The Neo-Militia News Archive: January -- June 1996
Last Updated June 19, 1996
Militia Leader Revealed to have FBI Connections
Abstracted from the Tulsa World and various Internet sources.
The "patriot" movement was stunned in mid-April as the trial of militia leader Ray Lampley and his accomplices for participating in a bombing conspiracy revealed that a major militia leader had been accepting money from the FBI for months. "Colonel" John Parsons of the Tri-States Militia, based in South Dakota, was brought to the stand on Wednesday, April 3, to testify that Lampley had traveled to South Dakota to seek the help of the Tri-States to blow up various buildings. But the former truck driver also admitted that his Communication Information Center, consisting of phones, computers, faxes and an 800 number, had been subsidized to the amount of $1,775.00 monthly by the FBI. Parsons claimed that if it had not been for the FBI money, he would not have had the funds to work full-time to run the center, and would have had to return to truck driving, his previous occupation.
FBI Special Agent William Grode confirmed in his own testimony the arrangement with Parsons, noting that it had been going on for seven months. "The reason [for] trying to keep [Parsons] in there," Grode explained, "is I feel he has become a calming voice for these militias across the country." Grode was the agent who initiated contact with Parsons, on instructions from his superiors, who wanted a better understanding of the militia movement after the Oklahoma City bombing. In addition to the monthly checks, Grode also funded a trip by Parsons throughout the Southwest, paying the militia leader $500 a week for the three-week trip. The agent testified that Parsons did not share rosters, training sites or meetings with him.
Once the Tulsa World broke the story, news of Parsons' involvement with the FBI flashed across the Internet and the patriot fax networks, creating a small thunderstorm of surprise. Although all of the attempts to unite the disparate militia groups in the past had failed, the Tri-States Militia had probably the best claim to being a coordinating and communications board for militia groups, having ties with such organizations across the country--some 900 by Parsons' own estimates. The militias, already operating in an atmosphere of extreme paranoia, lashed out at Parsons for betraying the movement. J. J. Johnson, a leader in the Ohio Unorganized Militia and sometimes considered one of the movement's relatively moderate leaders, released an "open letter" in which he announced that his group would not "tolerate, endorse, or communicate with any so-called Patriots, Militia organizations, or Militia members giving AID and COMFORT to any federal agency for any reason, whatsoever, period. Your (Tri-States) actions, regardless of any excuse you may provide, are TRAITOROUS."
Equally stunned were the members of the Tri-States themselves. Perhaps typical of the reactions of many such members was that of Alabama militiaman Mike Vanderboegh, who admitted that he was "sickened by the revelations...sickened, angered and dismayed." According to Vanderboegh, a member of the paramilitary group's national board, some board members resigned upon hearing the news, while a number of militia units affiliated with the Tri-States announced their withdrawal from the confederation. On April 14, Vanderboegh announced that if Parsons did not resign, board members would ask for a "court of inquiry" for Parsons.
The revelations might well mean the end for the Tri-States Militia, although some members are still hoping to hold it together. But the intense paranoia that surrounds every facet of the militia movement, and which frequently causes its members to label each other as "plants" and "agents provocateur," is unlikely to allow members of the extremist groups to give the Tri-States the benefit of the doubt now that its ties to the FBI have been revealed.
Another "Order" to Go?
Abstracted from the Los Angeles Times, the Columbus Dispatch, and other sources.
Although the FBI is still tight-lipped, there are increasing speculations that the so-called Midwestern Bank Bandits may have channeled their ill-gotten gains to right-wing and white supremacist groups. The Midwestern Bank Bandits robbed at least eighteen banks over a course of two years before their leaders Richard Lee Guthrie, Jr., and Peter Kevin Langan were apprehended in January in Cincinnati and Columbus, respectively.
Not your ordinary bank robbers, Guthrie, Langan, and others taunted federal law enforcement officials by wearing ATF caps, renting getaway cars in the names of FBI agents and other escapades. They also sent letters and cartoons to newspapers, all designed to get the goat of government agents. When Langan and Guthrie were apprehended, they claimed they were part of a group called the "Aryan Republican Army." While the group seems to consist solely of the bank robbers, there are concerns that they may have been funneling much of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they stole to right-wing or racist groups, much as did the offshoot of Aryan Nations called The Order did on a larger scale in the 1980s, when, patterning themselves after the novel The Turner Diaries they robbed armored cars and funneled the money to neo-nazi groups. Guthrie and Langan are known white supremacists who have had ties with Aryan Nations and other groups.
Langan, who has referred to himself as "Commander Pedro", also appeared in a videotape taken from Guthrie's apartment which seemed to be a recruiting tape for a white supremacist organization. The videotape declares that the Aryan Republican's Army's goals were to "Eliminate the government, from the federal government to the county seats. Exterminate Hymie. Repatriate all non-whites to their homes. Return the country to the Bible--these laws." Langan denies robbing any bank and claims that the shootout which ended in his arrest was a botched assassination attempt on him because of his racist political views.
Bombs, Bombers, and Bombing Update
Abstracted from USA Today, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Tribune.
As April 19, the anniversary of the tragedy at Oklahoma City, approaches, the topic of conversation in many circles seems to be turning increasingly towards bombs. Authorities have erected a steel-mesh web of security measures around Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, transported to Colorado for his upcoming trial, but government employees across the country are wondering how safe they themselves will be on April 19. On the Internet, "patriot" newsgroups and listservs are buzzing with anticipation of the upcoming anniversary, also the anniversary of the storming of the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, and the possibility that some lone radical or small group might attempt some sort of retaliation looms large in the minds of those responsible for the security of federal buildings and installations.
Acknowledging this concern, John Sturdivant, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, has said that "we recognize very much this anniversary. We don't want to go down hysteria lane. But there will be a heightened level of anxiety." A number of groups and individuals who monitor the far-right have advised government employees to stay home on April 19.
Some militia leaders, conscious of public opinion, have tried to pooh-pooh the notion that some violent event might occur on April 19. "If you've got some kook out there who wants to do something," asserts Militia of Montana leader Dave Trochmann, "it doesn't really make any difference what the date is. To make a big deal out of April 19 shows us where the mentality of the American people has slid down to."
But Americans can perhaps be excused for being a little jittery about the anniversary, despite the special pleading of the Militia of Montana. The signs of domestic terrorism are all around them. On Monday, April 1, the trial of Charles Ray Polk opened in Tyler, Texas. Polk is accused with planning to blow up the Internal Revenue Service's Service Center building in Austin, Texas. He was negotiating for the purchase of more than 1,000 pounds of C-4 plastic explosives when arrested while being delivered a machine gun. Polk, like many other tax-resisters, had tried various quasi-legalistic means of renouncing his status as a federal taxpayer, but without success. Polk's attorneys apparently plan to argue that Polk was entrapped by an undercover agent.
And while Polk's trial began, another bombing case made significant progress, as one of two men charged with attempting to bomb an Internal Revenue Service building in Reno, Nevada, in December 1995 pleaded guilty to all counts against him, guaranteeing him at least 30 years in prison. This was part of a plea bargain for Ellis Hurst, in which he agreed to testify against others charged in the case if the government would seek leniency. Admitting that he had "a big plate of crow to eat," Hurst pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, attempted destruction of a government building, and use of an explosive device while committing a violent crime. The third count alone calls for a minimum 30 years behind bars. The trial of Joseph Bailie, also charged with planting the bomb, is scheduled for June 3, while a third man, Jerry Keenan, has been indicted for lying to the grand jury that indicted Hurst and Bailie. The FBI would not confirm or deny that they belonged to any militia or other anti-government groups.
Abstracted from countless sources.
Updated Tuesday Afternoon, April 2.
Note: For the complete story of the Montana Freemen, be sure to read "Patriot" Profile #3: Every Man a King: The Rise and Fall of the Montana Freemen, now available!
Federal, state and local law officials converged on Jordan, Montana, on Monday, March 25, to put an end to the activities of the so-called Montana Freemen, a heavily-armed group of tax resisters that has been evading or flouting authorities for nearly two years.
The action began when Freemen leaders LeRoy Schweitzer and Daniel Peterson were arrested at the 960-acre farm near the hamlet of Brusset, Montana, where they had holed themselves up. The farm, formerly owned by Freemen Richard and Emmett Clark, had been lost to foreclosure in November 1994 (and sold at auction in October 1995), but the Clarks refused to leave. It became the headquarters for the fugitive Freemen in September 1995, who after travelling to the farm from another hideout in armed convoy, named the place "Justus Township" and refused to acknowledge any authority other than "township" authority. The township consisted of about ten buildings and approximately 20 residents. Armed Freemen patrolled the farm's perimeter in pickup trucks to catch intruders.
The first reports coming from the scene stated that Schweitzer and Peterson left the farm to pick up mail at a tiny post office a few miles away when the arrest occurred, but subsequent revelations revealed a complex undercover operation. Local news reports said the FBI had an undercover agent pose as someone offering to set up a ham radio antenna on the farm. FBI agent Thomas T. Kubic would only tell CNN that they were not arested at the Brusett post office but rather on the Clark property itself. A Washington paper, using unnamed sources, reported that the FBI sent an undercover agent posing as a ham radio antenna installer to lure the Freemen out. According to this account, an antenna installation crew arrived Monday with antenna equipment, and Schweitzer and Petersen showed up to approve the tower location, to be met by FBI agents. Other sources have corroborated this story, claiming that the FBI had undercover agents develop a relationship with Schweitzer over time. A third man, Lavon Hanson, was also arrested on charges of conspiring to defraud financial institutions--Hanson was involved as a "courier" in a complicated scheme developed by Schweitzer to buy goods with counterfeit funds and sell them for profit.
Though the two freemen were armed, there was no struggle or violence. Schweitzer and Peterson saved their energy for the following day, when they were brought into a heavily guarded federal courtroom to be arraigned. They shouted down the judge and other members of the court, yelling that the court had no jurisdiction over them and that they did not have to listen to it. The Freemen called for a change of venue to "Justus." The judge finally abandoned the arraignment attempt, and had the court give them written copies of the arraignment while calling for a new attempt to take place with the Freemen watching the proceedings in another room.
The Freemen--whose members and strong sympathizers number perhaps 150 or so in the region--had long been thumbing their noses at federal, state, and local officials. In addition to the tax-related charges that many of them faced, they had been engaging in a wide variety of other illegal and disturbing activities over the past several years. Most notorious were the fraudulent checks and money orders that Leroy Schweitzer and the Freemen had been passing. Counterfeit money orders, drawn on a non-existent account in a northwestern bank, were sold to suspecting and unsuspecting customers alike, who would then attempt to use the fake money orders in an attempt to pay off loans and debts. A typical scam might involve someone attempting to pay off a car loan with a counterfeit money order made out for twice the amount of the loan. The scammer would enclose a letter demanding a refund of the "overpayment." The unknowledgeable car dealer might write a (good) check for the amount before trying to deposit the (bad) money order. Banks and businesses have lost nearly $2 million from the frauds, while the amount of money lost by private individuals remains unknown. At least ten of the Freemen, in addition to Schweitzer and Peterson, have been indicted in these schemes for bank, financial and mail fraud. Not only did the Freemen themselves perpetuate such schemes, but they ran seminars at their farm to teach others the tricks of the trade. At least 800 people from over 30 states had travelled to Montana to learn from the Montana Freemen how to defraud others.
Complementing their illegal financial activities were the acts of terror the Freemen committed to keep authorities in Montana at bay. Jim Pate, a Soldier of Fortune writer who had spent time with the Freemen, described their fanaticism as equivalent to a holy war. "Their political philosophy is based on their religious philosophy," he explained. "And in that respect, they are very similar to the young man who was just convicted of murdering the prime minister of Israel. They're similar in the depth of their convictions to Hamas." A number of the Freemen--including Schweitzer and Peterson--face state charges of criminal syndicalism, which in Montana law is the threat of violence for political aims. Many Montanans have been threatened with one type of violence or another by the Freemen, including Sheriff Charles Phipps of Garfield County, who lived for more than a year with death threats and the offer of a $1 million bounty on his head. The Freemen threatened to hang Phipps by a rope from a bridge. Among others threatened were U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom and Garfield County Clerk Joanne Stanton, who had to deal with the hundreds of frivolous filings issued by the Freemen's self-styled court. "They...threatened to take over my personal possessions, my personal property, my real property, including anything my husband owned," said Stanton. "There were always these little digs: 'Proceed at your own peril.' Failure to do as they ordered would cause harm." State warrants for their arrest on charges of threatening public officials date all the way back to March 1994. Many of the Freemen on the Clark farm are wanted on charges from other states, including Dana Dudley and Russell Landers, who fled charges of conspiracy and securities fraud in Colorado; and John Richard Hance and his sons Steven and James, wanted in North Carolina on charges of assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon, assault and battery, and resisting arrest. The Freemen are heavily armed, though an attempt to use one of their counterfeit money orders to buy $1.4 million in guns from a Montana arms dealer failed.
The fear that the Freeman can instill is very powerful. Upon hearing of the move on the Freemen, Musselshell County Attorney John Bohlman decided to remove himself and his family from his Roundup, Montana, home. Roundup was the previous refuge of the Freemen, who became angered at Bohlman when he filed felony charges of threatening a justice of the peace against several of them last year. The Freemen demanded he show up at their own "common law" court, or else face a fine of $1 million and "apprehension of his person." Though glad that authorities were finally taking action against the Freemen, Bohlman decided to take no chances with the safety of his wife and two small children after picking up on CB scanners reports saying that Freemen would come into Roundup to kill people.
Two sets of indictments have been issued against the Freemen, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The first comes from a Montana grand jury from May 1995, which charges Schweitzer, Peterson, Rodney Skurdal, and Richard and Emmett Clark with: conspiracy to impede government function; conspiracy to prevent by force, intimidation or threats the official duties of U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom, U.S. Court Clerk Lou Aleksich, and Garfield Count Sheriff Phipps; threats to assault, kidnap and murder Shanstrom; and mailing a threatening communication to Shanstrom. A second Montana grand jury, in December 1995, issued another indictment naming the above five and seven more--John McGuire, Cherlyn Bronson Petersen, Agnes Bollinger Stanton, William Stanton, Ebert Stanton, Ralph Clark and Dale Jacobi--with 51 counts of conspiracy to defraud and to obtain money through false pretenses, plus interfering with commerce (for hijacking television camera equipment). William Stanton was arrested in March 1995.
With Schweitzer and Peterson behind bars, authorities moved against the remaining Freemen. The FBI, however, was taking great pains to insure that what happened was not a repeat of the notorious 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, which became a cause celebre among the so-called "patriot" movement, and which garnered serious criticism from nearly every circle. FBI Director Louis Freeh consciously decided to eschew earlier military-style tactics. Indeed, the desire to avoid a confrontation, contemptuously called "Weaver fever" in some circles, appears to be what made authorities wait nearly two years before taking action. During all this time the Freemen were openly running their fraudulent schemes and threatening public officials. Increasingly, this do-nothing policy irritated Montanans. County attorney Nick Murnian had been calling for federal assistance for over six months, even testifying before a Congressional hearing in November 1995. The Billings Gazette conducted a poll which found that 60% of respondents were dissatisfied with such tactics. Inevitably, it became a political issue as well, as Democratic candidate for governor Chet Blaylock announced that "arrests for lawlessness should not be unreasonably delayed." In fact it appears that local frustration with the lack of progress in dealing with the Freemen played a role in the FBI's decision to make its move. After Schweitzer's arrest a local bank hung up a sign that read "Goodbye, LeRoy. Hello, FBI." Local resident K. L. Bliss said that he used to farm near the Clarks, and that "everybody had planted by June--but [Clark] had weeds this high. He's never made a bank payment since 1981, he's never paid taxes since 1981--and he's whining about the government." Some Montanans were considerably more irate. "I want to see blood!" the Associated Press reported one local resident shouting, "I've lived with this for two years, and it's ruining my life. I want it over." The resident had two brothers on the Clark farm. Ranch hand Terry Kastner called the Freemen "brainwashed," and wished that "they'd go in there and shoot 'em all. It would save the taxpayers a lot of money and time." Tom Fogle, a county worker, was even more forceful. "If they can't get them out of there peacefully in a couple of weeks, I'd say go in and get them out any way they can. If they don't give up, I say go in and strafe 'em...Bring in the Apache helicopters and blow the hell out of them. I'm tired of it."
One of the last straws for local residents was the Freemen's latest brazen action, a "public notice" published in local newspapers on March 7 which announced that the Freemen would take control of large swaths of land in northeastern Montana, including Bureau of Land Management property, state grazing lands, and lands that were privately owned. The notice announced that people who trespassed on the Freemen's new land would be arrested and punished. Such a move outraged the neighbors of the Freemen. "So if dad was out feeding his cows," explained the son of a rancher who leased grazing land from the state, "to them he'd be trespassing on their so-called land, and they'd take him to their court. And from there your imagination could run rampant...Maybe they wouldn't do anything, but who knows. Dad was really upset; up until that time, all their threats had been against government officials. Now they were disrupting our lives." County voters had scheduled a meeting to discuss moving against the Freemen by cutting their telephones and closing the county road near the farms, which perhaps helped to spur the FBI to action. However, ABC News reported that Schweitzer, at a meeting at the Freemen's compound on Sunday, the day before the arrest, outlined a scheme to kidnap local government officials. At the meeting, which was videotaped, Schweitzer explained that "We'll travel in units of about 10 outfits, four men to an outfit, most of them with automatic weapons, whatever else we got--shotguns, you name it...We're going to have a standing order: Anyone obstructing justice, the order is shoot to kill." According to this report, such statements helped prompt the FBI to move when they did.
However, there were no "jack-booted" thugs appearing outside the Clark farm. Although over a hundred federal, state and local law enforcement agents converged on the Montana hideout, conspicuously absent were camouflauge or black uniforms. Instead, agents wore civilian clothes and did not ride in armored personnel carriers. Instead of only the FBI's quasi-military Hostage Rescue Team, the agents in Montana included behavioral specialists and trained negotiators. Instead of FBI snipers, authorities installed video surveillance cameras on a microwave tower overlooking the main road leading to the farm. The FBI was aided in this by the fact that the Freemen compound is in an area of high visibility, unlike the heavily wooded area that had surrounded Randy Weaver's cabin at Ruby Ridge. The FBI also has extensive eavesdropping equipment, some of which had been in operation for months. Managing the situation was the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group, which sought to fix three problem areas that plagued the agency at Ruby Ridge and Waco: not enough agents to handle extended standoffs, a lack of coordination between tactical agents and hostage negotiators, and confused lines of authority. Indeed, so many FBI personnel appeared in the area that they took up all the hotel rooms in Jordan, causing the army of reporters and journalists to engage in a mad scurry for apartments, mobile homes, and hotel rooms in other communities.
Six of the "Justus Townships" residents voluntarily left the ranch after the arrests of Schweitzer and Peterson, leaving about twenty Freemen behind, including around three children. Police blocked media access to the farm, allegedly fearing violence against journalists (there were several incidents of Freemen violence against the media within the past year, including the theft of $66,000 worth of ABC television camera equipment). The crowd of law enforcement officials established an operations center at a county fairgrounds in Jordan, the seat of Garfield County, itself with a population of only 450. The operations center has vehicles, command post trailers, and even an airstrip. Phone lines to the farm were cut, except for a line set up by the FBI for family members of those on the farm.
To convince the Freemen to surrender peacefully, agents on Tuesday broadcast a television appeal, in which U.S. Attorney Sherry Matteucci promised that there would be no violence or harm done to them. "All of us very much want this situation to be resolved peacefully," she said. "I urge them to come in and talk with me, talk with lawyers, talk with whomever they feel comfortable about this situation. We absolutely intend no harm to the persons who are on the current property. I assure them that we are doing everything possible to make certain that a dangerous situation does not develop up here." Also appealing to the Freemen was Sheriff Phipps, who was noticeably more considerate of their safety than they had been of his own. On the minds of some law enforcement officials is the approaching date of April 19, the anniversary of Richard Snell's execution, the storming of the Branch Davidian compound and the date of the Oklahoma City bombing.
The Freemen were unwilling to surrender to the FBI, so they remain under surveillance, but not a tight siege. There are roadblocks in the area, but there is no boundary or perimeter set around the compound of the Freemen. The permeability of the dragnet was demonstrated by intrepid reporters who skipped by FBI and Montana Highway Patrol checkpoints to get up to the Clark farm. At least one camera crew working for NBC, exhibiting more intestinal fortitude than intelligence, had their camera equipment confiscated on Wednesday by patrolling Freemen. FBI agents have been questioning people driving to or from the farm, but apparently have not been preventing people from entering it. People travelling through the area have been stopped and asked to complete a form informing them that they are nearing an area "which is considered extremely dangerous due to the presence of persons charged with federal and state crimes," and explaining that people aiding the Freemen could be considered as "accessories after the fact." On Thursday the Freemen themselves blocked the county road in front of their farm with a barbed wire barricade.
"We are continuing our efforts to talk with the people on the ranch," said FBI agent Tom Ernst to a French reporter on Thursday. Amazingly, Ernst added that he "would not characterize it as a standoff." Authorities were still hopeful that the Freemen will eventually surrender peacefully.
In a related action, FBI agents in southern California served search warrants on the Essex House Hotel, situated in Lancaster, fifty miles north of Los Angeles, to search two hotel rooms and one meeting area. A local television station reported that the raid was linked to the Montana standoff. These rooms were used by Elizabeth Broderick, who runs Broderick Seminars, which taught anti-tax and other tactics for a fee. These tactics involved placing false liens on federal agencies, as well as the standard fake checks and money orders. Hotel owner Jens Neelsen said agents carted boxes of computer records and equipment out of her hotel rooms. FBI agents also raided Broderick's home. On Wednesday, March 27, federal attorneys in Los Angeles filed a complaint against Broderick and nearly two dozen accomplices, in order to bar her from issuing her bogus checks and money orders. Court documents state that more than $30 million in such checks have been received. Broderick defended her activities, saying that "Many, many mortgages, many car loans have been paid off. And I'm proud to say that it works, as long as the feds don't get in the way. That's the only problem." Broderick denied that the federal government had any authority over her.
The reaction from the so-called "patriot" movement to the move on the Montana Freeman by federal authorities was mixed. Many militia and common law court members have spoken out in favor of the Freeman, and compared them to Randy Weaver and the Branch Davidians. Some have claimed that the action would be the first step in a federal clamp-down on the patriot movement, and predicted future violence or even civil war. Others, realizing the adverse publicity that the Montana Freemen have been garnering, have been considerably more cautious. The Tri-States Militia, a loose umbrella group of militia units in a number of states, issued a "press release" condemning the actions of the Freemen, stating that they find it "insulting and offensive that people who call themselves members of the patriot community have combined their 'patriotic' activities with a clear attempt to defraud banking institutions and individual citizens through the use of phoney [sic] and/or money orders coupled with force and threats." The Tri-States contrasted the Freemen with their own, ostensibly "constitutional" militias.
The Militia of Montana, not only the militia closest geographically to the Freemen but also one of the most prominent of the paramilitary groups, initially acted very cautiously, feeling its way through the webs of public opinion. The M.O.M., as it is commonly referred to, run by John, David and Randy Trochmann, told reporters that they sent representatives to the scene to "monitor" the situation and to try to talk, by telephone or radio, to Freeman Dale Jacobi, who used to own a business near the Noxon, Montana, headquarters of M.O.M. Like the Tri-States, the Trochmanns have tried to distinguish their organization from that of the Freemen. David Trochmann told Reuters that M.O.M. has told other patriot groups to stand down. John Trochmann even went so far as to praise the FBI: "I think the FBI has been handling it very patiently. I admire them for their patience. And they've had a tremendous amount of pressure from the public, from the local law enforcement, and from their superiors in the FBI and the justice department. I think they're caught between a rock and a hard place, and they're doing the only thing they can do." Trochmann's attitude towards the FBI might have softened slightly after the Freemen put a price on his head with one of their common-law arrest warrants after the two groups had a falling out.
However, not all M.O.M. members have been as cautious as the Trochmanns. Militiaman Ed Dosh called the Freemen "good people," and suggested that "If somebody wants to travel from Billings to Denver, I might tell them one way, you might tell them another. It's just different routes to the same goal. Our views differ on methodology." When militiaman Steve McNeil heard about the siege of the Freemen, he decided to lead a militia caravan to Jordan. Later, McNeil settled for creating a disturbance at the courtroom where Schweitzer and Peterson were being arraigned, for which he was arrested. Had McNeil managed to get his caravan going, he might have met with a rough reception, because a group of 30 local ranchers formed a posse to stand up to the militias and support the FBI, patrolling the area in their own vehicles, waiting for the militia to show up. "The militias will just pump more hot air into the Freemen, and make it worse," explained a local farmer, Cecil Weeding. "There will be a clash if they get here. This country is sick and tired of that thing up there, and wants to get it over." Jordan resident Virgil Hellyer, uncle of Sheriff Phipps and husband to sheriff's dispatcher Carol Hellyer, has said that the sheriff's office has received telephone threats from militia groups across the country. Carol Hellyer's sister, Agnes Stanton, is one of the people on the Clark farm.
On a more fundamental level, the newly-declared positions of groups like the Tri-States and the M.O.M. don't quite ring true. Though many militia members currently would like to downplay the connections, the political philosophy of the militia and of the Freemen differs only in the particulars. As recently as early 1995 the M.O.M.'s newsletter (Taking Aim) vigorously endorsed the positions of the Freemen and recommended that people take Schweitzer's classes. Other prominent militia figures, such as Norm Olson of the Michigan Militia, have also expressed nearly identical political philosophies. Indeed, according to a "press release" issued on the Internet, Norm Olson accused the government of planning the premeditated murder of the Freemen, along with the complicity of the media. Olson called for militia units around the country to converge on Montana as quickly as possible, and hinted that he himself might show up there. Later he confirmed his intentions by issuing plans for an "Operation Certain Venture." Olson received support for this call to action by the Alabama-based Gadsden Minutemen, led by Jeff Randall. Randall issued his own rallying plea, noting that he needed "dedicated volunteers," but advised them that "arrest is possible, and the FBI could very well decide to shoot unarmed civilians." Minuteman founder Mike Kemp made dire predictions, asserting that "there won't be another Waco unanswered. They are pushing us to a confrontation. If the shooting starts, it could get very ugly, very quickly." Kemp argued that there was no reason to use armed force against the Freemen, who, he asserted, only owed debts. "It's a civil matter," he said, ignoring the charges of armed robbery and assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon that have been lodged against some of those holed up on the Clark farm.
Operation Certain Venture, according to Olson and Randall, would consist of an unarmed convoy of food, mail and other supplies ("women's necessities," explained Olson) to the Montana Freemen. Olson suggested that April 19, the anniversary of Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing, might be a possible day for the convoy to set out, and compared the proposed convoy to "a Normandy invasion, a landing on the beach." The Montana Freemen standoff made Olson, ejected from the Michigan Militia last year for espousing bizarre theories about Japanese responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing, particularly excited about the possibility of a massive armed conflict. Since becoming leader of a splinter Michigan militia group, Olson has repeatedly announced apocalyptic visions, including once during a Detroit radio talk show debate with Mark Pitcavage in early March in which he predicted that a civil war would occur in six to eight weeks. Speaking on the CBS show "Face the Nation" about his plans to go to Montana, Olson said that "if this is going to be the place where the second American revolution finally culminates in war, then it's good for a battlefield commander to be there to look at the logistics, to look at the needs, and to find out exactly what the situation is on the ground."
Similarly, other "patriot" figures offered differing opinions. Gerry Spence, Randy Weaver's lawyer, complimented the FBI for its restraint. Bo Gritz, the patriot leader who helped to negotiate the surrender of Randy Weaver, appeared to be positioning himself for another intervention, suggesting that "the longer these people stay within those walls, the more determined they get," and even condoning the use of armed force against them if necessary. However, members of the "Freemen Patriots," a splinter group at Gritz's patriot commune at Kamiah, Idaho, more radical than their leader, expressed sympathy for the Montana Freemen and claimed that the standoff at Jordan was simply a trap, with the Freemen as bait to catch more members of the patriot movement. They also suggested, as have other members of the movement, that U.S. Army Special Forces or other military units have been deployed. The Patriots, led by Ed LeStage, Chad Erickson, Pat Johnson and Michael Cain, announced plans to hold a protest rally at Lewistown, Montana on April 1st, to support the Freemen, and called for all supporters to show up with white ribbons on their car or truck antennas. "We support the God-given right of our Freemen Brothers at Jordan, Montana, to be heard in a righteous constitutional court of law," their call to action read. The Freemen Patriots, who have criticized Gritz for inaction, seemed to find the Montana Freemen more to their liking. Their ability to command support, however, was virtually nil. On April 1st, only a bare handful of people showed up at Lewistown as commanded. Lewistown assistant police chief Bob Long described the scene as "five or six guys out there at a RV park south of town. Right now, there are more newspeople in town than freemen." LeStage explained to reporters that they were in the "early stages of a long rally here," and that he expected 800 people to show up by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, in court on Thursday, March 29, Daniel Petersen and LeRoy Schweitzer sat quietly while Judge Richard Anderson read the indictment to them, but when asked to enter pleas, Peterson burst out that he wanted "you to be an honest person and the rest of these perverts to be honest people." Petersen was taken to a holding cell to watch the proceedings; Anderson entered "not guilty" pleas on their behalf.
Over the weekend, initiative seemed to shift to local officials and family members of the fugitives. Some, like Steve Mangum, a truck driver from Salt Lake City, traveled long distances to try to reach the compound. Mangum's former wife, Gloria Ward, as well as their 8-year old daughter Jaylynn Mangum, is among the Freemen (as are her current husband Elwin Ward and her 10 year old daughter Courtnie Gunn). FBI agents warned him not to try to enter the compound, and Mangum agreed. He was, however, concerned about the fate of his dauther, whom, he told reporters, "was taught to hate blacks, taught to hate policemen, [and that] school was evil." Democratic United States Senator Max Baucus (of Montana) argued that the best way to resolve the conflict was to let the local folks do it, along with the aid of family members.
In a small community like Jordan, family ties connect the Clark farm fugitives with many people in town. Only two years ago, Jordan residents raised $125,000 for a brain tumor operation for Casey Clark, now one of the Freemen who have issued death threats against others in the area. Many families have been split by the actions of the Freemen: the Stantons are a good example. While Ebert Stanton, his wife Val, and their 5-year old daughter Mariah patrol the Clark farm perimeter, staring at them from the other side is Tom Stanton, a farmer who had organized a 25 man posse to storm the Freemen stronghold, before the FBI intervened. Jordan residents circulated a petition to be presented to the Freemen, urging them to come out and guaranteeing they would get a fair trial: "The following friends, neighbors and relatives urge you to immediately end this situation. We are concerned for your personal safety and the harm that may come to others." The FBI over the weekend allowed several individuals to enter the compound, although they would not identify who those people were. Two vehicles entered the ranch on Saturday afternoon, then shortly before dark a pickup with Wyoming license plates carrying four people entered the compound. A network crew with a high-powered camera lens saw a group of arriving visitors hugging and talking with Freemen in their compound. At least one of the vistors allowed through was apparently an intermediary sent by relatives of those on the farm.
Authorities were less willing to let others into the compound. On Friday they turned away two militiamen from Oregon, heavily armed, who had driven to Montana with groceries for the Freedmen. They also turned away two members of a local militia (Gordon Helgerson and Kamala Web), and Kevin Entzel, the stepson of arrested Freeman Petersen. Entzel hoped to visit his mother, Cherlyn. FBI agent Tom Ernst explained to reporters that people wanting to visit the Freemen compound were asked if they were carrying fuel, groceries, firearms or ammunition. Such supplies would be confiscated, or the visitors would not be allowed to proceed. Other militiamen, in twos and threes, also began showing up in the area, ignoring the calls of John Trochmann to stay away. More people began to offer their services as intermediaries as well, including Randy Weaver.
However, neither petitions nor the pleadings of law enforcement officials could convince the remaining Freemen to give up. Some people speculated that Rodney Skurdal, one of the more violent and radical of the Freemen, was holding the others in line. "It's a pity they didn't get Skurdal," one local lamented, "His proclamations are as heinous and as hate-filled as can be." However, ninety miles away, another Freeman fugitive, Richard Clark, turned himself in voluntarily to authorities. Clark had not been on the ranch on the Monday when Schweitzer and Petersen were arrested. When arraigned in federal court on April 1, Clark refused to accept a lawyer or to give his name, stating that his name was "private." Hundreds of miles away, Mary Margaret Lund was apprended by Santa Rosa police in California. Lund, a common law court adherent with extensive ties to Schweitzer, was wanted for using bogus checks to purchase $400,000 worth of goods. Unlike Clark, she did not turn herself in.
Also less compliant were captives Petersen and Schweitzer, neither of whom has cooperated with the authorities. Indeed, they refused to bathe or change their clothes, while Schweitzer embarked upon a hunger strike, causing his removal over the weekend to a federal detention center in Springfield, Missouri, that handles sick prisoners, so that his health could be monitored. And equally uncooperative were the adherents of M.Elizabeth Broderick, whose Palmdale, California, counterfeit check operation was stopped by authorities. A court hearing had been scheduled for April 1 in Los Angeles for a requested injunction of Broderick's check-issuing schemes, but the Freemen--Broderick, Adolf Hoch and Laura Marie Hoey--did not show up. A woman who refused to give any other name than "Myra" appeared in court and said she was filing a response to the injunction prepared by Broderick's attorney. U.S. District Judge William Keller postponed the hearing until Thursday.
The standoff continues.
Militias Muster to Aid Deadbeat Dad
Abstracted from wire reports, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, militia reports.
Militia members from several states converged on a stand-off in the town of Coushatta, Louisiana, in mid-February to aid a doctor wanted by authorities.
Federal authorities in St. Louis issued an indictment for Dr. Lynn Truman Crawford, 42, of Mesquite, Texas, for owing more than $70,000 in child support to the children of his ex-wife, Mona Tague of Memphis, Missouri. The Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 makes it a federal misdemeanor offense to refuse to pay child support to children in another state. Accordingly, on February 21 Louisiana-based FBI agents as well as local sheriff's deputies converged on the Coushatta, Louisiana, home of Crawford's mother, where Crawford was staying. Crawford not only refused to surrender, but refused to recognize their authority at all.
The law enforcement officers forced open a carport door, intending to send in a police dog to compel the doctor's surrender, but the police dog was attacked by a dalmation belonging to Crawford's mother. A sheriff's deputy shot and killed the dalmation. Because Crawford was armed and threatened to kill law enforcement officers who entered the residence, authorities backed off, called off the SWAT team, and set up a loose perimeter around Crawford's house. According to the FBI agent in charge, James V. DeSarno, Jr., authorities did not want a repeat of the 1992 Ruby Ridge, Idaho, incident, where federal marshals ended up provoking a lethal standoff.
Crawford, a "sovereign citizen" or "Freeman" (he claimed to be a citizen of the "Republic of Texas") who does not acknowledge the authority of the federal government, apparently believed that the FBI intended to kill him. He phoned a shortwave radio broadcaster active in the "patriot" movement, who in turn put Crawford in touch with members of the militia movement and broadcast conversations between Crawford and militia members, including a conversation with a member of a Texas militia group, "Lieutenant Colonel" Johnny Johnson of the Texas Constitutional Militia, in which Crawford announced: "I have had my life threatened; I am in fear for my life. I am asking for any able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 who will uphold the law and defend those who are being abused by those who violate the law to come and assist me in any way they can, at the least, to be a witness of my execution."
Johnson used fax and telephone trees to spread Crawford's call to help to various militia groups. Local militia, as well as a few from far away locations in Alabama, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri began to converge on Coushatta. Three members of the so-called Missouri 51st Militia drove more than 600 miles from Kansas City to arrive at the scene. According to militia reports, other leaders in the movement were being kept abreast of events, even including John Trochmann in Noxon, Montana. "We were a little leery about getting involved in it," confessed militia member Mike McKinzey, part of the Kansas City group, "We didn't want to be tied into deadbeat dads--our reputation is having a hard time already." However, the urge to confront law enforcement officers engaged in an apparent standoff overcame such reluctance. Johnny Johnson claimed to reporters to have had over 100 people on the scene, a figure corroborrated by Chief Deputy Sheriff Warren Perkins.
The first militia began arriving on the scene by nightfall, though some continued to arrive as late as Sunday, February 25. According to Perkins, the militia were polite. They were not visibly armed; some brought video cameras and watched as authorities began their planned partial withdrawal, pulling back to a roadblock about 200 yards from the house. This began a lengthy standoff lasting nearly a week. During the week the number of militia "observers" steadily dwindled as Crawford showed no signs of surrendering, until only a few were left. The Missouri militia members, who arrived on Sunday, thought Crawford might surrender to the militia, but Crawford still refused, prompting the Missourians to leave.
By the following afternoon, however, Crawford had a change of heart, deciding to give up but refusing to be fingerprinted or photographed. He surrendered to the authorities who ordered him sent back to Missouri. He arrived at the U.S. District Court in St. Louis on March 7, to be arraigned on the child-support charge. Mona Tague, his ex-wife, told reporters she was happy her ex-husband was locked up.
Larry Pratt Drops From Buchanan Campaign
Abstracted from various sources.
Larry Pratt, executive director of the radical Gun Owners of America and a noted supporter of the militia movement, left presidential hopeful Patrick Buchanan's campaign on February 15 after being linked with white supremacist groups. His exit was ostensibly a "leave of absence" and Pratt said he hoped to return. Patrick Buchanan supported Pratt, one of four co-chairmen of his campaign, while Bob Dole's campaign headquarters said that Buchanan should have fired Pratt.
Actually, Pratt's ties with militia and racist groups have been well known for some time. Pratt is the head of the Gun Owners of America, a group of about 150,000 radical second amendment activists who view the NRA as too moderate. Pratt himself believes the Bible sanctions gun ownership and has been quoted as saying that "Consider that when Cain killed Abel, God did not ban...the ownership of whatever it was that Cain used to kill his brother." But Pratt has gone far beyond bizarre biblical analogies in his quest for absolute gun rights. Pratt emerged as one of the leading advocates of the militia movement in the early 1990s. He discussed forming militia groups in his 1990 book Armed People Victorious, and in 1992, following the Ruby Ridge incident, gave a speech advocating the forming of militia groups.
That speech has since come back to haunt Larry Pratt, since it was part of an Estes Park, Colorado, gathering that was essentially a "Who's Who" of racists in America. Organized by Pete Peters, leader in the white supremacist religious sect Christian Identity, attendees in addition to Pratt included Richard Butler, head of Aryan Nations, former KKK leader Louis Beam, and Kirk Lyons, attorney to many racist groups and founder of CAUSE, an organization that is essentially a legal defense fund for racists in Canada, Australia, the United States, South Africa and Europe. This was not Pratt's only tie with racists: he has appeared on Pete Peters' television show; has addressed a Christian Identity gathering in Branson, Missouri; and the GOA's "charitable wing," the Gun Owners Foundation, has given money to CAUSE.
Pratt's ties with the militia movement are also very tight, including an association with United States Militia Association leader Samuel Sherwood. Pratt has also been a regular speaker at Preparedness Expos, which are travelling trade shows for survivalists and militia groups. Pratt has a very close association with Representative Steve Stockman of Texas, one of the Congressmen most sympathetic to the militia movement. Pratt has helped Stockman write articles, has personally campaigned for Stockman, has given him the most funds of any candidate the GOA's PAC has provided money for, and has attended closed door legislative meetings at Stockman's behest. GOA consultant Mike Hammond has drafted many of the bills Stockman has introduced, while Larry Pratt's daughter is a receptionist for Stockman. Predictably, after the recent media exposure of Pratt, a spokesman for Stockman has denied that the Congressmen has had close ties to Pratt.
Presumably Pratt will now have more time to promote the militia movement. He has already published a collection of essays called Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution and Citizen Militias.
Ohio Militia Member Charged With Felonious Assault
Abstracted from various newspaper, newswire, and other sources.
Larry Martz, a member of the Ohio Unorganized Militia, was charged with felonious assault and felony assault (he can only be found guilty of one of the two) after a January 29, 1996 incident in which Martz attacked an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper. Trooper William Fulton stopped Martz for a traffic violation in Interstate 77 near Cambridge, Ohio. Fulton discovered that Martz's California driver's license had expired and asked Martz to walk back to the police cruiser. Acording to Fulton, Martz attempted to grab the trooper's holstered handgun away from him. Fulton held Martz at gunpoint until officers arrived. The police obtained a search warrant and found seven firearms in the truck, including two Russian-made assault rifles (with bayonets), a Chinese-made assault rifle, two machetes, knives, and 5,057 rounds of ammuniation. In addition, two assault rifles and a shotgun, all loaded, were found in the cab of Martz's truck. Martz also had a loaded .45 caliber handgun in his pants at the time of arrest.
Martz has claimed that Fulton began to hit him when he stepped out of the truck and that he may have been stopped because he had witnessed the fatal shooting of an Ohio militiaman last May by a police officer (see Militia Follies). He has also suggested that God created the situation to show that many law enforcement officers exceed the law. He is being held on $100,000 bond and faces 13-28 years in prison.
Before moving to Ohio, Martz lived in California, where he was the local head of an American Pistol and Rifle Association chapter, and participated as a fringe candidate in an unsuccessful recall election of a California state senator on the grounds that the senator was in favor of gun control.
Black Militia Created in Detroit
Abstracted from the Times-Picayune, January 28, 1996.
Michigan, home of the Michigan Militia and Mark Koernke's more shadowy militia group, now has Clifford Brookins' Detroit Constitutional Militia to worry about. But Brookins' group, unlike the others, consists substantially of African-Americans. Moreover, it eschews paramilitary training in favor of political action. But much of the rhetoric, including the notion that the United States is being sold out to a socialist world government, is the same. Brookins, a building contractor, admits there may be some racism in the neo-militia movement, but says, "if all they know is what they see about black people in the media, how can they help it? Once we sit down at the table, we'll work it out." Brookins appears to have had help in creating the militia by Ray Southwell and Norman Olson, the former cofounders of the Michigan Militia who were kicked out after their less-than-praiseworthy performance under media fire in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. Southwell, a nurse who works part-time in Detroit, even stays overnight at Brookins' house when in the city.