By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Former Irwindale Reserve Police Officer Glenn Yee was sentenced to 16 months in prison on June 10 in Los Angeles, the stiffest sentence meted out so far in the case brought against four members of a gun club accused of plotting terrorist attacks around the Southland.
Yee, who patrolled Irwindale in uniform on a part-time basis, and two other men - Mark Grand and Timothy Swanson of Los Angeles - entered pleas of no contest to weapons charges. Grand and Swanson were sentenced just to probation, but all three contend they were falsely protrayed as militia plotters by officers in the LAPD's Anti-Terror Division (ATD). The fourth defendant, Alvin Ung, awaits trial in San Bernardino County.
The self-described gun enthusiasts were members of a shooting group called the Southern California Marksmen's Association (SCMA), which they assert professed no political philosophy. They were arrested after a dawn sweep of residences, work sites and a storage locker in May 1997. LAPD and ATD brass called a press conference to announce the bust, displaying an arsenal of seized weaponry, including several machine guns, which they said were stockpiled for violent terrorist attacks.
"Countless lives were saved as a result of these raids," police officials told Cable News Network, adding, "A militia cell has been brought to its knees." But prosecutors never pressed terrorism or conspiracy charges - and the defendants say the charges were trumped up solely to justify LAPD excess.
Glenn Yee faced yet another allegation at his sentencing hearing - that he had engaged in plots to assassinate a local militia activist. According to L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Eugene Monaghan Jr., Yee was captured on tape, "jokingly or not," saying, "Let's whack [the activist] either by a head shot at 40 yards or putting a grenade in his car."
Yee attorney Chuck Michel objected repeatedly at the hearing, contending that Yee was trying to stave off an overzealous undercover officer by humoring him, and that the prosecutor was selectively using evidence that both the D.A. and the L.A. City Attorney's Office had withheld from the defense. Superior Court Judge Craig E. Veals waved off the objections, once answering Michel's protest that the D.A. had never shown him an exhibit, "You're seeing it now, counselor."
The case is closed for now, but Michel is challenging Yee's sentence, and attorneys for the gun buffs have filed separate federal lawsuits that they believe will yet show their clients were framed. The three defendants agreed to stop fighting the prosecutions, their lawyers say, only because they were stripped of their ability to mount a defense. "We are talking about prosecutorial misconduct to the degree that they were left with no choice but to take a plea," said attorney Michael Stoller, who filed the suits on behalf of the four men and the wives of Yee and Grand.
The federal suits name as defendants the LAPD, the city attorney, the district attorney, the Police Commission and numerous individuals within those agencies. They also allege that the D.A. and the city attorney colluded to withhold evidence.
The suits seek to throw the focus of the case back on the LAPD's Anti-Terrorist Division, the quasi-secret unit that carried out the investigation. At the time of the arrests last year, according to the lawsuits, the ATD was on the verge of being disbanded; officers needed to break a sensational case in order to preserve the unit.
The ATD was born in controversy in 1983, when it was formed from the discredited Public Disorder Intelligence Division, itself disbanded by court order after it was shown to have spied on scores of progressive activists and political figures. The ATD's investigative scope was strictly limited, but the Police Commission relaxed the unit's original guidelines in 1996. Nevertheless, the lawsuits claim the ATD violated its own rules when it investigated the SCMA, which Yee and his co-defendants say was organized for earthquake and riot "preparedness" and firearms practice.
The lawsuits focus on the role of two cops who allegedly acted as "agents provocateurs" by attempting - unsuccessfully - to goad the SCMA into various illegal acts. Queried this week, the LAPD said neither officer is "on our current roster," but did not respond to questions about whether the men had been officers. One of the men, Doug Stice, was identified in court by the prosecutor as a "sworn officer." Stice was an ATD undercover officer who first made contact with the SCMA in January 1996, when some acquaintances brought him to a club meeting, according to court papers and interviews with Yee and Swanson. Stice posed as Andrew Nelson, a fellow gun enthusiast and manager of the electronics department of the Target store in Pacoima.
In early 1997, Yee said in an interview, Stice suggested killing Stephen King, who operates a Web site for the "California Militia." Yee said he learned that King was a white supremacist and was badmouthing the SCMA in cyberspace, and asked him to stay away from the organization.
Soon after, according to King, Yee and another man who knows all three of them, Stice got into an e-mail spat with King. Then, Yee recounted, Stice phoned and said he "want[ed] to go out and whack this guy." Yee said Stice phoned him at least three more times to discuss killing King. "He said he wanted to use my rifle, and I said, 'Use your own rifle.'"