3 Not Guilty of Plot to Topple U.S. Government

From Associated Press

Jurors on Monday found three people not guilty of charges they tried to overthrow the government by force and then went home early without agreeing on racketeering charges remaining in a year-old trial.

The unusual partial verdict on the 19th day of deliberations showed that the federal court jurors were not impressed by the seditious conspiracy charges.

"I think the government was really overreaching, frankly," said Arthur Wolf, a professor at Western New England College of Law who has been following the case.

Prosecutors alleged the defendants were members of a dangerous terrorist band that plotted a string of bombings and bank robberies along the East Coast from 1976 to 1984 in a conspiracy to topple the U.S. government.

Two defendants, Raymond Levasseur and Richard Williams, are already serving lengthy terms for convictions in some of the bombings. Levasseur's wife, Patricia, is free on bail after serving 3 1/2 years of a five-year term for harboring a fugitive, her husband.

In addition to the three acquittals on seditious conspiracy, the partial verdict also cleared Patricia Levasseur of racketeering. Yet to be decided are charges of racketeering against the two men and charges of racketeering conspiracy against all three. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and $20,000 in fines.

U.S. District Judge William Young urged jurors to try to reach a complete verdict, but they responded with the announcement that they were taking the afternoon off and would resume today. Until Monday they had been deliberating each regular weekday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and working weekend days.

Wolf said the jury may have had trouble accepting the prosecution's argument that the little-known defendants were a serious threat to the government. Many of the bombings were conducted at night and some devices did not explode.

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