Two of three Georgia militia members arrested while allegedly trying to buy pipe bombs and thermite as part of a plan to strike at government agencies appeared in court Friday on federal charges.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia, Brian Cannon and Cory Williamson appeared in federal court for preliminary and bond hearings. The men face federal charges of conspiring to receive and possess unregistered destructive devices, specifically pipe bombs and thermite devices. According to a federal complaint filed this week, the defendants sought to obtain the explosive devices as part of a militia operation against the TSA, FEMA and other targets.
"This case is a stark reminder of the threat we face not just from abroad, but from within our own borders from our own citizens,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “When plans turn violent, law enforcement must step in to protect our communities from harm. Fortunately, the FBI was able to stop these defendants before they were able to carry out their plans."
Ricky Maxwell, acting special agent in charge of the FBI Atlanta field office, said: “The FBI can no longer wait to respond to the aftermath of a radicalized individual's or group's threats. Instead, we have to bring our investigative and analytical assets to bear in getting ahead of those threats and potential attacks and do so within the rule of law.”
Authorities say that between Jan. 23 and Feb. 15, Cannon, Williamson, and Terry Eugene Peace, the third defendant, participated in online chat discussions about carrying out an operation against the government that was to be launched in February.
Peace encouraged members of the militia to review guerrilla warfare tactics, small unit tactics, accumulate supplies, and prepare their families, authorities charge. Peace also identified targets such as “…TSA, DHS, non-emergency FEMA, road blocks, etc.” The discussions were reported to the FBI, and the FBI then began consensually monitoring the communications.
To prepare for the mission, Peace allegedly asked a cooperating witness to provide them with 12 pipe bombs and two thermite grenades. Peace, Cannon and Williamson subsequently planned to meet with the federal witness to take possession of the items after they were made.
On Feb. 15, authorities allege that Peace, Cannon and Williamson drove to a location in Cartersville to meet the cooperating witness. Authorities had given the witness 12 inert pipe bombs and two inert thermite devices that were constructed to look like real explosives. The three defendants were arrested as they took possession of the devices, a news release says.
Terry Peace, 45, Brian Cannon, 37, and Cory Williamson, 28, of Rome, Ga., all had initial appearances in federal court on Feb. 18. Cannon and Williamson were detained at the conclusion of the hearing. All three were charged in a criminal complaint on Feb. 18.