Category: Archive

New charges sought for Florida arms defendants

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

United States prosecutors are preparing to file a second indictment that may include terrorism and further arms charges against the four Irish nationals suspected in an attempt to ship weapons from Florida to Ireland.

The U.S. government has requested 30 to 60 days to file a superseding indictment against the four defendants that may include charges relating to passport violations, weapons offenses and possible terrorism charges, according to a spokeswoman for the Miami U.S. Attorney’s office.

The four suspects, Conor Claxton, Siobhan Browne, Martin Mullan and Anthony Smyth, were arrested in Fort Lauderdale and Philadelphia in July after authorities unearthed what they alleged was an elaborate plot to buy and post handguns, shotguns and ammunition to Ireland.

Tens of weapons, disguised in packages containing toys and videos, were intercepted in Britain and Ireland, after allegedly being posted from Florida and Philadelphia. The four suspects are currently being held without bail on weapon smuggling charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. A conviction on terrorism charges carries a life sentence.

Daniel McElhatton, attorney for Mullan, said prosecutors had been threatening to file a second indictment for months. "I’ve been hearing this since the second time I appeared in court. If they have the evidence, what are they waiting for?" he said.

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McElhatton said the move to charge the four with terrorism offenses would shift the focus from the criminal to the political sphere and lead to consequences far beyond the case.

During questioning, one of the suspects, Conor Claxton, allegedly told investigators he was working for the IRA and that the weapons were to be used for assaults on RUC officers and British soldiers. Claxton’s attorney denied he made those remarks, but the allegations led to criticism over the state of Northern Ireland’s republican cease-fires.

Earlier last week, attorneys for the defendants requested that the judge also revisit the issue of bail. Prosecutors will continue to push for pre-trial incarceration for the four defendants, the Miami spokeswoman said.

A hearing on bonds for the defendants will be held on Friday, the spokeswoman said. The trial is likely to start in January after prosecutors asked the judge for a delay in proceedings because one government witness suffered a heart attack.

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