Alabama Free Militia Member Pleads Guilty in Federal Court
by Jim Kouri, CPP
Bonnell Hughes, 57, of Crossville, Alabama, entered a guilty plea to eight counts of a federal indictment. Hughes was one of six men indicted in May 2007 in connection with an explosives recovery in Northeast Alabama.
"Hughes, who held the rank of captain in the Free Militia, was involved in a conspiracy with other militia members to make hand grenades and self propelled grenades," stated U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. "He now faces up to 70 years in prison and fines of up to $2,000,000.
Hughes is the first member of the Alabama Free Militia to plead guilty in this investigation. He faces several decades in federal prison for his role in dealing with deadly grenades, improvised explosive devices, an illegal machine gun and silencer. Fortunately no one was injured in this case including Hughes, his neighbors and law enforcement officers.
A joint federal-local investigation lead to the execution of a search warrant at Hughes' residence on April 26, 2007. During the execution of the search warrant, agents recovered some eighty hand grenades, sixty-eight self propelled grenades, a machine gun, and a silencer adapted to fit a machine gun.
Hughes plead guilty to conspiracy to make destructive devices (grenades), conspiracy to make a silencer, making destructive devices (10 grenades), possession of a machine gun, possession of destructive devices (80 grenades), possession of destructive devices (68 improvised explosive projectiles) and possession of a silencer.
A sentencing date for Hughes will be scheduled by the Court for a future date. Plea hearings are also scheduled for Raymond Kirk Dillard, Adam Lynn Cunningham, James Ray McElroy, and Randall Garrett Cole. Michael Wayne Bobo, who is connected with the investigation, was indicted separately and is currently awaiting a trial date.
"Large quantities of explosive devices were taken off the street as a result of this case. People like Hughes show little regard for public safety," stated Alabama State Fire Marshal Edward Paulk. "Today, Hughes pled guilty to several crimes that will impact him for many years to come."
"Hughes was living in Dekalb County, engaging in activities that were extremely dangerous for our citizens," stated Sheriff Jimmy Harris. "I am glad that a guilty plea has been entered and that the will no longer have an opportunity to put our people at risk."
This investigation involved numerous federal, state and local law enforcement. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Dekalb County Sheriff's Office and Alabama State Fire Marshal's Office began a joint investigation into the group. As the case unfolded, other participating law enforcement partners included Bomb Squads from Huntsville Police Department, Jefferson County, and Gadsden County Sheriffs' Departments and Alabama Department of Public Safety Bomb Squad who worked with ATF Bomb Techs in securing the IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).
Other agencies involved in the case include, The U.S. Marshal Service, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, The Alabama Bureau of Investigation, and the Sheriff's Offices and District Attorneys' Offices of DeKalb, Etowah, Marshall, and Jefferson Counties.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.