Inmate Robert D. Stewart, an extremist with ties to the militia and sovereign citizen movements, was sentenced to twenty-four years in prison by a federal court in Arizona for soliciting the murder of a U.S. District Court judge.
Stewart, 64, of Mesa, Arizona, was serving time on a federal weapons conviction at a federal prison near Phoenix when he offered fellow inmate August Weiss $100,000 in machine guns and cash to kill Judge Roslyn Silver. Silver presided over the May 2002 trial in which Stewart was convicted of illegally possessing 30 firearms, including machine guns.
According to an FBI affidavit, Stewart told Weiss that "there's a federal judge and some prosecutors that I'd like offed." Stewart also suggested that assassinating a judge would set off "a 'copy cat' string of murders of government officers…by the militia."
Weiss revealed the plot to authorities, who then recorded a conversation in which Stewart gave a description of the judge and where she could be located. Prosecutor Patrick Schneider said that Stewart requested that the judge's head be cut off and "hung from a pole."
During his November 20, 2003, sentencing, Stewart, formerly a history teacher, said the case against him was a setup and cited Waco and Ruby Ridge as examples of how the FBI falsifies evidence. Stewart refused to recognize the federal government's authority over him, claiming the government has power to enforce only three criminal laws: treason, counterfeiting and crimes on the high seas; an argument common to adherents of the sovereign citizen movement.
A U.S. attorney charged Stewart with one count of retaliating against a federal judge and two counts of lying to the FBI. Stewart was previously convicted on charges of possessing machine guns in Utah in 1994. Because of this conviction, it was illegal for Stewart to possess firearms. However, Stewart later achieved fame and notoriety among militia groups for manufacturing and selling "Maadi-Griffin" .50 caliber weapon kits. In June 2000, various firearms and kits to build .50 caliber weapons were found in Stewart's home by federal agents, prompting the arrest and trial over which Judge Silver presided.