That’s when Moreland decided to have someone go undercover and befriend the brothers. According to court records, in January 2005, Moreland began looking for a confidential informant — a civilian — who would be willing to devote a lot of time to the operation.
Someone else in federal law enforcement pointed him to Williams. Federal court records say very little about her background. She had no real training and had only worked on one previous case. But she was an attractive woman, 20 years younger than the Mahons who seemed to have the wherewithal to handle herself around dangerous people.
In a hearing in September 2010 in federal court in Phoenix, Williams described her job in simple terms. “Just to get information.” The ATF’s plan was to put Williams and an undercover female ATF agent in a trailer near the Mahons at the Catoosa trailer park.
On Jan. 26, 2005, the pair drove the camper, rigged with cameras and microphones, into the park. While setting up in a space, the women placed a confederate flag in a window of the trailer.
Before long, the Mahon brothers came over and introduced themselves.
“I’m a girl and they’re guys and, you know, guys like to talk to pretty girls so they —we just started talking,” Williams said at the 2010 court hearing.
Over the next 10 days, Williams paved the way for a relationship with the brothers that lasted the next four years. She was integral to the investigation, and almost every moment of her interaction with them was recorded by law enforcement. Her pickup truck was wired with cameras and microphones. She kept a microphone on her key chain.
Dennis Mahon bragged about the serial bombings early on, and his brother seemed to verify some of it. Daniel Mahon told her about drive-by shootings and car bombings, according to the court records.
“We thought we were doing the right thing. We were just trying to send a message,” Daniel Mahon told Williams. “When I would take someone’s car out, it wasn’t anger. It was a sense of duty. It is like a military operation. You plan for it, equip for it.”
Williams often egged the brothers on. In one conversation, she asked Dennis Mahon if he ever had any success with sending a package bomb to someone.
Court records say he leaned in close and whispered, “In Tempe, Arizona, Goddamn diversity officer, Scottsdale Police Department, had his fingers blown off.” He then caught himself, paused and told her that he had advised “white cops how to do it.”
It’s clear from the court records that Dennis Mahon liked talking to Williams. He developed a strong emotional and physical attraction to her.
ATF and Williams used this to their advantage. In one example, Williams testified that the investigators got her to pose for photographs wearing a bathing suit with a grenade hanging down from her neck in between her breasts. For the pictures, she stood in front of a pickup truck and a swastika flag. The photos were then mailed to the brothers.
Throughout the investigation, Williams and the ATF were able to document close ties between the Mahons and other extremists, with WAR’s Metzger being the most prominent of them. They were also able to gather enough evidence to make arrests.
On June 25, 2009, agents executed search warrants in three states. They searched the Mahons’ house in Illinois, Metzger’s house in Indiana and the Missouri farm owned by Robert Joos. They arrested Joos on suspicion of weapons charges and the Mahon twins on suspicion of the bombing.
Joos was later convicted and sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison. Metzger, however, remains free. Federal prosecutors never accused him of a crime.
In a recent interview with TPM, Metzger said the ATF let him go him because he hadn’t done anything wrong. He said he didn’t think the Mahons were involved in the bombing, either.
“I have a hard time believing that they did it,” Metzger said by phone from his home in Indiana. “I’ve always cautioned them against going across the line.”
Attorneys for the Mahons did not return phone calls seeking comment. However, in court filings, they’ve criticized the government’s case, saying the informant’s interactions with the twins were “outrageous.”
In 2010, the attorneys asked Judge David Campbell to throw out some of the charges because of the conduct. But the judge declined, saying he would leave those decisions to the jury.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com