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FBI — Bogus Election Spawned Assassination Plot

After being elected "true governor" of Washington state in 1998 by an antigovernment group, James D. Brailey plots to kill actual governor Gary Locke.

When an antigovernment group in Washington elected James D. Brailey as "true governor" of the state in 1998, the members surely had no idea how seriously Brailey would take his duties. After he was arrested in January for firearms violations, federal investigators said the 43-year-old had been plotting ever since his mock election to kill Washington's actual governor, Gary Locke.

"Brailey hates Governor Locke because he believes he is the only true governor of this state," FBI Special Agent James Keesling wrote in his criminal complaint. "Brailey also hates Governor Locke because of his ethnicity." Locke, who delivered the Democratic response to this year's State of the Union address, is Chinese-American.

Court documents allege that Brailey's hatred for Locke began to boil over during his time in the Jural Society, which believes federal and state governments are illegitimate and works toward the establishment of a "people's government" based on British common law. The local chapter, which meets regularly in Ellensburg, conducts its own elections for state offices, including the one in which Brailey was voted "true governor."

After his election, Brailey allegedly started making dry runs to the state Capitol in Olympia, armed at least once with a rifle, two handguns and an explosive mine. He got close enough on that occasion to see the governor, Brailey told a friend who informed authorities about the plot, but the time wasn't right.

In 2001, the Jural Society voted Brailey out of the group, reportedly because members were worried about his increasingly violent tendencies. But court documents say Brailey stayed in touch with Society members and also hung out with adherents of Christian Identity, a wildly racist and anti-Semitic theology.

On New Year's Eve, Brailey traveled to an Identity meeting in Arkansas with another informant, who told the FBI that Brailey still had plans to kill Locke. Two weeks later, federal and state officials raided Brailey's residence outside of Olympia, carting out several boxes full of evidence and arresting Brailey for illegally possessing two loaded handguns.

At press time, Brailey had not been charged in the alleged plot to kill Gov. Locke. But when he appeared in court on the gun charges, Brailey stuck to his common-law beliefs. Acting as his own lawyer, Brailey deluged prosecutors with legal briefs arguing that the court has no jurisdiction over him because he is not truly a citizen of Washington or the United States, but "a free, white inhabitant on the soil in original jurisdiction Washington."