A federal judge in Idaho delivered a pointed message to an ailing militia leader caught amassing an “arsenal of firearms and ammunition” and building improvised bombs in fear of an imminent invasion of the United States by “communists.”
It was “far-fetched” to think the arsenal of weapons and homemade bombs “would have any impact one way or another if there was an invasion from a communist country,” Judge Edward Lodge told Kenneth Bernard Kimbley, the self-styled leader of the Brotherhood of American Patriots.
The 60-year-old militia leader’s defense attorney previously told the court her client was inspired by his idol, the conspiracy-mongering Fox News host Glenn Beck, and really didn’t intend to harm anyone.
But with a lengthy history of drug abuse and a felony record for assaulting his girlfriend with a handgun, Kimbley couldn’t legally possess or sell firearms or ammunition. Nonetheless, ignoring the law, he amassed an arsenal, including more than 22,000 rounds of ammunition and assault rifles, illegally sold a handgun, and was teaching others in his militia group how to build bombs, federal authorities said. He pleaded guilty in November to attempting to make explosive devices and illegal possession of a firearm.
This Monday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Kimbley was sentenced to a year and a day in prison – equal to nine months if he gets credit for good behavior – far less than the 46 months recommended by Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whalen. When he is released from prison, Kimbley also must serve one year of home confinement as a condition of three years of probation and serve 100 hours of community service — talking to school children about the evils of bombbuilding. He was allowed to self-report to prison, and will get credit for five months already served.
“The defendant built improvised explosive devices (and) more alarmingly taught others how to build IEDs,” the federal prosecutor said in a sentencing memorandum.
One of those invited to Kimbley’s bombbuilding lessons was an undercover FBI agent, assigned to the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force, who infiltrated the Brotherhood of American Patriots militia. The agent drove up to the militia’s secret headquarters in North Idaho in July 2010 in a motor home secretly wired for sound and video, court documents disclose.
When the IED-making got to a dangerous point, just short of complete assembly, the documents say, the agent suggested the group step outside the motor home for a cigarette break. As they went outside, Kimbley and co-defendant Steven Winegar were arrested by other agents. Winegar, with no prior felony record, has since been sentenced to eight months of home detention and five years of probation.
“When a felon carries a gun or builds and teaches other to build an IED, society is at risk,” said Whalen, the prosecutor. Her recommendation of 46 months in prison took into account a downward departure from a standard range of 63 to 78 months in exchange for Kimbley’s cooperation with federal authorities. Although Kimbley and his militia group didn’t directly harm anyone, their activities put others at risk, Whalen told the court.
Since his arrest a year ago, Kimbley, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and is undergoing treatment, public defender Kim Deater told the judge, urging the court not to send her client to federal prison. Kimbley was not plotting an overthrow of the U.S. government or violence directed at others and, in fact, he thought it was only right to pay federal income taxes, Deater told the court.
Instead, he and his Brotherhood of American Patriots were “worried about an invasion” of the United States, and that’s why they collected firearms and built IEDs, Deater said. “They were worried about the Russians, they were worried about the Chinese.”
Asked to address the court, Kimbley said he now realizes his final days would be better spent with his grandchildren instead of a militia. “I realize that I was in the wrong,” he said. “I can tell you there will never ever be another firearm in my home. I just pray for some forgiveness. That’s all I have to say, your honor.”