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Utah militia leader's case slowed as lawyer eyes recordings

Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office

Utah militia leader's case slowed as lawyer eyes recordings

By Brady McCombs, Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 28, 2016 at 9:07 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Numerous hours of secretly recorded video and audio taken by undercover FBI agents has bogged down the case of a Utah militia group leader accused of trying to blow up a federally owned cabin.

A trial date for William Keebler was pushed back indefinitely Friday after his attorney said he had only reviewed a fraction of the recorded evidence.

Lawyer Lynn Donaldson agreed to scrap a September trial date even though his client is jailed while awaiting the proceeding.

Donaldson said reviewing the evidence is painstaking work, with some footage showing hours of people driving. But he says he can't skip over anything as he builds the defense case.

"You never know if they'll be a phone call or sometimes people have a conversation that is important," he said.

Authorities say Keebler, 57, was arrested in June in the northern Arizona area of Mount Trumbull when he triggered a remote device that he believed would set off an explosive device at the door of the Bureau of Land Management cabin.

The device was actually inert and harmless, built by undercover FBI agents who had infiltrated a small group of people headed by Keebler.

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Keebler has pleaded not guilty to attempting to damage federal property and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. Donaldson has said his client is a tough talker but not dangerous.

Keebler's friends contend he was unfairly set up by the FBI after he was accused of participating in a 2014 armed standoff with federal officials at Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch over unpaid grazing fees.

Lor Potts, a friend who was at the ranch, accused the FBI of coercing Keebler into committing a crime and federal prosecutors of "overwhelming the system" with evidence to keep Keebler behind bars.

"They make it out like everyone at the Bundy ranch was just so violent," Potts said. "All of us are just people who want (the federal government) to stop their shenanigans."

Prosecutors say Keebler was angry about public land policies when he scouted a mosque, BLM office and U.S. military facilities as possible targets before choosing the rural Arizona cabin.

At a previous hearing, prosecutors played videos of Keebler talking about his plans to damage government buildings and vehicles.

Brady McCombs

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