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Viper Militia members speak out at sentencing

March 20, 1997

PHOENIX (AP) _ Despite having pleaded guilty to weapons and explosives charges, members of the Viper Militia said they were merely protecting themselves by conspiring to make illegal bombs and posed no threat.

``Look at L.A. You saw police not walking but running away from that scene, that’s a very scary thing,″ militia member Henry Overturf said of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. ``I have to protect my family.″

Six of 12 militia members were sentenced Wednesday under plea bargains that resulted in jail terms. Four others were to be sentenced today and the remaining two are scheduled for trial.

When they were arrested in July, federal officials said a terrorist attack had been averted. But a federal agent testified later in court that no plot was imminent.

Among the evidence against the militia is a videotape made in 1994 in which members toured Phoenix and discussed how to destroy federal buildings.

Militia members said they unknowingly violated the law, saying they were more weapons and gun buffs than anything else. They accused federal investigators of trying to appear tough on domestic terrorism at their expense.

``We never perceived these things as subversive but rather an exercise of our constitutional rights,″ said Donna Williams, choking back tears at her sentencing.

Ms. Williams, 44, was sentenced to one year in prison. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally make unregistered explosives and has admitted attending gatherings at which explosives were made.

Overturf, 37, and Scott Shero, 31, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Overturf was sentenced to one year, Shero to two years.

Walter Sanville, 37, pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy charge as the others and two of having unregistered parts that could make a machine gun. He was sentenced to three 37-month terms, to be served concurrently.

Also sentenced were Ellen and David Belliveau.

Ms. Belliveau, 27, was sentenced to 37 months in prison. Her 27-year-old husband was sentenced to 57 months. The couple pleaded guilty to an additional conspiracy charge stemming from the videotape of plotting to use explosives ``in furtherance of civil disorder.″

Williams’ husband, Charles Knight, and Christopher Floyd both pleaded innocent and are scheduled for trial next week.

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