Front page, News, Sports, Money, Life, Weather, Marketplace
Inside News
Weird news

Our site

What's hot
About us
Jobs at USA

10/05/98- Updated 09:46 AM ET
The Nation's Homepage

Bio weapons plot trial to begin

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Prosecutors contend three men hatched a plot straight out of a spy novel, scheming to kill President Clinton and other government officials with poison-drenched cactus needles.

Defense lawyers call the alleged scheme "cockamamie," claiming the defendants stand accused of a crime they never could have committed.

Trial is scheduled to begin Monday for Johnie Wise, 72, Jack Abbott Grebe Jr., 43, and Oliver Dean Emigh, 63. The men, all members of the Republic of Texas separatist group, face charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. They could face life in prison if convicted.

Their scheme, investigators say, was to modify a Bic lighter to propel air instead of propane; coat a cactus needle with a biological agent like rabies, anthrax or botulism; insert the needle into the lighter; then shoot the needle at an unsuspecting victim.

The men, who were arrested in July, allegedly sent threatening e-mail to top government officials, including Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh and Texas Attorney General Dan Morales.

The message to Freeh read: "Your FBI employees and their families have been targeted for destruction by revenge."

Court-appointed attorneys for the accused have denied the charges. At a July hearing, Grebe's attorney, Dan Herink, called the scheme "fanciful" and "cockamamie."

Defense lawyers also have sought to shift blame to the government's star witness who, according to court documents, agreed to tape conversations with the three men as plans unfolded.

Republic members claim Texas was never properly annexed by the United States in 1845 and remains an independent nation.

Last year, Republic of Texas members staged a weeklong standoff with police after they briefly held a couple hostage as "prisoners of war." Five members were convicted in that incident. Eight members were convicted of plotting to distribute worthless Republic of Texas "warrants" that resembled cashier's checks.

Republic leader Richard McLaren, was sentenced to 99 years in the kidnapping and standoff and 12½ years in the warrants case.

By The Associated Press

Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Front page, News, Sports, Money, Life, Weather, Marketplace

©COPYRIGHT 1998 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.