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Six Viper militia members set free

sketch of courtroom

Potentially damaging videotape released

July 12, 1996
Web posted at: 1:00 a.m. EDT

PHOENIX, Arizona (CNN) -- Six of the 12 members of the so-called Arizona Viper Militia were conditionally released from jail Thursday, pending their trial on weapons and explosives charges.

Saying they did not pose a danger to the community and were not flight risks, Magistrate Barry Silverman ordered the six released after setting conditions that included the defendants having no contact with any militia groups, electronic monitoring and home detention. The defendants were also forbidden from possessing guns or explosives.

But six other militia members remain behind bars after a federal magistrate ruled Wednesday they pose a risk to the community and they might try to flee.

Explosions videotape released

957K Quicktime Movie

Also Thursday, a videotape allegedly made by militia members was released by the court. In it, members are seen setting off explosions on the desert. (1.3MB QuickTime movie of militia bomb tests)

Federal prosecutors played the tape in court last week in hopes of convincing the court that the 12 members were too dangerous to be released.

Defense lawyers however, argued that the only thing the militia members were seen doing on the tape was blowing up dirt.

But the government said the explosions were the result of ammonium nitrate, a key component of the powerful explosives used in last year's Oklahoma City bombing.

In a crush of local and national media, the six left the federal courthouse with nothing to say other than they were glad to be free.

Residents wary of freed suspects

released Viper members

Many residents of Phoenix, Arizona however, are not happy to have the Viper members back in the community -- especially after being told by the U.S. attorney the Vipers planned to blow up federal buildings.

"I'd just rather see them stay in jail," said one resident. "I think it's a little safer for everybody."

Another resident said, "I think if they kept any of them they should have kept all of them and since I was in a city building that was on the list, I think they should keep them."

Thomas Martinez, an attorney representing one of the defendants, said there is nothing to worry about.

"(The) ATF testified in court that there was no plan to bomb any federal building," said Martinez.

"So, that's what I think people need to realize. And with respect to the six released, the judge found that they were not a danger to the community."

Nevertheless, many residents remain uneasy.

"If Oklahoma City was possible, this was possible too," said another resident of Phoenix. "If they caught all those explosives in their home, they should have kept them all."

Trial for all twelve has been set for August 27.

CNN Correspondent Greg LaMotte contributed to this report.

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