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Republic of Texas separatists convicted of plotting abduction

Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren and a top lieutenant were convicted Friday of plotting the abduction of a couple that led to a weeklong armed standoff.

The jury deliberated about two hours before finding McLaren and Robert Otto guilty of organized criminal activity in the abduction April 27 of Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe.

The abduction at the remote Davis Mountain Resort in west Texas started a standoff with about 300 state troopers and Texas Rangers that ended May 3 when the group agreed to lay down its weapons.

McLaren and Otto face up to life in prison and a $10,000 fine. State District Judge Kenneth Dehart will decide the sentence.

Both men believe Texas was illegally annexed by the United States and that the state courts have no jurisdiction over them because they are foreign nationals _ the foreign country being the Republic of Texas.

McLaren's lawyer promised to appeal.

In final arguments, District Attorney Albert Valadez said McLaren and Otto conspired in the kidnapping and were just as responsible as those who actually carried out the abduction.

Defense lawyers said prosecutors presented no evidence to support the charges.

"It is the defense's contention that the defendant himself, and only the defendant, must do an overt act," Brown told jurors.

But Assistant District Attorney James Jepson played tapes for the jury in which McLaren is heard to discuss the abduction.

The prosecutor also reminded the jury of a statement, given by Otto to police, that the abduction was part of a long-standing plan for the defense of what the Republic of Texas group believed to be its embassy.

"Both of these defendants, by their own actions and conduct .

.

. have told you of their knowledge," Jepson said.

In one of the tapes played in court Friday, McLaren told a television reporter, "They've captured two of our prisoners. We've captured two of theirs."

McLaren referred to two Republic members arrested prior to the standoff and to the Republic's abduction of the Rowes at their home in a rural community 175 miles southeast of El Paso.

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