Nine Plead Guilty in Plot to Overthrow Suriname
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Nine of the 14 people accused of plotting to overthrow the military government of Suriname pleaded guilty Thursday to lesser charges.
Five others, including alleged ringleader Tommy Lynn denley of Grenada, Miss., remain charged with Neutrality Act violations and are scheduled for trial Sept. 22.
U.S. Attorney John Volz said federal prosecutors allowed nine of the suspects to plead guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge because they agreed to cooperate with the FBI and U.S. Customs officials. Also, he said, they apparently were not leaders of the plot.
″They were merely foot soldiers,″ Volz said. ″And the others were commanders.″
Violations of the Neutrality Act carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
The weapons charge to which the nine pleaded guilty Thursday involved carrying dangerous weapons on to an aircraft. It carries a top penalty of either a $100,000 fine, or a year in prison and a $10,000 fine.
U.S. District Judge Lansing Mitchell set an Oct. 29 sentencing date.
News of the plot broke July 28. Several of the suspects were arrested at the airport in Hammond, where they supposedly were preparing to board a plane for the South American country. Others were arrested in New Orleans and Lafayette.
Those who pleaded guilty to the weapons charges Thursday are: Michael Johnson, 18, of New Orleans; Homer Phillips, 31, of Harrisburg, Mo.; Jamie Bright, 30, of Marion, Ohio; Vanus Livingston, 56, of Sugar Tree, Tennessee; Fred Rich, 41, of Columbia, Missouri; Steven Green, 25, of Evansville, Indiana; Ray Livingston, 25, of Jefferson, Louisiana; Roger McGrady, 36, of Sacramento, California and Daniel Lee Marchand, 29, of Tennyson, Indiana.
All but three of those nine men already were free on bond before Thursday’s hearing. Rich, Bright and Green were released on $50,000 bond after entering their pleas.
The five still facing prosecution include Johnson’s mother, Barbara Johnson, 45, of New Orleans.