Community activist accused of plotting to firebomb police station to be released ahead of trial

Vaun Mayes

MILWAUKEE -- The community activist accused of plotting to firebomb a police station will be released ahead of his trial. Prosecutors argued in federal court on Thursday, July 5 that Vaun Mayes was a danger to the community, but the judge pointed out the accusations Mayes faces are almost two years old.

Mayes, 31, is charged with attempted arson, illegal possession of a firearm and possession of a destructive device. Prosecutors accuse him of attempting to firebomb Milwaukee Police District 7 with Molotov cocktails during the 2016 Sherman Park riots. Prosecutors allege some of the youth Mayes mentors in the community witnessed the making of the cocktails. They also accused Mayes of witness intimidation.

Mayes' defense attorney argued his client has been aware of this investigation. He has been under a microscope for the last two years. He has cooperated with authorities -- and all the work in the community has been twisted since these charges.

Vaun Mayes

"The government provided nothing other than bare bones allegations -- and so I think the judge saw that, made a decision. So we're going to proceed as if Mr. Mayes has been doing the same work over the last two years and hopefully will continue for the next two or three years -- however long it takes," said Robert Lebell, Mayes' attorney.

The federal courtroom erupted in cheers from Mayes' supporters as the ruling was handed down. A reverend joined his defense attorney in arguing he is critical to the ongoing healing in Sherman Park.

Prosecutors at this time are contemplating whether or not to file an appeal on Thursday's decision.  Mayes' attorney said he should know by late Thursday evening or Friday morning.