On a rural compound just 11 miles from Disney World, Marcus Faella and his followers spent years stockpiling weapons and food, erecting barbed wire, and conducting elaborate paramilitary drills. Their goal, according to federal agents: igniting a "race war" in Central Florida.
Two years ago, the feds busted the Aryan compound before they could carry out any of their plans. Yesterday, Faella was sentenced for his role as the group's leader.
So what does plotting a race war carry in Florida these days? Just six months in jail, apparently.
Despite the flashy claims by FBI agents -- including alleged plans by Faella and his followers to obtain ricin, the deadly chemical agent, for a terrorist attack -- the case against him has been floundering in court, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Originally, 14 followers in his neo-Nazi group, American Front, were charged in the case, but ten of those cases were dropped by prosecutors without explanation. What was billed as the biggest domestic terrorism case in Florida history was bedeviled by difficulties proving that Faella was not only a guy with abhorrent views -- which, of course, is not a crime -- but also one who intended to carry out violence based on those views.
The defense lined up a litany of character witnesses who swore Faella would never condone violence, including his godfather, an ex-Marine who told the court: "If I thought for a second he was a terrorist, I'd crush him to death."
That goes directly against the picture FBI agents painted of the 39-year-old extremist. The feds paid an informant $40,000 to infiltrate the group and said they had gathered evidence of plots to attack Orlando City Hall.
In the end, a jury found Faella guity of two felony charges of teaching and conducting paramilitary training, meaning he won't be able to live on a compound with weapons whenever he's released. But that release will come quickly.
Circuit Judge Jon Morgan sentenced him yesterday to six months and gave him credit for 61 days served, meaning he could return home in about four months. His American Front followers yelled, "We love you, Mark!" after hearing the sentence, the Orlando Sentinel reports.