Sister says suspect in Obama plot is sorry

By: AP
By: AP
The family of one of two suspects accused of plotting to decapitate black people and assassinate Barack Obama said Tuesday the teen disliked blacks and considered himself part of a "master race," but they doubted the plot was serious. Paul Schlesselman, 18, had dropped out of school and was looking for work, his family told The Associated Press at their rural Arkansas home Tuesday.

This undated photo obtained from a MySpace webpage shows Daniel Cowart, 20 of Bells, Tenn. holding a weapon. Federal agents have broken up a plot to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. and shoot or decapitate 102 black people in a Tennessee murder spree, the ATF said Monday Oct. 27, 2008. In court records unsealed Monday, federal agents said they disrupted plans to rob a gun store and target a predominantly African-American high school by two neo-Nazi skinheads. The men, Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman 18, of West Helena, Ark., are being held without bond. (AP Photo) ** NO SALES ** ** AP provides access to this photo to be used only to illustrate news reporting or commentary on the facts or events surrounding the plot to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and murder 102 black people in Tennessee.**

HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (AP) -- The family of one of two suspects accused of plotting to decapitate black people and assassinate Barack Obama said Tuesday the teen disliked blacks and considered himself part of a "master race," but they doubted the plot was serious. Paul Schlesselman, 18, had dropped out of school and was looking for work, his family told The Associated Press at their rural Arkansas home Tuesday.

They believed he was in Texas when the Secret Service arrived Friday to seize a computer hard drive and notebooks of drawings.

"He just believes that he's the master race," said his sister, Kayla Schlesselman, 16, adding that she would often argue with him about his racial beliefs. "He would just say things like 'white power' and 'Sieg Heil' and 'Heil Hitler.'"

But she and her father, Mike, both said they didn't believe he was capable of carrying out an attack. "I think it's just a lot of talk. He would never do something like this," his father said.

Schlesselman is charged along with Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn. with planning the spree. Authorities described the two as white supremacists who met on the Internet about a month ago. The charges were made public Monday.

Kayla Schlesselman said she spoke with her older brother Monday night, and that he expressed regret. "He said he's sorry about everything he's done," she said.

Despite making sure the plot was stopped, authorities did not believe Cowart and Schlesselman had the means to carry out their threat to assassinate Obama, said a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Asked whether the two suspects had Obama's schedule or plans to kill him at a specific time or place, a second law enforcement official who also was not authorized to speak publicly said, "I don't think they had that level of detail."

Cowart and Schlesselman are charged by federal authorities with possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer and threatening a candidate for president. They were being held without bond.

Authorities describe the two as neo-Nazi skinheads, and an affidavit from a federal agent says they devised a plot to kill 88 people - beheading 14 of them.

The numbers 14 and 88 are symbols in skinhead culture, authorities said, referring to a 14-word phrase attributed to an imprisoned white supremacist: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children" and to the eighth letter of the alphabet, H. Two "8"s or "H"s stand for "Heil Hitler."

The two were taken into custody the night of Oct. 22, according to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives Agent Brian Weeks. Authorities pulled them over because they had shot out the window of a church and used sidewalk chalk to draw racially motivated words, the numbers 14 and 88 and a swastika on Cowart's car, he said.

The killing spree was initially to target a predominantly black school, which was not identified in court documents. It was to end, authorities said, with the two suspects - dressed in white tuxedos and top hats - blasting guns from the windows of a speeding vehicle aimed at Obama.

The young men said they expected to die in the attack, the affidavit said.

Authorities have said they took the threats seriously. Obama's campaign has not commented on the allegations.

"Even if they were just to try it, it would be a trail of tears around the South," said Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville, Tenn., field office for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives.

Associated Press writers Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tenn., Jon Gambrell in Little Rock, Ark., and Eileen Sullivan and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.

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