By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Four soldiers in Georgia who belonged to an anarchist militia that wanted to overthrow the U.S. government killed a former soldier and his girlfriend because he had learned of their plans, prosecutors said on Monday.
Prosecutors revealed the suspected motive as one of the soldiers pleaded guilty on Monday to voluntary manslaughter and other charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors over the December 5, 2011, shooting deaths of Michael Roark, 19, and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Tiffany York.
During his plea hearing on Monday, Private First Class Michael Burnett said Roark had learned of the militia while serving at Fort Stewart near Savannah, and the group came to see him "as a loose end," according to Long County assistant district attorney Isabel Pauley.
The four accused militia members, who were all stationed at Fort Stewart, operated under the name "FEAR," or Forever Enduring Always Ready, the prosecutor said. They plotted to assassinate President Barack Obama and to attack their Army base and a dam in Washington state, Pauley said.
They also discussed poisoning the apple crop in Washington state, the prosecutor said, and purchased $87,000 worth of weapons to carry out their attacks.
Burnett, who wore his Army uniform in court on Monday, agreed to cooperate with authorities in the prosecution of the three other members of the militia charged with the killing, Pauley said.
Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty for the other three soldiers, who all face murder and gang charges. No trial dates have been set.
The bodies of Roark and York were discovered in a heavily wooded, rural area of Long County and both had been shot to death, Pauley said.
The army is assisting with the case, but the soldiers are being prosecuted in a civilian court in Long County, Pauley said.
Burnett faces 10 years in prison as part of his plea agreement but could still face the death penalty if he does not cooperate, the prosecutor said.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins; and Todd Eastham)