By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 15, 2010; B05
A former close friend of Collin McKenzie-Gude's testified Thursday that he bought bombmaking chemicals with McKenzie-Gude, who prosecutors say was amassing the material as part of a plan to try to kill Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Patrick Yevsukov, 18, took the stand on the first full day of a federal sentencing hearing for McKenzie-Gude, who pleaded guilty last year to possessing the chemicals. Yevsukov is expected to testify Friday about the alleged assassination planning. The hearing in Greenbelt -- which U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte said has turned into a "mini-trial" -- probably will extend into next week.
McKenzie-Gude, 20, of Bethesda, was arrested in summer 2008. He has never been charged with conspiring to kill or shoot anyone. But prosecutors say that he was motivated to do so and that he should be sentenced accordingly. To that end, they want Messitte to hear about conversations and activities that Yevsukov says took place between him and McKenzie-Gude.
Wearing a dark suit and speaking in a low, clear voice, Yevsukov testified about 10 feet from his former close friend. Yevsukov admitted that some of the chemicals that investigators found in McKenzie-Gude's bedroom were originally Yevsukov's. As his parents were going through marital problems, he testified, his father became the subject of a protective order. Yevsukov said his father wanted to get the chemicals out of the house.
"I asked Collin if he wanted them, and he said yes," Yevsukov said.
Yevsukov said he also sold McKenzie-Gude a gun safe for $200. McKenzie-Gude stored three semiautomatic rifles and two shotguns in the safe, which was also in his bedroom.
Yevsukov said he and McKenzie-Gude ordered a shipment of acid delivered to Yevsukov's home because McKenzie-Gude was worried that his parents would notice the delivery if it went to his house. After the shipment arrived, Yevsukov said, "we drove back to his house to divvy up the acid."
Part of what Yevsukov said played into McKenzie-Gude's defense. McKenzie-Gude has said that most of the chemicals found in his bedroom were Yevsukov's. That assertion is expected to be debated. Yevsukov said Thursday that only a "small percentage" had been his.
Yevsukov has cooperated with investigators almost from the start of the case and has an immunity deal with prosecutors.
Steven Kupferberg, McKenzie-Gude's attorney, has long said that Yevsukov gave inconsistent statements to investigators and has dismissed the alleged Obama plot as nonsense. He has said that McKenzie-Gude deserves to be released from jail, where he has been since his arrest in 2008. Prosecutors want him to spend at least 6 1/2 more years behind bars.
Yevsukov has pleaded guilty to two counts of manufacturing or possessing a destructive device. He is to be sentenced soon.
McKenzie-Gude also has pleaded guilty in a separate state court to a charge of attempted carjacking. He is to be sentenced for that at a later date.