Feds: Army deserter who supported IS faces gun charges

Gene Johnson
Associated Press

Seattle — An Army deserter from Washington state who called Osama bin Laden “a beautiful man,” made statements supporting the Islamic State group and called for the death of American troops has been charged with illegally possessing firearms, including machine guns, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Daniel Seth Franey, 33, of Montesano was banned from having guns because he was subject to a protection order taken out by his former partner in 2014, but he nevertheless joined an undercover agent in making what he believed were black-market gun deliveries, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

At one point, he fired an AK-47 at a remote campground with the agent, the complaint says.

The investigation began last year, after several people complained to law enforcement that Franey was making pro-Islamic State statements, an agent with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force wrote. One person said Franey tried to buy his or her AK-47 and insisted he or she should fly an IS flag at home — a confrontation that ended only after the person grabbed a shotgun and called police, the documents say.

Franey made an initial court appearance Monday and was ordered detained pending further proceedings, said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He faces five counts of unlawful gun possession but no terrorism charges.

He was represented by a public defender who did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Following the complaints about Franey, the undercover agent posed as a black-market gun dealer, and Franey joined him on trips as a “lookout” who was paid a few hundred dollars for his services, charging papers say.

In recorded conversations, he made reference to possibly attacking soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and traveling overseas to join the radical militants, but he variously also said he didn’t want to kill anyone and that he only wanted a gun to have at home for protection from law enforcement, the court papers say.

He also reportedly said the trip to the campground near Naches, northwest of Yakima, was the first time he had fired a gun in about six years.

The gun possession charges stem from his handling of weapons on the gun-delivery trips, including to eastern Washington and California, which were set up by the agent and involved other undercover officers, the charging documents say. Franey constantly asked the agent to procure guns for him, without success, authorities said.

“This defendant possessed firearms, including machine guns, even though he knew he was prohibited from doing so,” said Seattle U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes. “He also discussed attacking members of the military and law enforcement.”

Franey served in the Army from 2002 to 2008 and was stationed in Texas and South Korea, the complaint says, adding that he told various people — including an undercover officer — that he had deserted, and that Department of Defense records corroborated that.

He had been living in western Washington for roughly three years, sometimes finding work as a commercial fisherman in Westport, the complaint said. He has a partner and two young children, as well as children with another woman, who obtained a permanent protection order against him in Lake County, Illinois, in 2014. The protection order bars him from possessing guns under federal law, the documents say.

Franey was arrested without incident Saturday as agents served a “no-knock” search warrant at his home. An affidavit filed in support of the warrant alleged that he had behaved increasingly erratically in recent weeks.

He was seen driving slowly in a parking lot at the non-operational Satsop Nuclear Power Plant; his visits to the homes of two neighbors prompted calls to 911; he made apparent references to attacking a nearby campground that’s only open to military members, retirees and their families; and he told the undercover agent on Jan. 29, “I do really wanna kill agents,” the affidavit said.

“Franey has repeatedly stated that he wants to attack, fight and kill law enforcement officers if and when they made entry into his residence,” the agent wrote in asking for the warrant. “Although we believe Franey does not currently possess any firearms, this is by no means a certainty.”