Suspects in plot to kill Obama plead not guilty

20-year-old Daniel Cowart and 18-year-old Paul Schlesselman
20-year-old Daniel Cowart and 18-year-old Paul Schlesselman

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Two white supremacists pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges in what authorities say was a plot to kill President-elect Barack Obama and dozens of other black people.

"Most of the time, reality is not fantasy," Daniel Cowart's attorney Joe Byrd said.

Byrd suggested the suspected plot to go a killing spree was just chatter or fantasy on the internet.

"White top hats and tuxedos? You tell me," Byrd said.

But the federal government and a federal grand jury strongly disagree.

This indictment, handed down Wednesday, charges Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, with 5 counts involving guns and weapons charges and one count of threatening to kill a presidential candidate.

The indictment also details the pair's reported racist plot over a month and a half time period to steal firearms from a weapons store, purchase ski masks, ammunition, and rope for robberies, and saw off a shotgun then go on killing spree.

Law enforcement arrested the pair October 20th when an acquaintance tipped off authorities in Cowart's hometown of Bells, Tennessee.

"The government's got a case to prove," Byrd said. "You may have exposure on some things you don't have exposure on other things. There can be things that a defendant is charged with that the government can't prove."
In an ironic twist, the other suspected skinhead, Schlesselman is represented by public defender Doris Holt, a well respected African American female attorney. She did not offer a comment.

"They'll be some motions filed well probably today actually. Within the next seven days obtained discovery from the US attorney's office review that review that with the client," Byrd said.

Their arrests were made public Oct. 27 and they are being held without bond. If convicted, the pair is facing a maximum 50 years in prison and a $540,000 fine.

Click here to e-mail Andrew Douglas.

Click here to read the indictment.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)