A man suspected of plotting to blow up a police station and raid a National Guard armory is a “citizen concerned with protecting his country” from a violent Mexican drug cartel, his attorney contends in a newly unsealed legal memo.
Federal public defender Andrew Mohring had sought to keep the document involving Buford “Bucky” Rogers secret, but last week, a federal magistrate denied the request.
The judge allowed Mohring to file a redacted version, though, so some of the 30-page document remains secret. It is a legal memorandum supporting Rogers’ attempt to have statements he made to an FBI agent after his May arrest ruled inadmissible.
The reason: Rogers allegedly made incriminating statements about building bombs before the agent advised him of his right to remain silent and have a lawyer present. Prosecutors have countered that the agent was questioning him under an exception to the Miranda warning that allows law officers to skip the warning if they believe there’s an imminent threat to public safety.
In Rogers’ case, the agent believed such a threat existed and the man’s statements should be allowed, assistant U.S. attorneys Andrew Winter and Charles Kovats Jr., wrote in a response to Mohring’s memo.
Rogers, 24, of Montevideo, is in jail awaiting trial on three counts of possession of unregistered explosive devices and a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Almost 50 federal, state and local lawmen descended May 3 on a house trailer owned by Rogers’ father. They seized two Molotov cocktails, “two black powder and nail devices” and a pipe bomb, and authorities said a domestic terrorist plot had been thwarted.
The raid, which included an FBI SWAT team in armored vehicles, came after a former member of Rogers’ “Black Snake Militia” allegedly told police that Rogers and his small band planned to blow up the Montevideo police station, topple a radio tower used by law enforcement and raid the local National Guard armory.
In his memo to suppress his client’s statements, Mohring criticizes what he said was a heavy-handed government response based on the questionable word of a lone informant, identified in one court document as a San Antonio man known as “Black Tim.”
Rogers has not been charged with a terrorism-related offense.
The defense lawyer noted that even though Rogers was the alleged ringleader of the Black Snake Militia — whose members consisted of his father, mother, brother and perhaps a couple of other people — the agents never searched his own home.
Law enforcement “conced-1/8ed-3/8 that they lacked even probable cause to suspect that evidence of crime might be found there,” Mohring wrote.
“The Rogers family — in other words, the Black Snake Militia — was accounted for, and fully cooperated with law enforcement, on May 3, even as Mr. Rogers was being interrogated,” he wrote.
He said the facts of the case “present a textbook example of the mid-interrogation Miranda practice prohibited by the Supreme Court,” and so prosecutors should be barred from using any of Rogers’ statements as evidence.
Mohring wrote that Rogers “is a citizen concerned with protecting his country.” In particular, he is “worried about the growing activity of Los Zetas in the United States.”
Los Zetas is a crime syndicate headquartered in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, across the border from Laredo, Texas. It was founded in 1999 by deserters from the Grupo Aeromovil de Fuerzas Especiales, the Mexican Army’s special forces unit.
U.S. officials consider it the most dangerous drug cartel in Mexico. Aside from drug trafficking, it is also believed to be involved in kidnapping, money laundering, racketeering and murder.
The drug gang has a presence in Minnesota, said Adam Castilleja, senior special agent with the narcotics section of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Special Investigations Unit.
“I know they exist in Minnesota,” he said of Los Zetas. “It is accurate that they exist in the metro area and the outstate area.”
In an affidavit used to get the search warrant for Rogers’ father’s mobile home, an FBI agent said the government informant had met Rogers in late 2012 at a “powwow” of militias in Arizona.
The Minnesotan allegedly told the witness-turned-informant that he “hated the president and desired a return to the ‘cowboy days’ where everyone carried a gun,” the FBI agent later wrote.
The Texan dropped out of college, came to Minnesota and moved in with Rogers’ parents. An FBI agent said the man left the group because he didn’t agree with its alleged plans to commit violence. He returned to San Antonio and went to the police.
In his memorandum, Mohring said the informant is the only person claiming a plot to do violence.
Rogers was taken into custody as the search was going on at his parents’ trailer. An FBI agent questioned him for 43 minutes before advising him of his rights, asking about the bombs.
Since 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed law enforcement officials to question suspects without advising them of their rights only in a special circumstance, known as the public safety exception, “to secure their own safety or the safety of the public.”
“The questioning during this 40-minute period was extensive, far eclipsing the typical and highly limited quick question about whether weapons would be found in a search incident to arrest,” Mohring wrote of his client’s interrogation by the FBI.
The defense lawyer wrote that there “simply was no real threat of acts of violence” at the time of the interrogation, and that the members of the Black Snake Militia “were accounted for and in the presence of law enforcement.”
“No logical explanation exists for the lengthy delay in informing Mr. Rogers of his Miranda rights other than the desire to elicit incriminating testimony evidence, to be used against him in criminal proceedings,” Mohring wrote.
Even though a magistrate said Mohring’s legal memorandum should not remain under seal, she did say he could redact certain sensitive information. The version Mohring filed contains nine redactions totaling 132 lines.
On one page, even the page number is blacked out.