enthusiasts and neighbors -- Jones would demonstrate a flamethrower, homemade cannon and other weapons.

Jones, 64, is the emergency management coordinator for Knox Township in Clarion County. He is charged with unlawfully transferring a Romanian AK-47 assault rifle to a person out of state. His detention hearing is scheduled today before Hay.

Hall's girlfriend, Melissa Huet, 34, of Rimersburg is charged with aiding and abetting a convicted felon by providing Hall with an assault rifle. She will be arraigned June 26.

The arrests stem from a federal-state investigation into violent militia members that began in 2005, Yocca said.

Landis told undercover agents that he would have killed a Clearfield County magistrate judge had he been charged in a criminal case, Yocca said. The electrician also said Sen. Hillary Clinton being elected to the White House would have started a revolution, because she would have tried to disarm American citizens.

"That would bring us out of the woodwork," Landis told agents, Yocca testified.

Landis also told agents that he devised a way to make "one hell of a mean grenade" using medicine bottles, BB-gun pellets and carbon dioxide canisters. Agents discovered each of those items at his house and homemade cabin, which contained an escape hatch leading to a short tunnel. Yocca said Landis told agents the tunnel was necessary if police ever tried to invade the cabin.

Defense attorney William Schmalzried described his client as "boisterous and foolish," but said Landis' comments amounted to nothing more than "puffing."

Hay, the magistrate in Pittsburgh, didn't deem the words to be quite as innocent.

"None of us can say whether he was puffing or not, or whether he was serious, because we weren't there," she said. "But he did have the means to make his hate speech reality."

Landis is charged with two counts of unlawfully transferring explosive blasting caps, which he sold to agents in September and March, according to an indictment.

Hall, who was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison in 1999 for making homemade grenade launchers, is charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a 12-gauge shotgun and with unlawfully transferring firearms -- two plastic golf balls he'd turned into improvised grenades with explosive powder and fuses.

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