Faella, 41, was originally charged with conspiring to shoot into a building, two counts of conducting paramilitary training and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the Orlando Sentinel reported. But after two days of testimony, two of the charges against Faella were dismissed. He was convicted of two counts of teaching and conducting paramilitary training and faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced in November.
Throughout the trial, prosecutor Sarah Hatch described the American Front leader as a racist who trained his followers for an impending race war.
“This is not just some carnival game,” Hatch told jurors. “If you’re discussing specifically how to use that weapon in combat with actual people … it’s difficult to make the argument that throwing a knife in the back of someone running away from you is a self-defense tactic.”
At the time of their arrests, prosecutors alleged the American Front members were planning acts of violence and preparing for “an inevitable race war” in which they would kill Jews, immigrants and other minorities. Court documents described a compound that featured fortified gun entrenchments, barbed wire and firing ports cut into the side of Faella’s mobile home.
American Front’s roots in Florida date back to the 1980s when its late founder, David Lynch, lived there before moving to California. He led a major resurgence of the group about five years ago before he wasmurdered in his Sacramento home in March 2011. His murder remains unsolved.
In the two years since the arrests, Central Florida’s largest domestic-terrorism case began to fall apart when defense attorneys were able to question a government informant under oath and view a secretly made video of training on Faella’s property. The video showed American Front members firing guns and making racially charged statements, but their defense attorney argued that it showed no criminal activity.
A handful of the members were convicted, including Christopher Brooks, 28, who was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Luke Leger, 32, and Kent McLellan, 22, each received four years probation after pleading no contest to charges of participating in training. But in April 2013, prosecutors suddenly announced they were dismissing charges without explanation against many of the defendants. Those whose charges were dismissed include Verlin C. Lewis, 40, of Lynn Haven, Fla.; Mark McGowan, 29, and Jennifer McGowan, 25, of Canaveral Groves, Fla.; Diane Stevens, 28, Dustin Perry, 27, and Richard Stockdale, 23, all of Kissimmee, Fla.; and Paul Jackson, 24, of St. Cloud, Fla.
While Faella said nothing in the courtroom, and did not testify, his defense team accused the state of exaggerating Faella’s beliefs based on images they showed the jury, including one that depicted the American Front logo beneath a man’s body hanging by a nose from a telephone poll. Another showed armed masked men lighting a Molotov cocktail above a message that read: “Because racial survival is never on the ballot.”
“You know what’s happened since 2004? Not a single thing—not a single criminal act,” Ronald L. Ecker II, Faella’s defense attorney, said during the two-week trial.
Faella’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 10. He faces up to 15 years in prison for each count.