News and Press Releases

Arkansas Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring
to Commit Murders of African-Americans

Plot Included Then- Presidential Candidate Barack Obama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 14, 2010

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice today announced that Paul Schlesselman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, one count of threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon a presidential candidate, and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.  Schlesselman faces a sentence of 10 years under the plea agreement.  A sentencing date of April 15, 2010, was set by Judge J. Daniel Breen, who is presiding over the case in Jackson, Tennessee.

Schlesselman of West Helena, Ark., admitted to conspiring to murder dozens of people, with a focus on murdering African-Americans.  He further acknowledged that he intended to culminate his killing spree by assassinating then-Senator Barack Obama, who was a presidential candidate at the time.

“Despite great civil rights progress, hate-fueled violence remains all too common in our country, as illustrated by this unthinkable conspiracy,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “Tragedy was averted thanks to the capable work of the Crockett County Sheriff’s Department and their willingness to work with the ATF, the Secret Service and the FBI.”

"Crimes committed against individuals because of their race will not be tolerated,” said Lawrence J. Laurenzi, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.  “I commend the work of the investigative agencies in thwarting what could have been a series of tragic events.”

Schlesselman admitted that beginning on or about Sept. 1, 2008, and continuing until Oct. 22, 2008, he 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.

Schlesselman further acknowledged that on Oct. 20, 2008, he unlawfully transported an unregistered short barreled shotgun and a .357 magnum caliber handgun across state lines for the purpose of committing felonies, including racially targeted murders.

Schlesselman also admitted that on Oct. 23, 2008, he threatened to kill and inflict bodily harm on President Barack Obama, who was a presidential candidate at the time.

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 U.S. Attorney Larry Laurenzi, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Powell and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti.

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