A North Carolina man indicted for allegedly teaching a government informant how to make explosive devices for the purpose of killing law enforcement officers is scheduled to face trial next month after he attempted — and failed — to get charges against him tossed.
U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III rejected Christopher "Kit" Arthur’s motion for dismissal last week that argues he has a First Amendment right to teach people how to make explosive devices.
Dever's order clears the way for Arthur's case to go to trial, with jury selection set to begin on Feb. 28. If convicted, Arthur could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A retired Army scout and former sheriff’s deputy in Mount Olive, N.C., Arthur published manuals and YouTube videos that he promoted as teaching “wartime tactics to civilians for civil defense purposes,” while also providing consulting services to specific clients.
Dever wrote in his order that Arthur "provided the CHS with a strategy to engage and kill ATF agents, by trapping them in a 'fatal funnel.'"
The order quoted Arthur as instructing the confidential government informant: "What these dumbasses are going to do, they're going to hunker down right behind that damn armored vehicle and the other guys are going to run. And that's when you start lobbing your grenades on them with your freaking shotty."
Arthur's prosecution highlights a growing concern, particularly in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, about violent threats to law enforcement coming from former or actively employed members of the profession.
More than 1 in 10 people charged in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are former or current law enforcement officers or military veterans, according to recent USA Today report. In September, a retired New York police officer was sentenced to 10 years for assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly and dangerous weapon during the attack.
Arthur told his clients that his trainings were based on his experience from two combat tours in Iraq, and later, working in a covert drug enforcement and anti-terrorism unit in the Army National Guard. He was arrested in a federal sting operation at a gun show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh last January.
An FBI investigation into one of Arthur’s clients brought him to the attention of law enforcement.
In early 2019, the FBI began investigating Joshua Blessed, a Virginia long-haul trucker whose birth name was Sergeia Jourev. The investigation was “based on information that Blessed was organizing and recruiting for an extremist militia group attempting to engage in an ‘apocalyptic battle against the United States government,’” according to a recent court filing.
On May 27, 2020, Blessed died during a shootout with law enforcement after fleeing a traffic stop.
Investigators reportedly learned that Blessed had communicated with Arthur through his website and traveled to Mount Olive weeks before his death to train with Arthur.
In May 2021, court documents indicate that the FBI used a confidential informant to record Arthur during a training session at his home in Mount Olive.
During the training, the confidential informant hinted to Arthur that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had come to his house to take inventory of his firearms. According to the government, Arthur spent several hours outlining options for the confidential informant to “defend” his home, ultimately arriving at an option of last resort called the “spiderweb defense.”
“It evolves back to this technique,”
FBI Special Agent Greg Garey testified during a detention hearing in March 2022 that Arthur's approach involved "a spiderweb or creating fatal funnels on your property, setting up perimeter charges — explosives — around the CHS’ house, installing explosives in the walls to render the ATF or any other law enforcement to, when they come to the house, to render them useless, to kill them.”
Arthur’s lawyer has countered that the training was merely “a conversation between two adults where one person provided instruction and opinion on home self-defense measures,” and “not a clandestine event where Mr. Arthur was speaking to a radical activist whom he believed was likely to commit a criminal act.”
Arthur is charged with “the making and use of an explosive, a destructive device, and a weapon of mass destruction, knowing that such person intended to use the teaching, demonstration, and information in the furtherance of an activity that constituted a federal crime of violence, to wit, the murder and attempted murder of federal law enforcement.”
After executing a search warrant at Arthur’s home, the government also brought charges against him for possessing an unregistered PA-15 rifle — a weapon similar to an AR-15 made by Palmetto State Armory — as well as an illegal firearm silencer and other various illegal explosive devices.
In his motion to dismiss, filed in August, Arthur argued through his public defender that the federal law criminalizing bomb-making instruction for the purpose of furthering a crime of violence violates his First Amendment right to free speech. Arthur’s motion stated that the law “potentially criminalizes the myriad of published books, articles and internet materials." He also argued that “the conversation about how a person who has a lawful right to possess and use a firearm can be criminalized.”In reaching his decision, Dever cited a 1997 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding a civil liability judgment against the author of a book entitled Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors.
The judge also cited a 1972 Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding convictions of two members of the Black Afro Militant Movement in south Florida who had given instructions to other individuals on how to “assemble explosive and incendiary devices” in order to “prepare the members … for the coming revolution."Two days after Dever denied the motion to dismiss the case, Arthur’s wife sent out an email to subscribers who are interested in a “home defense wartime tactical education” that her husband's business markets.
“If you haven’t already heard, our educational side of the business has been silenced and seized,” the email reads. “Due to this oppressive and slanderous political persecution, we’ve been forced to put our teachings on hold until we can once again gain the freedom of speech.”