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Three Viper Militia members plead guilty

December 28, 1996

PHOENIX (AP) _ Three more members of the Viper Militia pleaded guilty Friday to explosives charges, six months after they and 9 cohorts were arrested on far more serious allegations of plotting to blow up buildings.

Scott Shero, Henry Overturf and Walter Sanville pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally make and possess explosive devices. Sanville also pleaded guilty to two charges of illegally possessing machine-gun parts.

The plea bargain calls for one to nearly three years in prison for Shero, 1 to 1 1/2 years for Overturf, and three to nearly four years for Sanville.

Two other defendants pleaded guilty Dec. 19, and the government said Friday that at least five more were negotiating plea bargains.

The 12 were arrested in July, with federal officials saying the paramilitary group was plotting to blow up federal buildings around the city. At the time, President Clinton said ``a terrible terrorist attack″ had been averted.

But the indictment charged them only with lesser conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges, and defense attorneys accused the government of exaggerating the danger posed by the group.

The Militia members’ lawyers said they were merely weapons and explosives aficionados who dressed up in camouflage for fun and were guilty only of blowing up cactuses in the desert.

Investigators eventually conceded that the group neither posed an imminent threat nor had a specific plot, and a federal judge released six members before trial, saying they were not a danger.

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