A man accused of being a white supremacist was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for what prosecutors called a dangerous plot to sell grenades and firearms to a government informant posing as a member of a Ku Klux Klan group.
U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall imposed the prison time on Alexander DeFelice of Milford, who was convicted by a jury in December of conspiracy and firearms charges. The same jury acquitted two alleged co-conspirators, while two other men pleaded guilty.
Prosecutors said DeFelice in 2009 and early 2010 arranged the sale of three homemade grenades, a rifle and two shotguns to the informant, a convicted felon who claimed to be a member of the Imperial Klans of America. The informant testified that he handed the firearms and explosives over to federal agents.
Hall said that while no one ever used the weapons, the plot was dangerous enough to warrant a lengthy prison term for DeFelice.
"Fortunately in this case no one was injured," Hall said. "But the risk of injury ... was not insignificant."
DeFelice apologized for his actions, without specifying what they were, but his lawyer continued to claim that DeFelice was entrapped into committing crimes he wouldn't have done otherwise. DeFelice also denied that he was racist or a white supremacist, despite prosecutors saying white supremacist materials were found in his home.
"It's something I regret doing," said DeFelice, who wore a prison-issued brown T-shirt, green pants and white sneakers. "It's something I thank God every day there were no victims of it."
Three family members sat in pews behind DeFelice, and only four other people were in the audience section.
Federal prosecutors said in court documents that DeFelice created a serious threat to public safety by selling to the Klan group weapons he knew could kill or maim people. They wrote that such a plot "is like putting a match to the dry kindling of one of this country's most well known, long-term and destructive reigns of hate-motivated violence."
One of the prosecutors, Henry Kopel said Thursday that it was disturbing that DeFelice knew he was selling weapons to a Ku Klux Klan group, given the Klan's history of violence including church burnings.
They had asked Hall to give DeFelice a prison sentence of more than 15 years, near the top of the federal sentencing guidelines they proposed. But DeFelice's lawyer, Michael Hillis, disputed the government's calculation of the guidelines and said his client deserved no more than 3 1/2 years behind bars.
Hillis said that after the informant got DeFelice to sell the first firearm, authorities should have arrested him and not pressured him to make more gun sales and build the grenades.
"They created this," Hillis said, referring to federal authorities. "If it wasn't for the coercion, we wouldn't have any of this. We wouldn't have had grenades. We wouldn't have these problems."
Hillis also said the informant, Joseph Anastasio, was a "rogue" operator who approached federal officials in 2008 about cooperating in an investigation of DeFelice and others, only because he wanted to help his son, who was facing drug charges. Hillis said Anastasio's son was facing up to 12 years in prison under a plea bargain but only received four years.
Prosecutors said they didn't entrap DeFelice, who they allege was a member of the Connecticut-based Battalion 14 white supremacist group, formerly known as the Connecticut White Wolves. Authorities say DeFelice made the grenades in his home, endangering his family, and sold them for $3,000 to Anastasio in January 2010, after having sold him the three firearms for several hundred dollars.
The jury heard and watched numerous audio and video recordings of conversations secretly recorded by Anastasio. In one conversation, DeFelice talks about a plan to harm black people in New Haven by lighting the fuse of a bomb that looks like a basketball and rolling it toward a basketball court.
"It's 200 feet of shrapnel in all directions," DeFelice said.
The jury acquitted Kenneth Zrallack of Ansonia, the alleged leader of Battalion 14, and David Sutton of Milford, a black acquaintance of DeFelice who isn't a member of any white supremacist group.
The two other defendants, Stratford residents Edwin Westmoreland and William Bolton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and illegal firearms sales. Westmoreland is serving a three-year prison sentence, while Bolton is scheduled to be sentenced in mid-May.