James Russell Bolton Jr., the leader of a small militia in Eastern Washington who’s accused of extorting his own militia members in an elaborate scheme involving a phony Mexican cartel, will plead not guilty, his lawyer told TPM in an email Wednesday.
Bolton was arrested at his parents’ house in West Virginia last month and was eventually transferred by U.S. Marshals back to Spokane, where he spent Tuesday night, Boltons’ attorney Steve Graham said.
Bolton began the trip back to Colville, Washington to face trial on Wednesday. In April, Stevens County Superior Court Judge Jessica Reeves issued a nationwide arrest warrant for after the state accused Bolton of five counts of extortion in the first degree and another count of attempted theft in the first degree.
“He’ll be in our custody sometime today,” Stevens County Undersheriff Loren Erdman told TPM over the phone Wednesday. Bolton’s bail hearing is set for midday tomorrow.
In a series of police reports obtained by TPM, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office laid out the Coen brothers-esque story behind the accusations against Bolton. In a series of ominous letters, a man going by the name “Alessio Don De Grande” demanded thousands of dollars from members of the militia Bolton led — the Stevens County Assembly — and threatening violence if they did not comply.
One resourceful militia member rigged his mailbox with a hidden camera and “stain theft detection powder” in an attempt, initially unsuccessful, to catch the perpetrator. As police began receiving reports of the threats, Bolton claimed to them that he too had been extorted.
In one particularly violent chapter recounted to police, Bolton allegedly pushed a fellow militia member down a flight of stairs onto the concrete floor below, leaving a large cut in the man’s head, and then attempted to wrap a plastic bag around the man’s head.
After his alleged would-be victim convinced Bolton to stop the attack, Bolton allegedly claimed his wife Kim had been kidnapped. He allegedly asked the man for money to help pay his wife’s supposed ransom. A few days later, as the man recovered, he and other militia members received an email from Bolton saying that he was skipping town.
“WA state is being overrun by socialist/liberals and there doesn’t seem to be any organized force to stop them,” he explained, adding: “I am not deterred, just relocated.”
Read TPM’s initial reporting on Bolton here.