Man pleads guilty in 2008 plot to kill Obama

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee white supremacist pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he plotted to kill then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and dozens of other black people in 2008.

Daniel Cowart, 21, of Bells pleaded guilty to eight counts of a 10-count indictment accusing him of conspiracy, numerous federal firearms violations, destruction of church property and threatening to kill a presidential candidate.

Under a plea deal, lawyers on both sides agreed to recommend that Cowart serve between 12 and 18 years in prison. However, terms of the agreement allow U.S. District Judge J. Daniel Breen to ignore the request and sentence Cowart to considerably more time.

But if the judge ignores the recommendations, Cowart would have the option of withdrawing his guilty plea.

A co-defendant in the case, 19-year-old Paul Schlesselman of Helena-West Helena, Ark., pleaded guilty in January to his role in the plot. He is awaiting sentencing.

Authorities have described the pair as white supremacist skinheads who met over the Internet and hatched a plan to go on a cross-country robbery and killing spree that would end with an attack on Obama.

Their plan was to kill 88 African-Americans and behead 14 others before trying to take out Obama. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist movement.

Cowart, a slight man who wore a gray and white inmate jumpsuit at a hearing Monday, told Breen he had an 11th grade education and got a general equivalency diploma after dropping out of school.

He showed little emotion during the hearing.

A lawyer representing Cowart declined to say anything on behalf of his client, but suggested that more will be revealed about the defendant during sentencing.

"We'll have a sentencing hearing in July and we'll put a lot of proof on that will be persuasive," attorney Joe Byrd said after the hearing.

Investigators have said both men believed they'd die while trying to get to the presidential candidate, but they plotted to fire on him from a speeding car while wearing white tuxedoes and top hats.

Authorities said the two never got close to carrying out their plans, but had enough firepower to create carnage.

The court hearing outlined how the pair was going to proceed with their plot. Cowart sent photographs and floor plans of a gun shop in the Jackson area that the 2 of them planned to rob to get weapons for the spree.

Schlesselman contacted a friend in Texas who would harbor them and tried to reach somebody else in California who would give the pair shelter as they traveled state to state killing people. They also purchased ski masks to use during robberies, along with nylon rope.

The pair were arrested in October 2008 at Cowart's grandparents' home in rural West Tennessee, where they had both been living. Authorities seized a sawed-off shotgun, a high-powered rifle, a handgun and several swords and knives.

Cowart's car was emblazoned with a large swastika and the numbers 14 and 88 on the hood. It also said "Honk if you love Hitler."

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