LINCOLN — A Missouri man with purported ties to a white supremacist group entered a guilty plea Thursday to federal terrorism and gun charges in connection with disabling an Amtrak train on a remote section of track near Oxford, Nebraska.
But Taylor Wilson of St. Charles, Missouri, as well as his attorney, contested a statement by a federal prosecutor that he had once planned to fly to Syria to join the Islamic State.
“I’d like to dispute some things … about the plan about wanting to join ISIS,” Wilson told Federal Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart.
Wilson’s attorney, Jerry Sena of Omaha, later told reporters that his client had written some things about the Islamic State several years ago but had no plans to join the group.
Sena said his client, because of his lack of a previous criminal record, should qualify for a prison sentence of nine to 11¼ years under federal sentencing guidelines.
Wilson had faced the potential of two life sentences on terrorism charges for entering the secure area of an eastbound Amtrak train on Oct. 22 and pulling the emergency brake.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods said that panic ensued on the suddenly dark and stalled train, which was carrying 175 passengers.
According to court records, Amtrak personnel eventually apprehended Wilson, who was found to be carrying a loaded .38-caliber pistol and loaded clip of ammunition. He was also carrying a duffel bag with more ammunition and a business card of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group based in Detroit.
When asked in court why he tried to take over the train, Wilson at first hesitated, then said he was “high.” Sena said his client had been given LSD.
When Wilson’s apartment was searched after he was arrested, authorities found a hidden compartment containing at least 16 firearms, including a machine gun with the serial number defaced.
Also found was a copy of Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf,” white supremacist literature and a swastika. Court documents also say Wilson had traveled to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 that ended with the death of a counterprotester.
The apartment search prompted the filing of four federal gun charges in Missouri. On Thursday, Wilson pleaded guilty to one of the charges in exchange for dropping the others.
At the end of the 40-minute court hearing, Wilson turned to his parents, who were sitting in the back row, and said, “I love you.” “I love you too,” responded his mother, Ann Wilson. She and her husband, Michael, declined to comment after Thursday’s court hearing.