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Last updated 2:46AM ET
March 5, 2021
Sentencing Looms For Alabama Militia Leaders
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Defense lawyers hope to shave years off the possible prison terms of two men who face sentencing Tuesday for their roles in a ragtag militia that stockpiled homemade hand grenades and other weapons in northeast Alabama.

While a prosecutor said James Ray McElroy of Collinsville and Randall Garrett Cole of Gadsden could get sentences of around four years each based on federal sentencing guidelines, attorneys for the men want to cut their punishment to as little as 15 months in prison.

Sentencing will be held later for three other men who pleaded guilty in the case, two of whom could testify against the alleged leader of the group.

A defense lawyer said he expects Cole to testify during a hearing Tuesday about his role in the so-called Free Militia, which authorities have described as an anti-government, anti-Hispanic band that made and stored dozens of weapons, many of which were seized in raids around Collinsville.

"I think he'll come across as the 22-year-old kid he is," said James E. Harris, a lawyer for Cole. Leaders of the group were much older, Harris said, and Cole and the 20-year-old McElroy "were manipulated."

Both Harris and Hube Dodd, a lawyer for McElroy, have filed papers trying to reduce their clients' potential punishment.

Members of the group have described it was being so unorganized it didn't even have a name, and many of its activities were centered around a ramshackle camper that lacked running water or electricity. McElroy, 20, lived outdoors under an awning near the camper.

But a prosecutor said authorities are ready with evidence if McElroy and Cole claim that members didn't consider themselves to be part of a militia.

"If they want to get into it we are prepared," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Whisonant.

McElroy and Cole were among five men who pleaded guilty in June to federal weapons charges stemming from a series of raids in April in northeast Alabama.

Agents said they discovered 130 hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to fire from a rifle, a machine gun, a sawed-off shotgun, 2,500 rounds of ammunition, explosives components, stolen fireworks and other items.

Raymond Keith Dillard, Bonnell Hughes and Adam Lynn Cunningham also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later.

All the men denied having any particular target and said they were stockpiling weapons for their own protection.

Court documents show Dillard and Hughes provided agents with information that helped lead to the arrest in June of William J. Hudson of Birmingham, the alleged leader of the militia.

Sentencing dates have not been set for Dillard and Hughes, and court documents indicate they could testify for the government at the trial of Hudson, tentatively set for Oct. 1.

Another man who knew members of the group, 30-year-old Michael Wayne Bobo of Trussville, was arrested the day of the raids on charges of being a drug user in possession of a firearm. Authorities do not believe Bobo was directly involved with the others.

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