Plot to assassinate Gov. Locke alleged

Federal authorities say an anti-government extremist who believed he was the state's true governor planned to kill Gov. Gary Locke, and even made several "dry runs" on the Capitol.

James D. Brailey Jr., 43, of Olympia, was charged Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on a federal firearms charge.

FBI officials and federal prosecutors refused to answer questions about the case yesterday and would not say why he was not charged in the alleged assassination plot or how serious they believed it to be.

The Governor's Office and the Washington State Patrol, which is responsible for the governor's security, also declined comment.

Brailey was being held in SeaTac Federal Detention Center, pending further court actions. It was unclear whether he had an attorney.

According to charging documents, the FBI's Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force searched Brailey's van on Wednesday upon his return from a meeting in Arkansas of Christian Identity adherents, who consider white Christians superior to nonwhites and Jews. The agents found two handguns in the van. They also converged on his home north of Olympia's city limits.

Federal authorities learned of the plot in March 2001 from a confidential informant, who told them Brailey had been planning the assassination since 1998 but wanted to choose his time carefully.

The informant told agents Brailey wanted to kill Locke because he believed himself to be the true governor. The informant also said Brailey hated Locke, who is Chinese American, because of his ethnicity.

Brailey's half-brother, Daniel Brailey of Spokane, said James had told him a story about going to the Governor's Office and being followed by police officers. But James never mentioned any weapons or an assassination plot.

James Brailey Jr. had been estranged from his family for about 15 years, but re-established ties about one year ago, Daniel Brailey said.

"He's got some weird religious beliefs and political beliefs we all don't agree with," Daniel Brailey said, but he added that he found it hard to believe his brother would have attempted an assassination.

"He hasn't had his day in court," he said. "But if the story's true, we condemn it."

The charging documents allege Bailey was a member of the Jural Society, an anti-government group that believes in a "people's government" based on Christian principles and common law. Group members could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The loosely knit organization elected Brailey governor of the state of Washington in 1998. That same year, Brailey allegedly made the first of several practice runs at the Capitol. He concealed several weapons, including a rifle under his coat and a revolver on his ankle, to see if he could enter undetected, the informant told agents.

The informant said Brailey entered the building without any problem and actually saw Locke at a distance but decided the time wasn't right to shoot.

The informant's identity was not disclosed.

According to charging documents, the FBI hired another informant to get close to Brailey as part of the investigation.

The informant saw a cache of weapons at Brailey's home and said he boasted of having two Claymore anti-personnel mines and of carrying them during a dry run.

Brailey said he planned to use them to break through a wall and "take out a large number of people," charging documents state.

He allegedly told the informant he knew it was illegal to have firearms because of a previous conviction.

Brailey pleaded guilty to third-degree felony assault in Summit County, Utah, in a 1993 domestic-violence case involving his wife at the time.

The charge was later reduced to a Class A misdemeanor. It is illegal for someone with a misdemeanor domestic-violence conviction to possess firearms.

He has also been arrested for driving on a suspended license, assault and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to Thurston County court records.

He was convicted on the misdemeanor assault charge. The firearms charge was dismissed.

Steven Curtis Sherman, senior deputy prosecutor for Thurston County, handled both cases, the last of which was closed in 1999. He said he recalled Brailey as an affable man who firmly disavowed state government.

"He didn't even have a driver's license because he refused to have one," Sherman said. "The laws didn't apply to him, only God's law and the federal constitution."

But federal authorities say Brailey's violent tendencies became too much even for other Jural members, who voted him out of office in July 2001.

Ray Rivera: 206-464-2926 or