Prosecutors: 'Anarchist' group of U.S. soldiers aimed to overthrow government
updated 6:20 AM EDT, Tue August 28, 2012
- Burnett: The group killed a fellow soldier because he was a "loose end"
- The four men became part of a group that aimed "to give the government back to the people," he says
- The group plotted a number of domestic terror acts, a prosecutor says
- Fort Stewart says it does not have a gang or militia problem
Dressed in his Army uniform, Pfc. Michael Burnett spoke in a Long County court about the group of Army soldiers and its role in the December deaths of a former soldier Michael Roark and his teenage girlfriend Tiffany York. Roark, he said, was killed because he allegedly took money from the group and planned to leave.
"I don't know how it got to the point where two people got murdered," Burnett said in court.
Burnett talked about how he and three others accused -- Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon -- had first begun getting together "just going out shooting guns, just guy stuff."
"And then Aguigui introduced me to 'the manuscript,' that's what he called it, a book about true patriots," the soldier said.
The four men became part of a group that aimed "to give the government back to the people," according to Burnett, who admitted that revolution was its goal. They called it FEAR -- Forever Enduring Always Ready, and spent thousands buying guns and bomb parts.
The government needed a change, Burnett told the court. "I thought we were the people who would be able to change it."
Assistant District Attorney Isabel Pauley said it was "unknown" how many others belonged to the group. She identified Aguigui as the leader of what she described as "an anarchist group and militia" that included active and former troops.
"Defendant Aguigui actively recruited new members at Fort Stewart and targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned," she said.
At the time of their arrest, group members had plotted a number of "acts of domestic terror," the prosecutor said.
These included "forcibly taking over the ammo control point of Fort Stewart to take the post, bombing vehicles of local and state judicial and political figureheads and federal representatives to include the local department of homeland security, (and plotting) to bomb the fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah."
Days before he died, Roark had been discharged from the army, according to Pauley.
Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend were killed because Aguigui felt the couple was "a loose end," said Burnett.
"Sir, if I could have stopped this from happening, I would have," the soldier told the judge about the couple's killings.
Burnett admitted being at the scene of the crime, including watching as a soldier "checked (York's) pulse and then shot her again."
York's sister, Tiffany, told CNN affiliate WTOC, she hoped York "didn't have to beg, or suffer."
As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Burnett pleaded guilty to manslaughter -- instead of murder, thus avoiding a possible death sentence -- and other charges. He also agreed to testify against the three other soldiers accused in the case.
All four soldiers had also been charged by the military. But as their case proceeded through the civilian courts, the Army dismissed its charges, according to Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson.
The military's Criminal Investigative Division (CID) probe is still ongoing, though it is not believed there are any "unknown subjects" -- or people besides those four men -- tied to these crimes, Larson said.
All four implicated soldiers are active members of the U.S. Army, the spokesman added.
Larson, the military spokesman, insisted in his statement Monday that Fort Stewart and its affiliated Hunter Army Airfield "does not have a gang or militia problem."
"Any suspicions of gang activity are actively investigated by CID, (which) recognizes the obvious concerns with the combination of gangs and military-type training," said Larson. "That is why CID monitors and investigates gang and extremist group association with criminal acts in the Army so closely. We believe the reason we are able to maintain a low gang criminal threat status is because of the awareness of and focus on the threat."
Located in southeast Georgia about 40 miles southwest of Savannah, Fort Stewart is home to the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
Tens of thousands of troops, their dependents, civilian personnel and contractors live and work on the base, which encompasses 280,000 acres and includes parts of five counties including Long County, which has about 14,500 residents. The Hunter Army Airfield is located in Savannah but officially part of the larger Fort Stewart complex.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks what it characterizes as "hate groups" nationwide, spoke to Aguigui's father Monday night.
"I served my country for 20 years and I honor that, take pride in that," Ed Aguigui told the center. " I don't know what my son's views are, and where they came from."