Men Plead Not Guilty in Alleged Plot To Kill Obama

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 2008

Two men loosely affiliated with the white supremacy movement pleaded not guilty yesterday to conspiracy and firearms charges in what authorities describe as a plot to assassinate President-elect Barack Obama.

Daniel G. Cowart, 20, of Tennessee, and Paul M. Schlesselman, 18, of Arkansas, are being held without bail in a Tennessee prison after local law enforcement officials arrested them last month. They appeared yesterday before a federal magistrate in Memphis. Both men could face more than a decade behind bars if convicted of involvement in the alleged conspiracy.

The men hatched a plan to steal weapons, ambush a predominately African American school and then attack Obama at a rally, while wearing white top hats and tails, according to a sworn statement last week by federal agent Brian Weaks.

Government officials said the plot was not operational, but nonetheless, it raised alarms about the potential for violent threats against Obama, who will become the nation's first black president.

Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi, who is leading the case, said the investigation by prosecutors and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives continues.

Attorneys for Cowart and Schlesselman had no immediate comment.

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