CINCINNATI — Two local militia members admitted they blew up two homemade explosives on a Ripley, OH farm in January that were designed for use as weapons, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court on Thursday.
Randy Goodman and Ryan King, members of the Franklin-based United Sheepdogs of Ohio , pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess a destructive device in violation of the National Firearms Act.
In a Statement of Facts signed and dated by King and Goodman, the two men admitted that they "detonated two destructive devices" on January 5, 2019 at Goodman's farm.
King and Goodman admitted that "they were aware that these devices included energetic powder and a fusing system and were designed to be used as an explosive weapon", according to the Statement of Facts.
in February of this year, a federal grand jury indicted King and Goodman on charges of conspiracy and possession of unregistered explosives. During the federal investigation, court records reveal agents obtained recordings of the two militia members allegedly conspiring to build and detonate illegal explosives.
The federal indictment alleges King and Goodman were on the militia group's "Special Projects Team," which focused on how to "construct, use and stockpile destructive devices."
In court records, prosecutors provided screen grabs of video allegedly showing the defendants discussing explosives in King's home, and in the milk house on Goodman's Ripley farm.
Based on evidence provided by federal agents and prosecutors, the grand jury determined that King and Goodman blew up an illegal homemade explosive on Goodman's property, conspired to build powerful pipe bombs called "crater makers," and discussed how to make them more deadly.
The indictment provided a detailed list of events that the grand jury believed justified criminal charges against the two former Sheepdogs, including the following alleged incidents:
During a Christmas party at King's home last December, King and Goodman allegedly discussed where to place a car bomb for a bigger impact.
"This could go under a front seat of a car very easily, engine of a car, wired into the breaking," King told Goodman, according to the indictment.
"I like that," Goodman said. "That's the method I like."
In January, King and Goodman talked about pressure cooker bombs like the ones used at the Boston Marathon in 2013. Those explosives killed three and injured nearly 300.
"I want to focus on making these anti-personnel," King said. "I think these will be a lot more useful to us. We can build land mines. I've already built them before, you know that."
"I'm going to make some of them crater makers," Goodman replied. "I like that."
United States Attorney Ben Glassman is personally prosecuting the case. According to Glassman's spokesperson, Jennifer Thornton, the U.S. Attorney himself prosecutes only a half-dozen or so cases every year.
"It's an extremist movement that we take very seriously," Mark Pitcavage told WCPO during an interview at his Dublin, OH office in June.
Pitcavage, a senior researcher at the Anti-Defamation League's Center for Extremism, said most militias are driven by their resentment of big government, and their fear of losing their right to bear arms. But, Pitcavage also believes militias tend to attract right-wing extremists who are more likely to stockpile and use weapons, ammo and dangerous explosives.
"The movement as a whole has this proven track record of criminal activity and violence," Pitcavage said.
The criminal conduct of some militias and their sympathizers is well-documented.
On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols set off a truck bomb close to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children. McVeigh and Nichols were linked to armed anti-government militia groups.
Since then, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ADL have focused on the practices and impact of militias, including groups in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Pitcavage, and other researchers, say the militia movement took off a decade ago during the Great Recession. The policies of President Barack Obama sparked fears among many gun rights supporters that the federal government might come and get their guns, he said.
"The militia movement is really fixated on guns," Pitcavage said.
Even though Pitcavage believes many militia members will never be involved in criminal activity, he insists the movement should get special attention. But, that opinion isn't shared by Franklin Police Chief Russ Whitman, who hadn't heard any concerns about the Sheepdogs militia until federal agents contacted him in February.
"There's always going to be a small percentage of people that don't represent everyone. If they're forming a militia to help more power to them," Whitman said.
The federal investigation of Ryan King and Randy Goodman seems like "a very typical militia-related case" that involved "powerful weapons," Pitcavage said in June.
U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott signed an order on Thursday releasing King and Goodman on their own recognizance.
The two militia members had been detained in the Butler County jail since their arrest in February.
The plea agreements show King and Goodman agreed to imprisonment of "not more than 24 months, followed by a 3-year term of supervised release."
Pre-sentence reports are due by October 31, which means sentencing is unlikely before November.