WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Memphis has returned a 10-count superseding indictment today adding to the charges against two men in an alleged plot to murder African-Americans, the Justice Department announced.
Daniel G. Cowart and Paul M. Schlesselman are charged with conspiracy, interstate unlawful transportation of an unregistered firearm, interstate transportation of a firearm with the intent to commit a felony, transporting a short-barreled shotgun across state lines without a license, unlawful possession of a short-barreled shotgun and threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon a major presidential candidate. The indictment also charges Cowart with damage to religious property and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.
The indictment alleges that beginning on Sept. 1, 2008, and continuing until Oct. 22, 2008, Cowart and Schlesselman conspired to engage in a killing spree of African-Americans on streets and sidewalks. The indictment also alleges that beginning on or about Sept. 1, 2008, and continuing until Oct. 22, 2008, Cowart and Schlesselman conspired to transport firearms and ammunition in interstate commerce, steal firearms from a licensed firearms dealer and transport in interstate commerce a short-barreled shotgun, all for the purpose of committing murders, robberies and burglaries.
The indictment alleges that on Oct. 20, 2008, the two unlawfully transported an unregistered short barreled shotgun across state lines, transported the shotgun and a .357 magnum caliber handgun across state lines for the purpose of committing felonies, including the racially targeted murders, and transported a short barreled shotgun across state lines without a license.
Further, the indictment alleges that on Oct. 23, 2008, Schlesselman threatened to kill and inflict bodily harm on President-elect Barack Obama, who was a presidential candidate at the time, and that Cowart threatened to kill and inflict bodily harm on then-candidate Obama, on May 16, 2008.
The indictment goes on to allege that on Oct. 21, 2008, Cowart damaged Allen Baptist Church in Brownsville, Tenn., and that Cowart used a firearm during a crime of violence.
Cowart faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted, and could face up to 90 years in prison. Schlesselman faces up to 60 years in prison.
Cowart and Schlesselman were previously indicted on the firearms conspiracy, firearms and threats charges on Nov. 5, 2008. The two were arrested on Oct. 22, 2008, by the Crockett County Sheriff’s Office.
An indictment is only an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Secret Service; the FBI; and the Crockett County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Powell and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti.