Daniel Cowart, Paul Schlesselman Charged with Threatening Obama
October 28, 2008
U.S. officials in the southern state
of Tennessee say they have arrested Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul
Schlesselman, 18 who had allegedly been plotting to kill
African-Americans including Democratic presidential candidate Barack
Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tennessee and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of
West Helena, Arkansas were charged in a federal complaint, Friday, Oct.
24, 2008. The Criminal Complaint charges Cowart and Schlesselman with
the illegal possession of a sawed off shotgun, conspiracy to rob a
federal firearms licensee, and making threats against a major candidate
for the office of president.
"The allegations set forth in this criminal complaint are serious and
will be treated as such," said Lawrence J. Laurenzi, Acting U.S.
Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. "The public can rest
assured that federal, state and local law enforcement are diligently
working together to investigate and prosecute the alleged activity."
According to the complaint, approximately one month ago, Cowart and
Schlesselman met via the internet through a mutual friend and both claim
to have very strong beliefs regarding "White Power" and "Skinhead"
philosophy. Cowart and Schlesselman began discussing going on a "killing
spree." The complaint further alleges that Cowart and Schlesselman
discussed robbing a gun shop (federal firearms licensee) in order to
gather weapons and ammunition. The complaint notes the defendants were
in possession of a sawed off shotgun.
On Oct. 20, 2008, Cowart allegedly traveled from Tennessee to Arkansas
to pick up Schlesselman in order to carry out their plan. The complaint
states that at this time, the defendants further discussed their killing
spree to include targeting a predominately African American school and
to continue their spree until their final act of violence, which would
be to attempt to assassinate Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. "The
U.S. Secret Service takes all threats against presidential candidates
seriously and is actively investigating the allegations," said Richard
Harlow, Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service-Memphis Field
Office. "The Secret Service does not comment on this type of
The complaint further notes that the defendants stated that they would
be willing to die during this attempt. According to the complaint, after
soliciting a friend to drive their car between 11 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2008,
and 2 a.m. on Oct. 22, 2008, the defendants made plans to rob a house,
but were diverted when they arrived and observed a dog and two cars at
the location. Cowart and Schlesselman then dropped Stafford back off at
her residence and then went to a local retail store and allegedly
purchased nylon rope and two ski masks.
"It is critical that the alleged plot was interrupted," said James
Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge of ATF. "We give credit to the
deputies of Crockett and Haywood Counties. All forces of law enforcement
have come together to stop this threat."
defendants were arrested on Oct. 22, 2008, by the Crockett County
Sheriff's Office. "Once we arrested the defendants and suspected they
had violated federal law, we immediately contacted federal authorities,"
said Sheriff Troy Klyce of Crockett County. "The Sheriff's Department is
committed to keeping Crockett County a safe place for all of our
Cowart and Schlesselman had their initial appearances in federal court
today and are scheduled to be back in court for a detention hearing on
Oct. 30, 2008, in Memphis, Tenn.
In August, local and federal
authorities in the city of Denver, Colorado, uncovered another possible
plot against Obama. They arrested four people and seized a cache of
weapons and illegal drugs.
Denver was the site of the Democratic National Convention that month.