Two men indicted in explosives inquiry

One-time militia leader, businessman accused of selling devices to agents

Denver Rocky Mountain News/July 22, 2000
By Kevin Flynn

Two Golden men have been indicted for allegedly manufacturing numerous explosive devices and selling them to undercover agents.

U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland said a 13-month investigation led to the arrests of Paul G. Graham, one-time leader of a self-styled citizens' militia group, and business owner Keith A. Thompson.

The arrests were part of a policy of taking explosives cases "very seriously" since Columbine and Oklahoma City, Strickland said Friday.

But the attorney for one of the defendants said the devices were little more than "oversize firecrackers."

The two men were indicted July 11. Thompson was arrested several days later and released on a personal recognizance bond. Graham was arrested Friday and released on an unsecured $10,000 bond.

Neither man could not be reached for comment.

The devices were described in a search warrant affidavit filed by FBI agent Mark Holstlaw as cardboard tubes measuring 21/2 inches long and 11/2 inches wide. They contained less than a half ounce of a high-explosive mix, and contained the same power of about a quarter stick of dynamite.

Undercover purchases were made on four occasions, totaling 138 devices.

Graham, 32, was, until recently, the commanding officer of a group calling itself the Colorado State Defense Force Reserve, or the Colorado Minutemen. He runs a military surplus store on South Golden Road.

Thompson, 48, who allegedly made the devices, operates a furniture and wood shop on South Golden Road. Agents from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Aurora Police Department, Lakewood Police Department and other agencies took part in the investigation, along with an undercover informant who tape-recorded many of his meetings and phone calls with Graham and Thompson.

The defendants allegedly claimed they were making hundreds of the devices. They were being sold for $10 to $11.50 apiece. An agent compared the homemade devices to an explosive called an M-250. "Given the recent history in Colorado at Columbine and the Oklahoma City bombing, this kind of stockpiling is taken very seriously," Strickland said.

But Paul Grant, the attorney for Graham, said the devices were small and useful as little more than noisemakers to scare off birds and wildlife.

Each of the four counts - based on four separate undercover sales - carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Grant said Graham recently resigned as commander of the militia group, and that the case has nothing to do with that affiliation.

The investigation began shortly after Graham hosted a two-day paramilitary training exercise in Park County for several militia groups from Denver and New Mexico. There, he allegedly exploded one of the devices. An undercover officer from Lakewood attended and videotaped the event.

Agents then built a relationship with Graham, who said he could arrange the sale of the explosive devices, the affidavit states.

As recently as late April, Graham was commander of the group. An e-mail he sent to militia groups around the country at the time said no pro- or anti-gun protests were planned for the Columbine anniversary memorial in Clement Park, so his militia wouldn't attend.

Last New Year's Eve, Graham led a contingent of his group to a motel with weapons at the ready in case civil strife broke out during the Y2K computer rollover.

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