Alleged Gulf Coast Walmart arson mastermind pleads guilty to conspiracy
Jeffery Sikes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to maliciously destroy by fire. Another defendant, Alexander Olson, pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Arsonists set fire to two Mobile Walmarts and two in Mississippi in May and June of last year.
Sikes admitted that he organized the group and helped disseminate a document called the “Declaration of War and Demands for the People.” The seven-page manifesto called for better pay and working conditions for Walmart workers, among other demands.
Sikes and Olson also admitted to setting the fire at the Walmart Supercenter on the East Interstate 65 Service Road. In addition, Sikes admitted that intended to set fire to another unnamed store.
Prosecutors alleged that Sikes fled Nebraska in late 2017, shortly after he was to be sentenced in a federal wire fraud case. They contended that he, his wife and several others moved into a small house in Lillian and plotted the fires as part of a social justice movement.
U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer scheduled sentencing for Feb. 9 for both defendants, and both face substantial punishment. Sikes’ plea agreement includes a prosecution recommendation that he be sentenced at the high end of advisory guidelines or 15 years in prison, whichever is less. The recommended punishment for Olson is the high end of the guidelines or 10 years, whichever is less.
Charges remain pending against several others, including Jenna Bottorff and her son, Michael Bottorff, who both have asked the judge to dismiss the indictment against them.
Prosecutors this week objected to their efforts, writing that they raise arguments about proof that should be raised after the prosecution has presented its case at trial.
“Jenna and Michael’s arguments are not only premature, but they also miss the mark on the merits as well,” prosecutors wrote. “Both Jenna and Michael appear to contest whether their actions sufficiently rise to the level of an overt act. However, a conspirator is guilty of the offense if he or she joins a conspiracy and a fellow conspirator commits an overt act.”
Prosecutors added that the evidence will connect both defendants to various acts that are part of the conspiracy.
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