• Guilty verdict in Osceola County hate group leader's trial


    OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - The Osceola County jury hearing the case of a suspected white supremacist accused of planning a race war found Marcus Faella guilty on two counts of paramilitary training.

    Faella did not show emotion as the clerk read the guilty verdicts.

    The trial for Faella, the alleged leader of the American Front group, ran late into the night Thursday and closing arguments wrapped up early Friday.

    A judge on Thursday threw out two of the charges against Faella. The first charge to be thrown out was conspiracy to fire into a building. The state agreed the charge wasn't proven.

    The defense argued the case against Faella was weak and has been since the beginning of the trial, which is why he didn't take a plea deal offered by the state.

    But prosecutor Sarah Hatch fired back, saying, "(Faella's) intent wasn't to engage in peaceful protest. His intent was to participate in violence in the streets of Melbourne."

    On Thursday, the judge also granted an acquittal to the charge that Faella helped a convicted felon possess a firearm. It was the charge the state wanted Faella to plead guilty to as part of a plea deal he ultimately rejected.

    The state spent closing arguments focusing on the two remaining charges, which include paramilitary training by teaching and paramilitary training by participation.

    They showed jurors pictures of Faella and others dressed in military-style outfits and showed video of weapons training on Faella's property.

    Prosecutors told jurors that they didn't have to prove a specific plan, just show the group was doing the training for some sort of civil disorder.

    But the defense argued there was no proof, pointing out the state's star witness, a paid FBI informant, who said there was no criminal activity planned and admitted many of the evidence photos were from 2004.

    "You know what's happened since 2004? Not one single criminal act," said defense attorney Ronal Ecker.

    The informant told jurors the group never targeted anyone based on race, color or religion and in fact, it never targeted anyone to commit a crime.

    Ecker added that most of the state's case is based on portraying Faella as a racist.

    "Because he's a hate mongering racist, he must be planning something in the future," argued Ecker.

    The informant did say there was talk about trying to incite a riot by protesting a communist group in Melbourne. However, he admitted nothing was set in stone.

    Faella is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 10.

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