A federal jury on Wednesday acquitted two men and convicted a third in what prosecutors said was a conspiracy by white supremacists to sell grenades and guns to a purported national supremacist group member, who was really a government informant.
The jury at the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport found Kenneth Zrallack, 29, of Ansonia and David Sutton, 46, of Milford not guilty of conspiracy charges. Alexander DeFelice, 33, of Milford, was convicted of several conspiracy and weapons charges.
Federal prosecutors said Zrallack is the leader of the Connecticut-based Battalion 14 white supremacist group, formerly known as the Connecticut White Wolves. Officials said DeFelice is a Battalion 14 member who knows how to make explosives, while Sutton, who is black, has known DeFelice for years but isn't a white supremacist.
"I am very happy that the jury correctly evaluated the evidence," said Sutton's lawyer, Frank Riccio II. "Both he and I hope he could get back to leading a normal life."
A lawyer for DeFelice didn't immediately return a message Wednesday.
Zrallack and Sutton walked out of the courthouse as free men, while DeFelice was to be returned to prison, Riccio said.
"Obviously my client is happy," said Nicholas Adamucci, Zrallack's attorney. "There was a lack of evidence from the beginning and I'm glad the jury was able to find there was a lack of evidence."
Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein said in a statement Wednesday that "we respect the jury's verdicts and are pleased that a previously convicted felon (DeFelice) who was involved in the manufacture of grenades that he knew were intended for a white supremacist group now faces a significant term of imprisonment."
The jury began deliberating Monday afternoon and sent several notes to Judge Janet C. Hall with questions about entrapment laws. The defendants' lawyers had raised entrapment as an issue in the case, saying the informant pressured their clients.
DeFelice faces up to 65 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 18.
Two other defendants, Edwin Westmoreland and William Bolton, both of Stratford, pleaded guilty in the case and await sentencing.
The informant, convicted felon Joseph Anastasio, wore hidden recording equipment that captured hours of what prosecutors said were incriminating conversations on video and audio. Many of the recordings were shown to the jury.
Anastasio portrayed himself as a member of a national supremacist group, the Imperial Klans of America. He testified that he bought three grenades and some guns from the defendants and gave the weapons to federal agents.
Anastasio also testified that he was not a white supremacist and was "sick" and "upset" when he joined Zrallack and others as they waved Nazi flags near an outdoor Jewish menorah lighting ceremony in Fairfield last year.
In 1996, Anastasio was sentenced to three years' probation after being convicted of stealing historic letters and notes written by Abraham Lincoln and Confederacy President Jefferson Davis from a library at the University of Bridgeport, where he worked as a security guard, the Connecticut Post reported.
His criminal record was key to the government's case, because selling weapons to a felon is a federal crime.
Defense lawyers charged that Anastasio cooperated with the FBI only because he was trying to get a lenient sentence for his son in a drug and theft case.
Prosecutors accused Zrallack of making several hundred dollars off the sale of the firearms and grenades to Anastasio.
Authorities also alleged that DeFelice assembled three grenades that he sold to Anastasio for $3,000 last January, and Sutton helped him. The recording equipment worn by Anastasio showed DeFelice and Sutton joking about Sutton's race.
Prosecutors said Sutton also offered to dispose of the grenades if the deal with Anastasio fell through. They said his main motivation was getting DeFelice to broker a sale of semiautomatic firearms to Sutton's brother-in-law, a deal that never happened.
An expert on white supremacist groups, Robert Nill, told prosecutors that the Connecticut White Wolves claim to have been founded on April 20, Adolf Hitler's birthday, in 2002, and Zrallack formed the successor Battalion 14 in 2009. Court documents also say defendants in the case talked about their desires to kill President Barack Obama and leave an explosive-filled basketball at a New Haven playground so blacks would be killed.
Associated Press writer John Christoffersen contributed to this story from New Haven, Conn.