Federal prosecutors in Alaska filed a motion Friday to deny bail to an officer of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia, a right-wing extremist sovereign citizens group, after she attempted to enter Canada in late October through a remote Yukon Territory border crossing.
Mary Ann Morgan, 53, was driving a truck containing virtually no personal effects but what prosecutors termed a "horde of documents" including detailed information on home-cooked explosives and ricin, an extremely lethal toxin derived from castor beans and weaponized using lye or solvent.
Prosecutors cited the fact that last week, four members of a militia group in Georgia were arrested for allegedly plotting to attack various government targets using ricin and explosives and said Morgan poses "risk to the public in general, law enforcement or the judiciary."
Also in the Chevy S-10 pick-up truck driven by Morgan was a .32 caliber Beretta handgun that Morgan, a convicted felon, is prohibited from possessing. Morgan was convicted in 2001 of Custodial Interference in the First Degree for violating a child custody agreement. Canadian law also bans private U.S. citizens from driving handguns across the border, and strictly prohibits the possession anywhere in Canada of easily concealable handguns including .32 caliber semi-automatics.
After discovering the handgun, Canadian Border Security Agency officers turned custody of Morgan over to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Alaska State Troopers. Morgan told Canadian border guards she was headed for a meeting about the U.S. Constitution being held in Montana, according to Canadian law enforcement sources in the Yukon Territory.
The motion identifies Morgan as secretary of the sovereign citizen Alaska Peacemaker Militia, part of a movement rooted in racism, anti-government extremism and bizarre conspiracy theories that is growing nationwide as part of an ongoing surge in right-wing militia activity.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "Sovereigns believe that they -- not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials -- get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don't think they should have to pay taxes. Sovereigns are clogging up the courts with indecipherable filings and when cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence, usually directed against government officials." The SPLC estimates there are currently about 100,000 hard-core sovereign citizen believers in the U.S.
The leader of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia, Schaeffer Cox, has repeatedly traveled to Montana for sovereign citizen events in recent years, in particular to the Flathead Valley region in northwest Montana, which since 2009 has become a hotbed of right-wing extremist activity. At this point it remains unclear exactly where Morgan was headed or why.
A document seized from the truck driven by Morgan
Since her arrest at the Yukon border crossing, investigators in the U.S. have been reviewing boxes of unsettling documents Morgan had stowed in her truck. The documents have yet to be fully examined according to the November 4 court filing.
Media Matters has obtained more than 60 pages of the documents showing they include, at a minimum: detailed information on ricin apparently downloaded from the Internet; instructions on making pipe bombs and converting salt into an explosive, written in what the filing alleges is Morgan's own hand; a plethora of information on the possession and use of firearms, including combat tactical guides; a number of sovereign citizen pseudo-legal papers targeting public officials including judges; and voluminous handwritten references to conspiracy theory websites and websites documenting supposed evidence of a coming apocalypse.
"The possession of this information provides the court with a very clear picture of the defendant's intentions and mind set: various type of poisons of varying toxicity (from Ricin to household poisons and other plants), firearms, tactical use of firearms, close combat training, pipe bombs and explosives," federal prosecutor Steven Skrocki wrote in the motion seeking Morgan's continued detention.
"It is of import to note that very few to any personal effects were present in the defendant's vehicle. Where Ms. Morgan was headed, and why, is unknown, but the items she carried with her speak volumes about her future course. Given the ominous nature of the these items... the United States will establish that the defendant is a clear danger to the community and a flight risk..."
Several members of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia, including Cox, are currently jailed in Fairbanks, Alaska and under federal indictment for allegedly plotting to murder law enforcement officers and judges.
Among the papers found in Morgan's vehicle were copies of threatening sovereign citizen documents Morgan sent to a district court magistrate in July on behalf of a fellow sovereign citizen follower, David Rohner, who had been arrested for speeding and a license plate violation.
The documents identify Rohner as a sovereign citizen ambassador with corresponding diplomatic immunity.
From Morgan's letter to the district court magistrate. A copy of the document
"You will hereby CEASE AND DESIST all actions against Ambassador David, past, present, and future," Morgan declared. "Should you persist in any way to continue it can be perceived as an Act of War upon the Kingdom of the Most High God, of which David is an Ambassador. As you do not have any form of jurisdiction over him, you are to hereby release Ambassador David immediately."
Furthermore, Morgan informed the magistrate, "You are hereby notified that as you have repeatedly insulted Ambassador Rohner...and refused to honor your oath to uphold the Constitution, and refused to uphold the Constitution itself, a commercial lien of $150,000.00 will be placed upon your property, or your wages."
At her initial court appearance last week, Morgan refused to provide her name or any personal background information and demanded to appear before a "grand jury." Sovereign citizens often attempt to convene what they term "citizen's grand juries" to handle judicial matters -- tribunals composed of other sovereign citizens that have no actual legal authority.
Prosecutor Skrocki noted that Morgan's sovereign citizen activism and refusal to cooperate with basic court proceedings make her a flight risk.
His motion to deny bail also takes into account a recent online posting to the Alaska Citizens Militia forum in which a "Mary Morgan" announced, "I am looking for 'combat training' that is not related to the military."
"This statement, combined with the pistol found in her vehicle, the pipe bomb directions and Ricin information, significantly ups the ante in terms of risk to the public in general, law enforcement or the judiciary," Skrocki wrote.
"This is especially true due to not knowing the ultimate destination of the defendant or her intentions once she arrived at her destination."
For the time being, Morgan remains jailed on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.