(AK) Trial to begin against Security Aviation - re: destructive devices


May 15, 2006, 02:37 AM
Security Aviation trial set to begin Monday
COMMANDER: Rocket launchers led to charges against firm, partner.
By LISA DEMER and RICHARD MAUER Anchorage Daily News
Published: May 14, 2006 Last Modified: May 14, 2006 at 04:28 AM
http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/security_aviation/story/7727568p-7638994c.html (link may require registering and does contain popups)

With the Security Aviation trial scheduled to start with jury selection Monday, prosecution and defense are struggling over which side will define the scope of the case.

At the center of the trial in U.S. District Court are a pair of Russian-built rocket launchers, remnants of Cold War weaponry capable of being fitted to the nearly equally vintage two-seater L-39 Czech jets that Security Aviation purchased last year. The government says the launchers are "destructive devices" that are felonies to possess unless they've been properly registered.

Lawyers representing the Anchorage air charter company and one of its principals, Rob Kane, hope to limit the trial to the questions of how the launchers got to Anchorage and whether they are showpieces rather than weapons. The worst that happened, the defense has said, is that a minor paperwork violation occurred -- nothing that gives rise to felony weapons charges that could net the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and Kane a prison sentence.

The government hopes to tell the jury a broader story that touches on the mysterious growth of Security Aviation, where Kane and partner Mark Avery spent millions over a few months last year with apparent reckless abandon and little sign of an overall plan for legitimate business. Prosecutors want to show jurors pictures of a weapons arsenal that included combat-assault styles, some of them found in Kane's office at Avery & Associates on C Street in Midtown Anchorage.

It's unclear whether jurors will get to peek into Kane's shadowy world, in which he promoted himself as a CIA, FBI and Navy special operations veteran with a past so secret, he has said, that the government could only deny it. While many of Kane's claims have been shown to be bogus, like his being a Navy Seal, the government has acknowledged that Kane was an FBI informant for a number of years. Prosecutors have filed, under seal, a notice regarding classified information in the case and decline to talk about that.

"The government obviously hopes to shore up the weakness in its case by hoping jurors will conclude Kane is a dangerous, gun-toting nut worthy of conviction of some charge," Kevin Fitzgerald, one of Kane's defense lawyers and a former state prosecutor, wrote in a motion seeking to keep out evidence about guns and hefty spending at Security Aviation.

Neither the prosecutors nor the defense would discuss their trial strategy, including whether Kane or Avery will testify. Avery, a former city and state prosecutor, has not been charged with any crime, but as Security Aviation president, has been appearing for the company in court.

U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick has ruled against defense efforts to suppress evidence seized in searches of Kane's home, the company's Palmer hangar and other locations.

In its written filings, the defense says the only real issue is whether the rocket launchers were weapons. They weren't configured to fire rockets when Security Aviation bought them, defense lawyers argue, so what matters is whether they could be "readily converted" to do so.

Nothing would happen if someone pressed the switch with a rocket in the launcher, Robert Bundy, one of Security Aviation's lawyers, wrote in a brief filed Monday. "Instead the rocket would just sit peacefully inside the tube."

On Friday afternoon, the government announced in a court filing that it is switching its approach and will attempt to prove that the launchers could actually fire a projectile. It won't be offering expert testimony on whether the launchers could be "readily converted," the notice said.

The government also may try to push beyond that and bring in witnesses to testify about what Kane has said regarding the launchers' use.

In its outline of trial issues, prosecutors say one witness will testify that Kane said, "We can charge high rollers to sit in the back seat and shoot at barges in Prince William Sound."

One important witness -- perhaps for both sides -- is likely to be a former Security Aviation employee, Jim Mendenhall, who had worked as Security's part-time director of business development. It was Mendenhall who spotted an eBay advertisement for the launchers, then -- after being so directed by Kane -- made the arrangements to buy them, according to an FBI report filed in court by the defense. Mendenhall has been granted immunity from prosecution for testifying.

As an employee of Security Aviation before Avery bought the company in July 2005, Mendenhall also witnessed its explosive growth from inside. The FBI said Mendenhall "became frustrated that (Security Aviation) did not have a viable business plan."

By fall, it became apparent to Mendenhall that "both Avery and Kane seemed to know nothing about what they were doing in the aviation business." And by December, the company was "hemorrhaging" money, being taken down by a fleet of aircraft with "no legitimate business purpose," the FBI quoted Mendenhall as saying.

In a brief telephone interview Friday, Mendenhall said elements of the FBI report were inaccurate or overstated his views, though he acknowledges he questioned some of the business dealings.

The government wants jurors to know of Kane's large role at Security Aviation, even though his only title was "Commander." Prosecutors hope to show jurors a DVD of Avery, the company's sole stockholder, presenting Kane with a restored World War II plane, an F4-U Corsair, for his birthday.

But the defense says none of that is necessary because it is not disputing Kane had the authority to approve the purchase of the launchers.

"The government obviously hopes to create antipathy toward Kane based on his rate of compensation, his wealth, or whether he fired somebody," Fitzgerald wrote in a motion filed Wednesday.

In Kane's office, agents found a .50-caliber sniper rifle and scope, five AK-47-style semi-automatic rifles and more than a dozen FN-Five Seven pistols along with ammunition that can pierce body armor.

Most of the weapons were legal, the government acknowledged in its trial brief. Prosecutors say Kane had a key to an armory within Avery & Associates that belonged to licensed gun dealer and manufacturer Dennis Hopper, a paramedic who worked with another Avery company.

"In the gun room were various silenced and unsilenced sniper rifles with tactical scopes, tactical shotguns, assault rifles, submachine guns and one belt-fed machine gun, silencers, and other quasi-law enforcement/military weaponry," assistant U.S. attorney Steven Skrocki wrote in a trial brief.

Kane said all the weaponry was necessary because "people here in Anchorage are going on a mission," according to a government description of expected testimony from an unnamed witness.

The guns are irrelevant, says the defense. They have nothing to do with whether the rocket launchers are destructive devices, Fitzgerald wrote in a motion.

"The government is resorting to a smear campaign in an attempt to convict Kane on the destructive devices charges," he wrote.

But the government says the guns convey state of mind and are beyond what a normal gun enthusiast would possess.


Daily News reporter Lisa Demer can be reached at ldemer@adn.com and 257-4390. Reporter Richard Mauer can be reached at rmauer@adn.com and 257-4345.


Security Aviation on trial

As jury selection begins Monday, here's a look at the company and its two key people:

• the 'Commander': In 2004, Rob Kane started working for Anchorage attorney Mark Avery, ultimately becoming "commander" and de facto chief executive of Security Aviation. Kane is 37.

• the owner: Mark Avery, 47, is a former state and city prosecutor who owns Security Aviation Inc. He has poured tens of millions of dollars into Security Aviation and other ventures, buying intercontinental executive jets, helicopters, turbo props, vintage World War II aircraft and a fleet of Czech-built L-39 two-seater military jets.

• the company: Security Aviation Inc. is an air charter service founded in Anchorage in 1985 by Michael O'Neill and sold to Mark Avery in July 2005. The federal government's case

The U.S. attorney will try to prove three allegations of criminal activity, all felonies.

• Count 1: Conspiracy to receive and possess an unregistered destructive device, charged against Robert Kane. Maximum penalty: five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.

• count 2: Receipt and possession of unregistered destructive devices, charged against Kane and Security Aviation Inc. Maximum penalty: 10 years for Kane, a $250,000 fine for both.

• count 3: Unlawful transportation of destructive devices by Kane and Security Aviation. Maximum penalty: five years against Kane, $250,000 fine against both.


this guy really takes the cake on being 'tactical'.

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pete f
May 15, 2006, 04:31 AM
The local airport near my house has a considerable number of Richmans toys, including several Migs, L-39's and a couple of chinese copies of YAKs.

When the first Mig was bought by a civilian and permits were granted to him to land it prior to shipping across the Atlantic, there was big stink because he landed at some civil air port in Norway fully Armed, full load of 37 millimeter, 20 mm and 12.7. It was he said the way he got it from the russians and did not know how to unload it. I believe he was believed to be telling the truth and was not accused of anything but it was a wake up to many that buying fully aircombat worthy aircraft from the russians was only a $$ issue, not a ethical issue to the russians.

May 15, 2006, 10:16 AM
he landed at some civil air port in Norway fully Armed, full load of 37 millimeter, 20 mm and 12.7.


OMG that is sweet, now if I can only come up with $250k that the wife wont miss, I'm a-goin' to the Ukraine!

May 15, 2006, 11:55 AM
I know one of the arresting officers in this case. There is a whole lot more weirdness involved in this one than what is in this article.

May 15, 2006, 12:42 PM
if one were so inclined, do a search on the ADN website (linky at top of article) for 'security aviation'. read some of the past articles. Correia is right, there is a LOT of bizarre behavior. some of it including local law enforcement trying to steer federal investigators away.

May 15, 2006, 05:43 PM
Bizarre behavior yes, but the only criminal activity publically alleged is still the purchase of some possibly not demilled launchers, for which the Feds are not going after for possession and sale (at last report) the SELLER, also a US citizen, located in the lower 48.

The whole, make him look nutty by listing his (all apparently legal but you don't hear that emphasized) "arsenal" scam and alleging but not charging on other offenses in the press is prosecutorial BS I'm getting real tired of. If you've got him on the facts, nail him; otherwise leave the politics of personal destruction to shyster civil lawyers.

At first I thought the DD charge was just a ploy to get folks to talk about financial malfeasance, since that was so broadly hinted at. It appears it's just another standard "we don't like insane gun nuts" boondoggle, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing but a waste of tax dollars. Now that they've made a big deal over this in the press they can't back off without looking foolish. So somebody's head, guilty or not, is going to have to roll.

May 15, 2006, 06:03 PM
i agree, and the proof of your sentiment is found in how they gloss over the fact that all the guns found at kane/avery's were all legal. technically, they said 'most of them were legal', but if even one of them was, they'd be tacking that on, considering there was full auto and silenced weapons. if they were 'off paper' so to speak, they'd hype that up as well. note they go to great length to point out that the ammo for the fn 5.7 is 'armor piercing'. i have high doubts that they actually had taht (isnt it the SS109?) instead they probably had the commercially made hollow points for it.

they also mentioned before that kane carries two fn 5.7's in shoulder holsters, and at that time also they mentioned 'armor piercing'.

i think this is all about a couple guys with way too much money wrapped up in Rambo fantasies. some would say its more "SOF", but thats an insult to Col Brown and the fine publication he heads up.

the one thing that makes me want to see this kane guy brought down to size is for his lies about being a SEAL. apparently he is listed on thier 'hall-of-shame'.

i'd be surprised if they find any real criminal activity, maybe some funny stuff with the money sources.

p.s. where ya been hiding carberry? you dont call, you dont write, you dont send smoke signals. making me feel neglected. wheres that frowning similie?

Standing Wolf
May 15, 2006, 08:36 PM
The government hopes to tell the jury a broader story that touches on the mysterious growth of Security Aviation, where Kane and partner Mark Avery spent millions over a few months last year with apparent reckless abandon and little sign of an overall plan for legitimate business.

I've got a better idea: why don't we redefine the term "legitimate government"?

May 16, 2006, 12:34 PM
Rendezvous with a girlfriend no excuse from jury duty
SECURITY AVIATION TRIAL: Potential panelists air an array of reasons not to serve.
By LISA DEMER Anchorage Daily News Published: May 16, 2006
Last Modified: May 16, 2006 at 01:44 AM

More than 85 Alaskans from around the Southcentral region packed into an imposing wood-paneled courtroom Monday as jury selection began in the trial of Rob "Commander" Kane and his employer, Security Aviation Inc., on federal weapons charges.

It was a larger-than-normal group of prospective jurors for U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Both sides have raised concerns that extensive coverage of the case in the media would make it hard to find 12 impartial Alaskans for what's expected to be a two-week trial.

Ten or so potential jurors were excluded right away because they said their minds were already made up, and a few others were excused later as lawyers began more detailed questioning. But many others said they either hadn't heard of the case, didn't know much about it, or wouldn't let what they knew taint their decision-making.

Lawyers on both sides expect to make opening statements around midday today. Kane and Security Aviation are charged with illegally possessing and transporting rocket launchers, and Kane also is charged with conspiracy.

The crowd of potential jurors looked middle-aged. Most wore Alaska casual: jeans, comfortable shoes, pullover shirts or plaid or striped button-ups. They sat shoulder to shoulder in the large auditorium-style courtroom on red cushioned chairs.

Some told U.S. District Judge John Sedwick it would be a hardship for them to serve, and some had other issues. One man haltingly told the judge he feared his English wasn't good enough, and that he barely understood what was happening during jury selection.

A young man with long curly hair under his knitted cap was excused when he said he wasn't sure he could be fair to a corporation. A woman wearing a black leather jacket and spiked heels asked to speak privately with the judge and the lawyers, then was allowed to go.

Some excuses were better than others. One woman got released because she had plane tickets to Hawaii for a wedding and was leaving Monday night. She brought them to court as proof. A man said he had to be in court himself next week to answer a stalking complaint. He got off. Ditto for a woman just entering the busy season in her job at the Alaska Botanical Garden. The upcoming garden fair might fail if she got pulled away for jury duty, she told the judge.

But a man who said he had a plane ticket to Seattle for a business meeting and a rendezvous with his girlfriend was told to keep his seat.

Potential jurors who said they were inclined to believe law enforcement officers more than other people were excused.

In case developments, Sedwick decided to let the government present evidence describing Kane's powerful position at Security Aviation. But there are limits. He ruled against the government showing jurors a DVD of Kane being presented with a vintage World War II plane as a birthday gift from Security Aviation owner Mark Avery. He also ruled against the government presenting as much evidence as it wanted about an arsenal of weapons found in searches of Avery's Midtown office building.

The weapons might give jurors the wrong idea, along the lines of "if boys are nuts about powerful weapons, and they then get some jets to which it is possible to attach powerful weapons -- well, boys will be boys," Sedwick wrote.


Daily News reporter Lisa Demer can be reached at ldemer@adn.com and 257-4390.

May 16, 2006, 05:56 PM
I've got a better idea: why don't we redefine the term "legitimate government"?

O.K. How does state prosecutor earn that kind of money? He spent how many tens of millions? Wow, public employment pays good up there!

May 16, 2006, 06:11 PM
I can only say I trust the jury pool in this area. Not in other parts of Alaska, but in Anchorage I trust them. They may not have always gone the way I wanted, but they come out about where they should. Even if Sedwick had let the prosecutor put on the smear campaign about the "arsenal," the tactic might well have backfired.

May 17, 2006, 12:41 PM
Lawyers trade shots on danger of launchers
SECURITY AVIATION: Opening arguments cast weapons as either "cool" devices or deadly arms.
By LISA DEMER Anchorage Daily News Published: May 17, 2006
Last Modified: May 17, 2006 at 03:15 AM

Lawyers for the two sides in the Security Aviation case outlined for jurors very different views of the dull metal cylinders that took center stage in a federal courtroom Tuesday -- the rocket launchers themselves.

Serious weaponry designed for war and ready to fire, said the government.

Cool-looking devices that lack the electronics needed to make them operable, said the defense.

So began the trial of the longtime Anchorage air charter and medevac business, and one of its principals, Rob "Commander" Kane, as he likes to be known. Kane and Security Aviation are charged with illegally possessing and transporting the rocket launchers and Kane additionally is charged with conspiracy.

A jury of eight men -- six of them mechanics or electricians -- and four women was seated around noon. Seven live in Anchorage. Others are from Cordova, Homer, Wasilla and Chugiak.

About 60 spectators, some of them just curious lawyers, sat in on the opening statements in U.S. District Court.

The sole witness to testify Tuesday was FBI agent Derek Espeland, who led the Feb. 2 raid on Security Aviation's Palmer hangar where the two rocket launchers were stored along with seven of the company's Czech-built L-39 military jets. The launchers theoretically could be hooked up to the jets, but prosecutors admit there's no evidence anyone at Security ever tried to do so.

A team of about a dozen FBI agents and other law enforcement officers seized a variety of manuals about the jets -- which the defense pointedly called trainers, not fighters. They also confiscated two white binders on armaments that included diagrams of air-to-ground rockets and information about "blasting effects," Espeland testified.

Security Aviation had been a proud air charter company, once flying former President Jimmy Carter, assistant U.S. attorney James Barkeley told the jury.

Then it underwent a "radical military metamorphosis," he said. At one point, it had 12 L-39 Albatros jets, but four were repossessed and are now the subject of a separate civil lawsuit.

The case is not over some minor paperwork violation for failing to register the rocket launchers, he told jurors. The devices should have been "demilitarized" and registered when they were imported, he said. That never happened. By the time Kane and Security Aviation got the launchers, it was too late to register them, he said.

The government will prove that the launchers -- 80 pounds each, about 4 feet long, each able to hold 16 rockets -- are "destructive devices," Barkeley said.

Jurors can expect to hear from former Security Aviation mechanics, including John Berens, who got Lasik eye surgery because Kane told him they were going on a mission to the Philippines and would be in a hot zone, Barkeley told jurors.

Berens didn't want his glasses to fall off in a heated situation, the prosecutor said.

When the launchers arrived in Alaska, Kane told people he could now do some serious target practice, Barkeley said.

That's just boy talk, one of Kane's defense lawyers, Paul Stockler, told jurors. Other men, including Anchorage police Sgt. Ted Smith, made similar comments, he said. Smith had moonlighted for Security Aviation.

There was no plan for combat, said Security Aviation's lead attorney, former federal prosecutor Robert Bundy, when his turn came to talk directly to the jury.

Innocent acts by innocent people were misinterpreted, Bundy said. The launchers aren't set up to be destructive devices, and no one at the company ever thought they were, he said.

The rocket launchers have been in the United States for 15 years and nobody got in trouble over them until now, Stockler noted.

Anyway, Kane had little to do with the launchers, his attorney said. A Security Aviation employee at the time, Jim Mendenhall, spotted them on eBay, told Kane he thought they were cool, and asked whether he should buy them, Stockler said.

Go ahead, Kane told him, in Stockler's version of the purchase. The launchers were shipped to Mendenhall, not Kane, the lawyer said.

No one ever tried to keep the rocket launchers secret, defense lawyers said.

Security Aviation employees invited the head of the Transportation Security Administration in Alaska and its lawyer to take a look at them, he said.

"The government's case makes no sense," Stockler said.

There are reasonable explanations for Security's rapid buildup last year after Mark Avery bought it, Bundy said.

The company started buying the L-39 jets because they were "cool" and could lure pilots to the charter company, Bundy said. One idea was to use them to train pilots to handle air disturbances from the wakes of big jets. But they also hoped to win military contracts for war games in the sky, and even to take them to the Philippines -- for training, Bundy told jurors.

The prosecution continues to present evidence Wednesday in what is expected -- perhaps optimistically -- to be a two-week trial.


Daily News reporter Lisa Demer can be reached at ldemer@adn.com and 257-4390. Reported Richard Mauer contributed to this story.

May 17, 2006, 03:10 PM
The rocket launchers have been in the United States for 15 years and nobody got in trouble over them until now, Stockler noted.

Witch hunt :( :fire:

May 17, 2006, 05:14 PM
All this for failure to fill out a form and pay a $200 tax. Seems a little excessive, eh?

Henry Bowman
May 17, 2006, 05:26 PM
A jury of eight men -- six of them mechanics or electricians -- and four women was seated around noon. Seven live in Anchorage. Others are from Cordova, Homer, Wasilla and Chugiak.It only take one to prevent a conviction. :)

May 18, 2006, 01:12 AM
I think the launchers were originally just an excuse to dig into the finances (which are convoluted) to find a "real" crime, perhaps to start seizing assets (FBI needs jets?).

When that didn't pan out the Feds were left with the original bogus weapons charge which they have to push in order to avoid looking like idiots.

May 18, 2006, 02:55 AM
I'm just not going to say anything, because I don't want to jinx matters.

May 18, 2006, 12:42 PM
Sale put Security into the fast lane
By LISA DEMER Anchorage Daily News Published: May 18, 2006
Last Modified: May 18, 2006 at 02:37 AM

Joe Kapper knew it was going to be a fast and furious ride at Security Aviation Inc. when Anchorage attorney Mark Avery bought it last summer.

Kapper, the former Security Aviation president, on Wednesday told jurors how the small air charter with a reputation for safety and tight spending morphed into a free-spending militarized business with elements that surprised even him.

Kapper, with a close-cut beard, silvery hair and a healthy tan, spoke carefully and never expressed anger at the upheaval in the company his family ran for years.

Avery kept Kapper on as president for eight months and more than doubled his salary to $250,000. But he answered to another man, Rob "Commander" Kane, who ran the show yet insisted his name be kept off company paperwork, Kapper told jurors.

Now Kane and Security Aviation are on trial in U.S. District Court, charged with illegally possessing and transporting rocket launchers. Kane also is charged with conspiracy. The defense says the metal cylinders are just decorations, but the government says they are dangerous, destructive devices and is trying to give jurors an inside look at Security Aviation.

Kapper said he took over after the death of his stepfather, company founder Michael O'Neill, in December 2002. His task for the estate was to clear away the company's debts and "polish" it up to sell, he said. And by last summer, the company was in as good a financial shape as it ever had been, he said. The fleet of planes had grown from five to six.

Around June 20, an intermediary for Avery called to see if Security was available, Kapper testified. Kapper threw out a high-end price of $7 million but also mentioned his sisters might not go for it.

Avery had tried to buy at least one other aviation business but the deal fell through, Kapper testified. Now he was facing a deadline and in a crunch.

Within an hour, the negotiator called back and offered $8 million, cash, Kapper testified. In 16 days, the deal was done.

The urgency stemmed from a January 2006 target date Avery had for a new business line involving overseas medevacs, Kapper said.

The plan was to buy expensive Gulfstream intercontinental-range jets and win contracts from the U.S. State Department to provide air-ambulance services for U.S. embassies on the Pacific Rim, he told jurors. Three hundred and fifty-six embassies, to be exact.

Yet, that idea hadn't even been pitched to the State Department when Kane turned his attention to something else entirely.

"Look what I just bought," a grinning Kane told Kapper one day. He showed him a picture of a military jet. Kane had committed -- with no inspection -- to buy three Czech-built L-39 Albatros military jets, the start of what would eventually be a fleet of 12 L-39s, Kapper told jurors.

What is the business plan for them? Kapper said he asked. There wasn't one. As Kapper saw it, Kane just had to have them.

"It was a toy," Kapper said. Still, the price was reasonable, and the company decided it could justify them. Maybe they could use the jets to train pilots to handle wakes from big aircraft at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

The company also hoped to use the L-39s in training exercises with the Air Force and the Navy, and for business with the United Nations, to help standardize flight procedures in "little theaters" of conflict, Kapper said.

The company began hiring former military officers with top credentials, including Joe Griffith, a former flight wing commander at Elmendorf Air Force Base, and Tom Trotter, a former Navy Top Gun pilot, Kapper told jurors.

Then, last October, two rocket launchers arrived in crates. Kane excitedly went to Kapper's office and brought him to the hangar to take a look.

"I have a vision of Buck Rogers having brought this over," Kapper testified. He told Kane to have fun with it, and left. He thought the launchers were just decorative accessories, something that could be used to promote the L-39 business, nothing dangerous or criminal.

Kane was disappointed the launchers hadn't arrived in time for a chili feed open house at the hangar, Kapper said. He had wanted to show them off attached to one of the jets.

Seven mechanics were hired for the L-39s. One, Bob Anthony, told jurors Wednesday that he was in the Anchorage hangar when the rocket launchers arrived. Anthony said he was working under another jet and heard Kane say, "Now we can do some serious target practice." The government has repeated that line in several filings.

Kapper said he lost his job as company president in March while he was on vacation in Hawaii. Avery offered him another position, but he turned it down.

After Kapper testified and the trial went into a short recess, Kane approached Kapper outside the courtroom. Kane engulfed the much smaller man in a huge bear hug, murmuring how good it was to see him. Kapper's wife turned away, as if she could not bear to watch, and mouthed an expletive.

Another prosecution witness offering startling testimony Wednesday was Wilbur Hooks, the sole law enforcement official for the Transportation Security Administration in Alaska.

Hooks said he was invited last August or September to check out Security Aviation's expanding operation on the south side of Anchorage's international airport. During a tour of Security's hangar on South Airpark Place, Hooks said, Kane talked to him about weapons, tactics, covert operations and other stuff that the federal official found bizarre.

Kane told Hooks he was planning to put a sniper tower on top of the hangar. Hooks said he didn't believe much of what Kane was saying. But a few weeks later, in a telephone conversation, Kane implied the sniper tower was in place. The company had also installed 40 security cameras.

When Hooks visited again, he found Kane fuming because the FAA had grounded the L-39s. Kane showed Hooks a rocket launcher under a tarp and suggested if FAA officials saw it, they would be upset, Hooks said.

Hooks told jurors he immediately reported what he saw to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes state and local officials. The next day, Hooks met with FBI special agent Matthew Campe about the launchers.

Hooks testified that Kane indicated the company was installing the sniper tower for Anchorage police.

Anchorage Police Lt. Paul Honeman was asked about that later, outside of court. In a message left for a reporter, Honeman said that Security did offer use of a sniper tower to the department's SWAT team.

"It was discussed briefly, and after a quick review it was dismissed as anything we could ever use or would want to use for any reason," Honeman said. The consensus at the police department, he said, is that Kane has "far-fetched ideas and is almost too eager to help."


Daily News reporter Lisa Demer can be reached at ldemer@adn.com and 257-4390.

May 18, 2006, 12:54 PM
This is beginning to make more and more sense. We have the vaunted TSA seeing what may be a harmless item, assuming it's dangerous, and "for the good of the nation and to defeat terrorism" making a Federal case over it.

Couldn't be bothered to ask, "Hey, are those even legal?" when he was standing in front of them. :rolleyes:

Then, either Kane would have said, "Yeah, they're demilled and can't shoot." or "No, and don't tell anybody.' Actual direct, non-braggadacio statements that could be testified to rather than the BS "is he/isn't he kidding?" statements they have now.

Heaven forfend an actual agent of the US government be a grown up and follow up casually on his own a little in a situation of potential but non-imminent threat (they weren't mounted and no rockets were in evidence) and avoid the whole dog and pony show. :banghead:

May 18, 2006, 01:30 PM
ahhhh, but then you are assuming that gov't agents would know a lawfully owned demilled weapon when the see it. kane has allegedly made what sounds (to my humble ears) like stupid comments that were 99% jokes.
but they were made in such poor taste that i would go so far as to compare them to an airline passenger joking about a drunken pilot, or even about smuggling a weapon on the plane.

is his stupidity enough to warrant all this investigation and hoopla? probably not, if kane's character was as normally upstanding and free from suspicion like yours or mine would be. its all the eccentricities of kane's character that gathered so much interest in him and his company.

which is ironic, considering he apparently went to great efforts to 'stay off the radar'.

May 18, 2006, 01:35 PM
I'm not expecting someone to know what a demilled launcher looks like, just, if the guy was so concerned, ask a single direct question about it right then to get a serious, on point answer.

If Kane said it was demilled (or wasn't) in serious conversation with a government official than the investigation would proceed differently. Professionally, not hinging on "what did he mean?" and "wow, he has lots of guns and is a screwball."

Actual questions of fact and all.

May 18, 2006, 01:59 PM
are you saying that there would be no way you would find a persons behavior to be so bizaare or suspicious that you would consider them a threat to others?

essentially, thats what we have with the law enforcement official from the TSA. he apparently felt uncomfortable with kane and what he was saying, jokingly or not. was he in the wrong to report kane to the FBI?

May 18, 2006, 02:20 PM
Oh, I'd find it odd. But I'd have the stones to confront him with a no BS yes or no question right there myself.

"Hey Rob, you know I'm with TSA, is this thing even legal?" <answer>

"Are you sure? Where'd you get it?" <answer>

"What are you going to do with it? And no jokes." <answer>

"Well, you might want to tone down the tough guy act a bit, dumb#$%, before you get yourself in trouble. By the way, what BUD/s class were you supposedly in?"

Something like that.

If from direct conversation I felt there was a problem, THEN I would call in the appropriate authorities, probably starting with APD.

I wouldn't see the scary rocket launcher and hear the scary man maybe joke around and then run like a little girl to the FBI setting off what might be a useless witch hunt.

May 18, 2006, 02:36 PM
but you're so good at running around like a little girl.


May 18, 2006, 02:58 PM
you should see me hunt witches :evil:

...but there's a time and place for everything and pulling the "domestic terrorist" card in this instance was neither.

May 18, 2006, 08:50 PM
Any bets on what the outcome will be?

This trial and story looks really interesting.

May 18, 2006, 08:55 PM
Hung jury at worst, not guilty more probably.

Depends on the technical question of whether the launchers are truly demilled or are actually easily remilitarized and then whether Kane and Co. knew it and intended to do it and then whether the jury believes Kane to be anything more than a clown.

The fact they've been in-country so long and apparently bought and sold with no issues before isn't helping the Feds.

May 18, 2006, 10:25 PM
I'm betting the feds go away bloody on this one. The only way they'll win is by convincing the jury they're not wasting everyone's time and that the defendants really do pose some risk. But with a jury of that many blue-collar Alaskans, they're dealing with people who likely have extensive personal experience with firearms and BS from the federales. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed.

May 19, 2006, 12:49 PM
Witness: Security weapons in 'pristine' shape
ROCKET LAUNCHERS: Devices are in good shape, analyst tells jurors.
By LISA DEMER Anchorage Daily News Published: May 19, 2006
Last Modified: May 19, 2006 at 01:48 AM

Basic questions played out Thursday for jurors hearing a federal weapons case in U.S. District Court: What is a rocket launcher anyway? And did the defendants possess devices that would actually work?

An expert in rocket weaponry told jurors that his tests determined the two Russian-built rocket launchers sitting before them were operational, in pristine condition, and ready to attach to jets.

"They are in very good shape," said Charles Watson, a branch chief with the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. He called them "pristine."

Security Aviation Inc., an air charter and air ambulance business, along with company principal Rob "Commander" Kane, are charged with illegally possessing and transporting rocket launchers. Kane also is charged with conspiracy.

The government is trying to paint a picture of a business that spun out of control when Kane began running it for new owner Mark Avery last summer. Kane directed the acquisition of 12 Czech-built L-39 Albatros military jets to which the launchers could have been attached.

The defense says Security Aviation was trying to win contracts for military training but jurors also have heard brief snippets from former employees about rumors of a shadowy mission to the Philippines.

The launchers are extremely simple weapons, essentially metal cylinders each encasing 16 tubes in which rockets could be loaded, according to Watson. His job at the intelligence center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio is to test and analyze foreign weaponry in order to help U.S. forces defend against it.

The Soviet-era launchers are rugged and intentionally easy to use, he said. "Read a step, do a step, eat a banana," he said.

His tests in April found the electronic circuitry of the launchers, including the main plug that draws power from a plane, to be intact, Watson told jurors, using a detailed diagram and the launchers themselves to explain. Some jurors furiously scribbled notes as he spoke.

He also described for jurors how the rockets would work, with electronic ignition of the rocket propellant. He testified that the rockets, made by companies in China, Bulgaria and Romania, are easy to obtain, though under cross-examination admitted that he knows of no one in the U.S. outside of government who obtained any.

There's no evidence Security Aviation had rockets, or tried to acquire any. The defense has said the launchers, bought off an eBay ad, were just for show.

Would the launchers still work, from the ground, even if all the electronic wires were stripped away? asked Paul Stockler, one of Kane's defense attorneys.

They would, Watson told him.

Stockler then set up a display in the courtroom, sticking tubes of PVC pipe through a cardboard box. He asked if that would work as a launcher, too.

"That is correct," Watson said.

Also on Thursday, former Security Aviation jet mechanic John Berens finished testifying against his former employers, telling the jury that a German expert considered the rocket launchers capable of firing.

"He said that they were good to go," Berens said. "Everything looked operational to him."

Bernd Rehn, a former East German air force officer, was hired as a consultant by Security Aviation last fall to train Berens and his crew and to inspect the company L-39 Albatross jets.

In December, Berens said he asked Rehn to examine the rocket launchers, capable of being fixed beneath the wings of the jets. Kane had told him to be prepared to travel to the Philippines with the jets, Berens said.

He told jurors he wanted Rehn's opinion on whether the launchers would be operational if they took them to the Philippines, even though the company had not obtained rockets to arm them.

Berens said he underwent Lasik eye surgery to improve his vision because he thought he was in danger of being fired upon if they went to the Philippines.

He said he relayed Rehn's assessment of the launchers to Kane and two others, Tom Trotter, a former Navy Top Gun pilot who headed up the company's L-39 program, and Joe Griffith, a former Elmendorf flight wing commander who served as another consultant to the company.

Berens and two other former mechanics told jurors they were pushed to unload and assemble a new shipment of L-39 jets when they arrived in crates last fall at the company's Palmer hangar. These four jets, the MS model, are more advanced and more mission-capable than the earlier eight Security had purchased. The hangar floor had just been painted, but they were told it didn't matter, they could go ahead and scratch it up.

"I worked Thanksgiving Day even," former company mechanic Mark Sheets testified on Thursday. Sheets later was fired when he refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement sought by the company.

Berens told jurors he quit his $75,000-a-year job as head mechanic of Security's L-39 program because he worried some of the activities bordered on being illegal. He then helped an Illinois company repossess the four L-39 MS models and cleared the planes for flight.

One of the jets crashed Jan. 25 in Ketchikan after a bad weather delay in Sitka. The pilot ejected, but was killed.

Defense lawyers told U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick that their witnesses will contradict what Berens said about the rocket launchers' functionality.


Daily News reporter Lisa Demer can be reached at ldemer@adn.com and 257-4390. Daily News reporter Richard Mauer contributed to this story

May 19, 2006, 01:01 PM
The rockets are "easy to obtain". Not legally like the launcher, but "easy". Not on eBay like the launcher, but "easy". Not that anyone in the US outside of .gov has ever apparently done it, but "easy". Not that there's any proof anyone at Security Aviation ever tried (or would know where to try) to obtain them, but it's "easy".

Like it's "easy" to convert semi's to full auto.

Like it's "easy" to hire a hitman from magazine ads.

Like it's "easy" to see the government case isn't very good. :rolleyes:

Cardboard box with PVC? In college we (allegedly) made reloadable shoulder fired rockets from model rocket kits, homemade black powder warheads and PVC pipe.

Quick, somebody wet their pants and call the feds.

May 19, 2006, 01:16 PM
is there a monetary reward for narcing on you?

May 19, 2006, 03:27 PM
The Soviet-era launchers are rugged and intentionally easy to use, he said. "Read a step, do a step, eat a banana," he said.

If this case concludes as I hope it will, I'm tempted to ship Dr. Watson there a bunch of bananas and invite him to eat them :D

May 21, 2006, 10:49 PM
Oh no, Just send 'Dr. Watson' to the Philippines.
Lots of bananas in this here 'hot zone'.


May 25, 2006, 08:39 PM
i skipped a few days of articles, all it consisted of was 'he said she said' lawyerese.

Deliberations begin in rocket launcher case
By LISA DEMER Anchorage Daily News Published: May 25, 2006
Last Modified: May 25, 2006 at 02:09 PM

As the government tells it, Security Aviation principal Rob Kane single-mindedly sought military jets and was eager to arm them for an ambitious project in the Philippines that could bring the company $20 million to $200 million.

What happened at the air charter company was "an elaborate deception," Steven Skrocki told jurors Thursday during his closing argument in the trial of Security Aviation and Kane on federal weapons charges.

New owner Mark Avery was so eager to buy Security last summer that he paid $8 million cash $1 million more than the asking price in a deal that closed in just 16 days, Skrocki said, using a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his argument. Avery installed Kane as his top man, and it was Kane's intent to use the rocket launchers that are at the center of the charges, Skrocki said.

As Skrocki spoke, Kane, a tall man with close-cut hair, scribbled notes on a yellow legal pad as he has throughout the trial. Avery, a former prosecutor who sat behind the defense table, leaned back with his eyes shut.

In eight days of testimony and argument, the government has tried to prove the launchers are dangerous destructive devices illegal for Kane and Security Aviation to possess or transport.

Defense lawyers have argued the launchers are harmless showpieces found at air shows and in museums all around the country. They contended the government's case amounted to nothing more than rumor, innuendo and speculation.

Sure, Security was expanding with an infusion of new people and hoped to go international, the company's lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Robert Bundy, argued to jurors.

"For that, we got the grandest conspiracy theory imaginable," Bundy said.

He told jurors they should consider the launcher as just one part of a weapons system, like a cylinder of a revolver. The cylinder alone isn't a weapon, and the launcher shouldn't be considered one either, Bundy said.

"This is designed to work with an aircraft as part of a fairly complicated system," Bundy said.

"They have to prove we knew this thing was somehow capable of firing these rockets, and they can't do it," he said.

As far as Kane knew, the launchers had been demilitarized, one of his lawyers, former state prosecutor Kevin Fitzgerald, told jurors. He never asked for the launchers but simply gave the go-ahead after another Security Aviation employee, Jim Mendenhall, spotted them on eBay as he browsed for patches to promote the L-39s. The eBay ad described them as demilitarized, unable to function as weapons.

And if they weren't, who could blame Kane? Fitzgerald said. There's no clear government standard for demilitarization. One government witness, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told jurors that determinations are made case by case, Fitzgerald reminded jurors.

The jurors began deliberating just after noon. Two alternates were excused.


interesting argument, about the rocket launchers being considered as just one component, like a revolvers cylinder.
but we all know how the BATFE defines 'machine gun'. any thoughts from you legal gurus on whether or not a precedent could be set here as regards machine guns or silencers and the legality of owning parts?

May 26, 2006, 09:26 PM
Kane found not guilty in rocket launcher case
Anchorage Daily News Published: May 26, 2006 Last Modified: May 26, 2006 at 05:07 PM

A jury today found Security Aviation and company official Rob Kane not guilty on federal weapons charges of illegally possessing rocket pod launchers for the company's military-style jets. The verdict was returned Friday afternoon, just a day after the case went to the jury.


a fuller article will probably be published over the weekend. if i'm not around the computer, feel free to visit www.adn.com

May 26, 2006, 09:45 PM

May 27, 2006, 12:47 AM
What a great use of my tax dollars.

What exactly was the harm to me or any other US citizen if they were guilty again? :rolleyes:

May 27, 2006, 04:57 AM
thanks for posting this!

May 27, 2006, 10:35 AM
BATFEces and fed pukes get their arses handed to them in one day of deliberations.:D :D

May 27, 2006, 10:49 AM
L-39's have become very popular in the jet warbird crowd. Good bang for the buck in performance. If you've got a valid pilot's license, you can get an orientation flight in one for $1350 or if you want a full hour its $2,100. They also have other jets for training including the Fouga Magister, MiG 15 and L-29. Go here for more info:


A friend of mine went here and did the hour in an L-39. He's still smiling from it.

Al Norris
May 27, 2006, 02:09 PM
Feds fails to sway jurors about launchers (http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/security_aviation/story/7772674p-7685331c.html)

VERDICT: Federal probe continues into Security Aviation's activities.

Anchorage Daily News

Published: May 27, 2006
Last Modified: May 27, 2006 at 04:56 AM

A federal jury on Friday found Security Aviation and company principal Rob Kane not guilty of all charges related to two rocket launchers that the government said they had illegally possessed and transported.

A dozen jurors had to decide whether the two rocket launchers that sat in the courtroom throughout the trial were dangerous destructive devices, as the government said, or harmless tubes, no worse than plastic pipe that could also be rigged to fire a rocket, as the defense contended. Each launcher had tubes for up to 16 rockets encased in a metal pod.

The verdict came just a day after the case went to the jury. It was a blow to the government, which conducted massive, multi-agency raids on Security Aviation and related companies Feb. 2 after an FBI agent briefly went undercover and confirmed the launchers were still at Security's Palmer hangar. At the time of the raids and Kane's arrest, the government also had evidence from several former employees that Security officials were thinking of packing up the company's fleet of L-39 Czech military jets and taking them to the Philippines.

The rocket launchers were purchased for the jets, vintage Cold War aircraft used by Warsaw Pact and Third World countries as military trainers and ground-attack warplanes. But Security Aviation officials say the government misinterpreted the company's intentions.

In any event, the investigation remains active. The government has been sifting through seized company records for information about the source of the tens of millions of dollars spent over the last year to transform a small Anchorage air charter company into an international operation with trans-oceanic executive jets, helicopters, and top employees who boasted about paramilitary exploits and CIA connections.

U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick praised the lawyers on both sides. "All of you have worked very hard," he said. And of the jury verdict, he said, "I think justice has been done in this case."

Kane, who scrawled notes throughout the nine-day trial, teared up as the verdicts were read.

When it was over, Kane and company owner Mark Avery embraced, with Kane tapping Avery on the back of his head.

"Now I can go home," said Kane, who was jailed after his Feb. 2 arrest then released on bail a month later to the custody of a real estate broker, Charles Sandberg, in Anchorage. His family remained in Eagle River. He said he needed a few days to think about his situation before commenting further.

Several jurors interviewed as they left the Federal Building or later at home said the government failed to lay out a standard for how to demilitarize the launchers to make them legal. Instead, they heard technically complex and sometimes contradictory testimony from government witnesses. An officer with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the agency that regulates weapons, told jurors decisions are case by case.

Jurors also said it simply wasn't clear whether the launchers alone -- without rockets, planes or other parts -- were truly "destructive devices."

"That pod sitting in that courtroom would not fire anything. It would not be destructive in any way," said juror No. 9, Lori Henderson of Anchorage. "They obviously didn't have enough evidence."

Jurors started their deliberations split, said juror No. 12, Walter Witte, an aircraft mechanic in Anchorage. He started out in the minority, which leaned toward guilty verdicts. But "we couldn't find the evidence to say what we were holding out for," Witte said. After roughly 11 hours of deliberations, all the jurors agreed the government hadn't proven the launchers were destructive devices, Witte said.

One of Kane's lawyers, Kevin Fitzgerald, said, "I think this investigation spun way out of control and could have been stopped at any point."

Acting U.S. Attorney Deborah Smith said the investigation into Security Aviation continues. The government will not return the rocket launchers because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms considers them destructive devices, she said. The forfeiture case brought by her office against Security for the two L-39 military jets still in government possession "is still pending," she said.

Jurors heard testimony that those two jets still had weapons components and wiring. At one point, Security had a dozen L-39s but four were repossessed by the seller.

Witnesses on both sides said the company hoped to win contracts to use the jets in military training exercises in the United States and the Philippines.

The launchers were just for show, witnesses said. They were bought off an eBay ad that described them as "de-mil'd," which also played into the jury's decision.

After the verdicts, Avery, an attorney himself, said he was pleased by the outcome. Over years of working as a state and municipal prosecutor, Avery said, he had become jaded and "fed up" with the criminal justice system. He had come to believe "a trial is not about the truth."

But this case was different, Avery said. "Everybody at the trial told the truth, except for one guy," Avery said, singling out key government witness John Berens, the chief mechanic for Security's L-39 fleet. Berens, a former Air Force mechanic, testified that he warned company officials that the rocket launchers were operational.

Avery said Security Aviation and his other businesses would survive.

"We're so thankful for all the people that have supported us," he said.

But he also recognized that the investigation would continue. "The government is in control," he said. "It's their game."

As he has done before, he refused to identify the sources of money for the phenomenal growth of his companies over the last year.

He said he planned to ask the government to return everything that was seized, including the remaining two L-39 jets and the rocket pods.

Avery said he remains "confused" about why the investigation began in the first place, though he acknowledged that he, Kane, and some employees had talked about secret international missions, money from trusts, and other so-far unexplained activities. And, he said, Kane, his partner, doesn't always make a good impression.

"Rob is an odd bird," Avery said. "You can quote me on that."

May 27, 2006, 02:22 PM
Acting U.S. Attorney Deborah Smith said the investigation into Security Aviation continues. The government will not return the rocket launchers because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms considers them destructive devices, she said.

Don't you love our federal government? They don't let a little thing like a JURY VERDICT stand in the way.

May 27, 2006, 02:49 PM
"In any event, the investigation remains active. The government has been sifting through seized company records for information about the source of the tens of millions of dollars spent over the last year to transform a small Anchorage air charter company into an international operation with trans-oceanic executive jets, helicopters, and top employees who boasted about paramilitary exploits and CIA connections."

Yeah, they're pissed now so they'll start pounding away until they find something...anything to make the owners continue to spend money on legal fees.

You might win the battle, but lose the war.

May 27, 2006, 03:27 PM
The jets they'll end up seizing will then be auctioned and the money go the seizing agency.

Alternately, if it looks like they'll have to be returned, they'll probably pull a "sour grapes" and "de-mil" them with a chop saw and cutting torch.

.gov doesn't let itself lose much.

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