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Ex-militiamen face life in Calif bomb plot

SACRAMENTO, May 22 (UPI) -- Two former members of an anti-government militia group will face life in prison when they are sentenced August 5 for a scheme to bomb two huge propane storage tanks south of Sacramento.

A Sacramento jury found Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles guilty Tuesday on federal charges of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. The two hatched a plot to blow up two 12-million-gallon storage tanks in the town of Elk Grove in 1999 in what prosecutors contended was a strike aimed at reviving the right-wing militia movement.

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Meanwhile, a second jury was to begin hearing evidence Wednesday on a charge that Patterson conspired with Kiles to violate federal firearms laws. Kiles pleaded guilty to the charge on Tuesday after hearing the verdict on the bomb charge.

Kiles' lawyer told the Sacramento Bee that his client was stunned at the verdict and felt that the government's key witness, an informant who testified that Kiles had told him about the plot at a Nevada gun show, had been discredited during the trial.

"It just proves that there is no liar big enough for a federal jury in this district to disbelieve," attorney Bruce Locke told the newspaper.

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Informant Ronald Rudloff had agreed to testify in exchange for probation in an unrelated case, but Locke said bankcard records proved that Kiles could not have been with Rudloff at the times Rudloff had testified that he was with him.

In addition, Rudloff testified during the first trial, which ended with a deadlocked jury, that the gun show was in Las Vegas. During the second trial, Locke said, Rudloff said the gun show was in Reno.

"He was the government's main witness against Mr. Kiles, and we proved he was lying," Locke said. "What more can you do?"

An FBI agent testified during the trial that a search of Patterson's home turned up the ingredients for a 33-pound to 40-pound ammonium nitrate fuel oil bomb. A government scientist from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory testified that had that bomb gone off at the tank farm, it would have created a blast large enough to do significant damage to homes more than a mile away.

Prosecutors contended that the plot was hatched as a means of prompting a declaration of martial law, which, according to the theory of the defendants, would galvanize militia members nationwide and lead to an overthrow of the federal government.

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