But their plans blew up when a bomb they were working on exploded in a vacant house on April 5, 2016, prosecutors said. The blast cost one man his hands. The other admitted his guilt in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on Monday.
Roberto M. Innis Jr., 22, pleaded guilty to aggravated arson and to criminal use of an explosive device. Prosecutors and the defense attorney have recommended a 12-year prison term when Judge Colleen O'Donnell sentences him next Monday. Three other charges were dropped in a plea deal.
Alphonso D. Mobley Jr., 27, was working on a trigger when the device exploded, said Assistant County Prosecutor Joe Gibson. The blast and fire heavily damaged the house in the 600 block of South Hampton Road in the Eastmoor neighborhood.
Mobley lived across the street from the house and Innis lived in the same neighborhood.
The defendants were inside and Mobley was mixing triacetone triperoxide, the same explosive used in attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, Gibson said. A BBC report said terrorists call the unstable chemical "the mother of Satan" because it's prone to go off prematurely.
According to Innis, the plan was to trigger a flash device and leave behind a letter marked with swastikas and racial epithets about black police officers. The letter would have threatened more explosions at the school, said Assistant Prosecutor Warren Edwards.
During the confusion, the defendants would have pulled the robbery, Edwards said. They had yet to select a bank or school, he said.
The defendants are black. Because the letter included slurs against black officers, the defendants figured police "wouldn't be looking for African-American men," Gibson said. "It was another distraction."
Other containers of the explosive were found in the vacant house, fire officials said. They were too unstable to transport so they were destroyed in a controlled counter-explosion.
The men said they belonged to Sovereign Citizen, whose members claim the right to decide which laws to follow, from traffic tickets to taxes. Investigators said they probably belonged to an isolated cell not affiliated with a wider operation.
Mobley's case is pending.
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