A Collier man claiming to be part of a New York survivalist group pleaded guilty Wednesday to possessing eight Molotov cocktails in his home last December.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski sentenced Jacob Leo Phillips IV, 24, to five months of probation.
Collier police joined agents from the ATF and FBI in serving a search warrant Dec. 8 on Phillips’ home, where they found the eight homemade fire bombs, according to the criminal complaint against Phillips.
The complaint said Phillips and his landlord said they were both members of the New York-based Minutemen Militia, though criminal defense attorney Steven Townsend said it was actually the “Watchmen,” which was more of a survivalist group than a militia.
“It’s not a proactive organization, more of a reactive one … He was in the infancy stages, just getting his feet wet with this group,” Townsend said. “He’s now severed all ties.”
The only training Phillips had with the Watchmen, Townsend said, was in CPR and first aid.
Phillips told police he’d only used one of the Molotov cocktails and that was in a backyard fire pit the year before. But police said he had no license to make or possess them, and keeping them in a residential neighborhood was reckless.
Police charged Phillips with eight felony counts of unlawfully possessing or manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) as well as a risking a catastrophe charge and eight misdemeanor counts of making an offensive weapon.
As part of his plea, prosecutors reduced the weapons of mass destruction charges to misdemeanor possession of incendiary devices, to which Phillips pleaded guilty. The other charges were withdrawn.
Townsend said the case was “overcharged” as WMD, since the law for incendiary devices specifically covers Molotov cocktails.
Phillips also had legally-owned firearms, ammunition, body armor and a cache of food and water in the home. Townsend said that under federal law, Phillips is now barred from possessing the guns and is in the process of determining how he will sell or transfer them. The items remain in the custody of police until such arrangements are made.