RALEIGH — A leader of a Ku Klux Klan splinter group from Benson was convicted in federal court this week of weapons and explosive charges lodged against him 10 years ago.
Charles Robert Barefoot Jr., 49, organizer of the Nation’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, awaits sentencing on six counts that prosecutors contend are related to a decade-old plot to kill Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell.
A hearing is set for December. Barefoot is to remain in custody until then, according to court officials.
At a two-day trial that ended with a verdict on Tuesday, prosecutors contended that Barefoot blamed the sheriff for the failure of a nightclub he operated more than a decade ago – the Enchanted Barn.
The Klansman also was upset, according to court documents, because Benson town officials had refused to let his group stage a march and have a float in the 52nd annual Mule Day parade.
Barefoot then began experimenting with and building pipe bombs, acquiring a binary explosive that he stored in a freezer at his home.
Barefoot told another Klansman, Marvin Glen Gautier, that he planned to float down the Neuse River on a boat, get out in Smithfield, plant a bomb at the sheriff’s office about a block from the riverbank and get back on the boat.
Gautier said Barefoot was looking for someone to drop him off upriver beforehand and pick him up at a bridge downriver afterward.
Gautier refused to help, according to court records.
There was no evidence that the plot was ever attempted, court officials said, but prosecutors used the evidence that Barefoot had hatched such a plot to bolster the solicitation to commit a crime of violence charge.
Barefoot also was convicted of possessing stolen firearms, receipt of explosives with intent to kill, illegal storage of explosive materials and distribution of explosives to a person under the age of 21.
In October 2001, according to prosecutors, three members of Barefoot’s Klan group, including Barefoot’s son, then 17, stole more than 30 firearms from a residential property in Benson.
After the guns were removed from the outbuilding on the Benson property and brought to Barefoot, he and other Klansmen dispersed them and sold them, court documents contend.
Efforts to reach Joseph E. Zeszotarski Jr., the Raleigh lawyer who represented Barefoot, were unsuccessful Friday.
Members of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the group that Barefoot belonged to before incorporating his splinter group in 2002, described Barefoot at the time of his arrest as a “hothead” and a firebrand “trying to do movie-style things.”