A video game – that's what law enforcement agents say inspired a group of soldiers to turn against the nation they were sworn to defend.
That video game, "Rainbow Six: Patriots," won't come out until next year. All that has been released so far is a loose plot and a conceptual video.
Still, law enforcement says that was enough to inspire Forever Enduring Always Ready – or FEAR – a group of Fort Stewart soldiers who allegedly were plotting a violent overthrow of the U.S. government.
The group had plans to start small, bombing local politicians' cars and Savannah's Forsyth Park fountain. In court Monday, Isabel Pauley, an assistant district attorney for the Atlantic District, said the group had the expertise and financial means to carry out their plans - until FEAR's leaders were arrested and charged with murdering one of their own.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Pvt. Christopher Salmon and Sgt. Anthony Peden, accused of murdering Pvt. Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend Tiffany York last year.
Pfc. Michael Burnett already has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and illegal gang activity in the case.
Salmon's wife, Heather Salmon, also has been charged with murder in the case but is not facing the death penalty.
Prosecutors call Aguigui the ringleader of the group and say he used a magazine article on "Rainbow Six: Patriots" to gauge soldiers' interest in his plans.
"Aguigui called this process, 'the awakening,' and if those approached were in agreement with the concept, they would be brought into the fold of the organization," Pauley said.
Rainbow Six's designers have released a conceptual video in which a group of domestic terrorists straps a bomb to a father. They tell him that unless he makes it to Times Square, his family will be executed.
Jack Mamais, a Savannah College of Art and Design video game design professor, was surprised that FEAR's leaders could be inspired by a game that hasn't been released yet.
"It's amazing that the guys at Fort Stewart are trying to use this as a recruitment tool because basically, it's just a video of an upcoming game and a theme of American terrorists," he said.
In the Army, none of FEAR's leaders held a rank higher than sergeant. But in the terror cell, prosecutors say, they were part of Platoon 666, an elite group that would one day take over the nation.
Once inside, the soldiers adopted pop-culture symbols of rebellion, prosecutors say. FEAR's members got tattoos of the Greek letters alpha and omega, overlapping, to resemble the symbol for anarchy. Pauley said they emblazoned the numbers 666 some of the more than $80,000 worth of weapons the group purchased. They called themselves "the family."
Pauley said that family fell apart in December, when five FEAR members conspired to kill Roark and York. Roark had just left the Army, and FEAR's leaders were afraid the couple would betray the group's secrets.
"A loose end was one way Isaac put it," Burnett said in court Monday.
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