Three men allegedly plotted to assassinate President Clinton and other government officials by using a Bic lighter that could launch a toxin-covered cactus thorn.

Johnnie Wise, 72, Jack Abbott Grebe Jr., 43, and Oliver Dean Emigh, 63, are accused of scheming to threaten and assassinate Clinton, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh and others with biological toxins.On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate John William Black found there was enough evidence to hold the men pending a grand jury investigation. They have been in jail since their arrests two weeks ago on charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

According to an affidavit, Wise and Grebe told an FBI informant that they planned to design a Bic lighter that would propel air instead of propane, glue a hypodermic needle to the opening of the lighter and insert a cactus needle coated with a biological agent like anthrax, botulism or rabies or perhaps the AIDS virus.

The men, self-proclaimed members of the Republic of Texas secessionist group that drew police into a weeklong standoff last year, were planning to produce botulism with chicken livers, chicken hearts and green beans with a little dirt, the affidavit said.

In court, defense attorneys called the plan "cockamamie" and "fanciful," saying the men were just shooting their mouths off and couldn't really deliver.

"They're accused of doing something they had no capability of doing," said Dan Herink, Grebe's attorney.