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Teen in plot lists drinking as his job

'Just a lot of talk,' his father states by John Krupa | October 29, 2008 at 1:57 a.m.

HELENA-WEST HELENA - An Arkansas man accused of plotting to assassinate a presidential candidate is a buffoonish teenager who bears a deep resentment toward blacks, according to his Internet postings and a family member.

His online postings and his sister's comments Tuesday revealed that Paul Schlesselman, 18, of Helena-West Helena has an aff inity for drinking and smoking, engaging in racial rhetoric and playing with firearms.

Schlesselman, unemployed and without a dollar to his name according to court documents, now faces federal charges in what authorities say was a plot with Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., to go on a "killing spree" culminating with the assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Schlesselman thought "Obama would make the world suffer," his 16-year-old sister,Kayla, told The Associated Press from Helena-West Helena on Tuesday.

Kayla Schlesselman said her brother often argued with family members about his racial beliefs and hated Helena-West Helena because it has many black residents.

"He just believes that he's the master race," she said. "He would just say things like 'white power' and 'Sieg Heil' and 'Heil Hitler.'"

But the siblings' father, Mike Schlesselman, doubted that the plot was serious.

"I think it's just a lot of talk. He would never do something like this," Mike Schlesselman told the AP.

Mike Schlesselman answered the door at his mobile home, which sits down a country road on the outskirts of town, but said he did not want to comment further about the case.

Paul Schlesselman remained in federal custody Tuesday, along with Cowart.

Paul Schlesselman goes by the MySpace name "poop," lists his occupation as "drinking," and posted photographs and videos of himself with shaven eyebrows, sporting a mohawk and dancing alone to techno music.

But his Internet "friends" had posted all over his Web site images of Adolf Hitler, the Confederate flag and a dog urinating on a Barack Obama campaign sign.On the same site, Paul Schlesselman described his "general interests" as "guns and f***** s*** up."

Internet videos show Paul Schlesselman mocking hip-hop culture, railing against black crime in Helena-West Helena and shooting a 12-gauge shotgun repeatedly into a creek.

Neighbor Carl Boehler said he heard semiautomatic gunfire coming from the open field behind Paul Schlesselman's house about a week and a half ago.

Darryl Riddell, who owns Riddell Flying Service in Helena-West Helena, said he hasemployed Mike Schlesselman for nearly 15 years. He said Mike Schlesselman raised Paul, an older son and Kayla alone, and would never condone violence or racial hatred.

"I can guaran-damn-tee you that Mike would never be involved in crap like that," Riddell said. "Unfortunately people have children who, in this day and age, take the wrong path."

Paul Schlesselman and Cowart are to appear before a judge in U.S. District Court in Memphis on Thursday. They are charged with possession of unregistered firearms, conspiring to steal firearms and making threats against a presidential candidate.

Authorities arrested the pair one week ago in Crockett County, Tenn., after they shot out the window of a church while driving in a car decorated with a swastika they had drawn on with chalk.

During interviews with a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, the pair reportedly described themselves as "skinheads" who had made plans to launch a "killing spree."

An affidavit unsealed Monday said the plan involved targeting a predominantly black school to start, and then traveling state to state killing black people. The final death toll was to be 88 blacks and include 14 who were beheaded.

The number "88" is important among skinheads, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It means "Heil Hitler," as "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

The number "14" likely refers to the "14 Words" a popular white supremacist slogan that says, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," the law center said.

Paul Schlesselman and Cowart, who met over the Internet about one month ago, planned to save Obama for last in their rampage, authorities said.

They reportedly told the ATF that they would don white tuxedos and top hats, and attempt to kill Obama in a drive-by shooting.

While the plans bordered on the incredulous, their stockpile of firearms was very real, authorities said.

Police seized a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun and a .357-caliber revolver from Paul Schlesselman; and a .308-caliber rifle, and .25-caliber and .22-caliber handguns from Cowart.

Cowart's and Paul Schlesselman's names were barely known to law enforcement officials in their hometowns. Neither has been arrested before in Bells or in Helena-West Helena, police, school leaders and city officials said.

"I've heard more about [Paul Schlesselman] in the last two days than I ever have before," Helena-West Helena Mayor James Valley said. "The sentiment I'm hearing today is one, shock, and two, disappointment that the city is in the news about something negative. Again."

Bells Police Chief Ilandis Smith said he knew only thatCowart returned to Tennessee in the summer and moved in with his grandparents.

Scotty Runions, owner of Bells Super Market where Cowart worked during high school, said the young man originally left town on his own for Texas in 2007.

Runions said Cowart, who he described as a "computer geek," left home with no job and moved in with roommates he met over the Internet.

Cowart also spent time in California and Ohio before moving back to Bells, Runions said.

"He was a kid searching for himself who was very impressionable, evidently," Runions said. "The person I saw on TV last night was not the Daniel Cowart I knew."

Cowart's grandparents did not return multiple calls forcomment. In an e-mail, his attorney, Joe H. Byrd Jr., declined to comment about the case.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors hate groups, released photographs and Internet postings that reportedly link Cowart to the Supreme White Alliance, aself-described white separatist group that formed in April.

On the group's social networking site, Cowart is described as "member #3."

"I'm easygoing and easy to get along with, as long as you are White!" Cowart wrote on the site.

The Web site also lists Steven Edwards, Kentucky's representative in the alliance and its former president, as one of Cowart's friends.

Edwards is the son of Ron Edwards, head of the Imperial Klans of America. The law center, Ron Edwards and the Imperial Klans are in the midst of a civil lawsuit related to the beating of a teen in 2006.

Steven Edwards said Tuesday from Kentucky that Cowart was a probationary member of the White Alliance until he was kicked out of the group inMarch.

Steven Edwards said the White Alliance was not involved in the alleged plot. He said the law center was trying to link the White Alliance to Cowart to aid in its legal battle with his father.

"I condemn violence against anyone in the United States of America," Steven Edwards said. "We are about preserving our race and sticking together and not mixing, that kind of thing."

Heidi Beirich, director of research and special programs with the law center, said there are hundreds of other skinhead groups like the White Alliance across the country.

Typically the groups consist of a handful of members, mostly young white men, who listen to hate music, cover themselves in tattoos, celebrate Hitler's birthday and sometimes carry outviolent crimes, Beirich said.

She said she believes that Cowart and Paul Schlesselman didn't have the capability to assassinate a presidential candidate but that the plot was still frightening.

"What's scary about the plot is that you had people like this who were that racist and had weapons," Beirich said. "Was the plot serious? Come on, I don't think so. But could they have committed some serious violence? Yes." Information for this article was contributed by Ginny LaRoe of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Arkansas, Pages 11, 15 on 10/29/2008

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