Texas-style radical politics took center stage last week at Minnesota's Federal district court in Minneapolis, as a trial which has involved anarchists, death threats and bomb-sniffing dogs paused Friday with a deadlocked jury.
David Guy McKay, of Austin, faces up to ten years in federal prison, for possessing eight Molotov cocktails. He allegedly made the devices and planned to use them during the GOP national convention in September, to firebomb police and Secret Service vehicles providing
security for the event. (Co-defendant Bradley Neil Crowder of Austin pleaded guilty to one charge last month, in a plea arrangement.)
The government's star witness is Brandon Michael Darby, a native of Pasadena, Texas, who was a prominent activist in Austin, before revealing in a letter posted on the Internet in December that he had become an FBI informant. Since then he has received a number of threats against his life.
Darby infiltrated a group of Austin and Houston area radical activists a year ago, as they made plans for protests at the Republican National Convention. Darby says he offered to work for the government to prevent violence. Last week, federal security agents swept the courtroom with bomb sniffing dogs before he took the stand, as McKay's defense portrayed Darby as a publicity-seeking wingnut who had entrapped the defendants.
Darby's cover was initially blown in October, when a FBI agent accidentally revealed his name during a pretrial hearing in Minneapolis. Many activists in Texas refused to believe the story, accusing reporter David Hanners of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press of spreading government-sponsored disinformation, until Darby confirmed the truth himself.
Evidence presented by the prosecutor included security video from a Minneapolis Wal-Mart, which showed McKay, Crowder and fellow activists Alex De Latorre, Larra Elliott, Esteban Tovar -- all Houston residents -- buying a gas can, two boxes of tampons (allegedly used as fuses for the Molotov cocktails), and such anarchist street-fighting gear as bolt cutters, elbow
pads, mouth guards, and crash helmets.
Elliot, sporting a multi-colored hairdo and prominent nose ring, took the stand Thursday for the defense, saying Darby was an unstable character who pressured McKay into violent protest. In his cross examination, assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Paulsen characterized her testimony as "evolving," pointing out discrepencies with previous statements she made to an investigator.
Jurors also viewed a video made by McKay, showing how to build riot shields from highway road construction barrels. Employing his fashion model girlfriend for the demonstration (dressed in all black and wearing a bandana mask), McKay posted the video on YouTube last summer.
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McKay and Crowder made 35 riot shields to fight the police in Minneapolis, and the group transported them to the convention in a U-Haul trailer.
The jury also saw a somewhat satirical recruiting video produced by the anarchist RNC Welcoming Committee, also posted on the Internet.
After the jury deadlocked Friday, Chief Judge Michael J. Davis sent them back to continue deliberations, which will resume this morning.
-- Bill Sasser