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2 Held in Plot to Kill Politicians and Investigator

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police seized canisters of radioactive material, a cache of weapons and anti-government “freemen” literature from a house in Bellport, N.Y., Thursday, after arresting two men and charging them in a bizarre plot to kill local politicians and an investigator.

According to detectives, the plan was to contaminate the victims with radium.

“As bizarre as it sounds, [the defendants] were overheard plotting the assassination of local political officials by using, among other things, radioactive materials,” said Suffolk County Dist. Atty. James M. Catterson Jr.

Catterson said one of those targeted for a slow death by radium poisoning was Suffolk County Republican Chairman John Powell.

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“They planned to spread it in the seat of his car . . . and in his food so he would contract incurable diseases and cause his death,” the district attorney told a news conference at which the weapons were displayed.

Also targeted, Catterson said, were Suffolk County legislator Fred Towle and Anthony Gazzola, the chief investigator for the town of Brookhaven, N.Y.

Police arrested John J. Ford, 47, a retired Suffolk County court officer, and Joseph Mazzachelli, 42, a convicted felon, and charged them with conspiracy to commit murder using radioactive material. The investigation was continuing, and authorities were not discounting the possibility of additional arrests.

Ford and Mazzachelli were held without bail for a hearing Tuesday.

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The precise motive for the planned attacks was unknown, said Drew Biondo, a spokesman for the district attorney.

“So far it seems to be an overwhelming hatred of the officials named,” Biondo said.

Biondo said that among the items recovered from Ford’s home in Bellport were anti-government articles from the Montana freemen.

Safety personnel from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory were called to Ford’s home to help remove for analysis and then disposal five small lead-lined canisters containing the radium from the back of a pickup truck.

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The canisters, the biggest the size of a coffee can, were transported to a waste disposal facility at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where they will be further examined.

Department of Energy officials said the radium posed no danger to the neighborhood where it was discovered, and it would have required long exposure to create burns.

However, police said had the radium been spread on the seat of the car, it could have caused radiation sickness in about 10 days.

Investigators were trying to determine the source of the radium, which can be found in hospitals and in the offices of some physicians.

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When police entered the house, officers found about 40 weapons, ammunition, a gas mask and a device used to sweep for land mines. They also discovered storage canisters for mortar shells.

Catterson said police in Suffolk County on Long Island, east of New York City, learned of the strange plot Wednesday afternoon.


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