FORT GORDON, Ga. – A former national guardsman who wore camouflage fatigues so often that a neighbor thought he was in the military was charged Wednesday with pretending to be a U.S. Army soldier after authorities say he convinced an officer at a military base to give him a sophisticated laser sight.
Anthony Todd Saxon, 34, was charged with impersonating an Army master sergeant and stealing the infrared laser targeting sight after he was caught on the east Georgia base with a land mine, several grenades and night vision devices, prosecutors said.
Saxon did not enter a plea during a preliminary hearing in federal court, and his attorney Danny Durham refused to comment on the case after the hearing. Prosecutors, meanwhile, said they plan to reveal more details at a detention hearing scheduled for Monday.
Saxon was wearing a full combat uniform, including rank and insignia, when he was stopped at Fort Gordon by military police and questioned about his activities, according to the complaint. After Saxon gave them consent to search his vehicle, authorities said they found several grenades and the land mine, among other equipment.
According to the complaint, Saxon told investigators he was able to obtain the laser sight by telling a captain in the base's military police office that he was a master sergeant in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and that he needed it to train a soldier.
He told investigators he was able to obtain the device after signing a receipt, according to the court documents. He also said he was a member of the Army National Guard between 1993 and 1995, but was medically discharged for heart problems, according to the records.
Florida National Guard spokeswoman Crystal McNairy said that Saxon joined the Guard in 1993 and left with an honorable discharge in 1994. She said his rank was private 1st class, but she would not provide any other details about his service.
At the hearing, Saxon wore military-style camouflage pants and a short-sleeved olive T-shirt. He flashed a smile at his wife, Rhonda, who began to sob. Saxon said only "yes sir" when the judge asked him if he understood his rights.
Saxon's wife said the couple had three children, but she would not comment on the case.
"I don't even know what's going on — that's why I'm here."
Saxon has lived in the quiet neighborhood in Keysville, a rural town a few miles south of Fort Gordon, since around December. A man who described himself as a friend of the family at Saxon's home declined to comment.
Andrea Watson, Saxon's next-door neighbor, said Wednesday that he dropped by to introduce himself not long after his family moved in about six months ago. Watson said she didn't get to know him very well, but noticed that he often wore a camouflage Army uniform.
"He always had on fatigues. I thought he was in the Army," Watson said. "It was like he was coming and going to work."
Fort Gordon spokesman Buz Yarnell said Saxon was stopped on the Army post because his car matched the description of a vehicle suspected in an earlier theft of military equipment from the post in April. Yarnell would not say what had been stolen.
Yarnell said the grenades, called "flash bangs," use blinding light and loud noise to stun people but don't explode into lethal shrapnel.
"He couldn't have done any serious damage," said Yarnell, who would not say whether the explosives were detonated.
He said there's no suspected connection between Saxon and an AWOL serviceman arrested Monday in Florida after he tried to enter MacDill Air Force Base with weapons and ammunition in his vehicle. But Yarnell said military authorities still don't know what Saxon was doing on Fort Gordon.
Yarnell also didn't know if Saxon used a military ID, either fake or real, to get onto the base. Fort Gordon, near Augusta, is home to the Army Signal Corps, which is in charge of the service's global communication and information systems. He said the post, which is also home to the Eisenhower Army Medical Center, typically allows civilians to enter if they show some form of identification.
"Anybody can get on Fort Gordon with a driver's license," Yarnell said. "It's open to the public, basically."
Associated Press Writers Greg Bluestein in Atlanta and Russ Bynum in Savannah contributed to this report.