Two ‘Walmart Manifesto’ suspects sentenced to detention in Mobile
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) — A federal justice of the peace on Thursday granted a request from prosecutors to detain two men charged with conspiring to burn down Walmart stores.
US Magistrate Judge Sonja Bivins heard evidence on Wednesday but postponed her decision until Thursday.
Bivins ruled that prosecutors had met their burden by showing that Sean Bottorff and Alexander Olson risked fleeing prosecution and posed a danger to the public. Both are accused, along with three others, of having participated in a conspiracy which caused fires in four Walmarts in Alabama and Mississippi.
“Not only did the fires cause significant financial loss, but they also posed a real danger to the employees and customers who were in the stores at the time of the fires,” the judge wrote. “Although there is no evidence before the Court that defendant Sean Bottorff actually started any of the fires, the evidence suggests he was involved in the conspiracy.”
Bivins offered a similar assessment of Olson, except she noted testimony accusing him of personally starting the first fire.
“He has been unemployed and has not had a stable residence for two or three years,” she wrote. “Additionally, if convicted of malicious destruction by arson, Olson faces a sentence of up to twenty years. Additionally, he has a history of mental illness and has stated that he regularly uses marijuana.
Bivins noted that Olson’s mother had offered to serve as a third-party guardian, but the judge also noted that the mother had acknowledged that the defendant had not lived with her since her early teens and that she knew now that he was living in Alabama.
Similarly, writes Bivins, Bottorff had not seen his mother for four years.
“Although the defendant has no criminal history, he moved to Alabama with his brother-in-law, co-defendant Jerry Sikes, a known fugitive, and like Sikes, he was living under an assumed name and is unemployed,” she wrote. “Additionally, if convicted, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years or more.”
The defendants are from out of state but lived together in Lillian, according to court records.
Testimony on Wednesday accused the defendants of sending a seven-page manifesto to local media. Titled “Declaration of War and People’s Demands”, the document castigated the company’s business practices and threatened further fires if the demands were not met. These included higher wages and more affordable health benefits for Walmart workers.
“The ‘Walmart Manifesto’, which contained demands and threats of further violence, expressed beliefs contrary to the rule of law in this country,” the judge wrote.
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