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The Neo-Militia News Archive: July -- September 1996

Last Updated October 22, 1996

News Items

Bo Gritz Arrested for Kidnapping

Abstracted from CNN, wire reports and the New York Times

James G. "Bo" Gritz, 1992 candidate for president on the "Populist" ticket and one of the most visible leaders of the extremist right, was arrested in Connecticut on kidnapping charges on September 30, 1996. His son, James R. Gritz, was also arrested.

According to police the two men were arrested in the parking lot of McAlister Middle School in Suffield, Connecticut, and charged with first-degree criminal attempt to commit custodial interference, first-degree attempt to commit kidnapping, and loitering on school grounds. James R. Gritz was also charged with possession of a weapon and of burglary tools.

Authorities refused to identify the student, but the student's mother, Linda M. Wiegand was arrested in July in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she fled with two children after losing a custody case. The children were returned to their father, Thomas Wilkinson. Wiegand is free on bond. The connection between Wiegand, Gritz and his son is unclear.

"Bo" Gritz, a decorated Vietnam war veteran who later became an icon in the so-called "patriot" movement, was briefly a vice-presidential candidate on the Populist ticket in 1988 under former Nazi David Duke, then became that party's presidential nominee in 1992. The same year Gritz gained notoriety for intervening in the standoff involving Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, an event that helped spark the militia movement. More recently, Gritz was a spectacularly unsuccessful negotiator during the Montana Freemen standoff.

The two Gritzes are being held on $1 million bond.


Riding the Patriot Roller Coaster in Idaho

Abstracted from the Idaho Statesman, and the Twin Falls Times-News (courtesy of Dan Yurman).

Mixed signals regarding the health and future of the patriot movement have been coming out of Idaho this month. Home to many Neo-Nazi, Christian Identity, militia, common law and "constitutionalist" groups, Idaho sometimes operates as a barometer of "patriot" activity.

So there's some good news and some bad news.

The good news is the death of the United States Militia Association, the neo-militia group started by Samuel Sherwood in Blackfoot, Idaho. Not only was it a well-known militia group in Idaho, but Sherwood helped to get branches of it started in Washington, Tennessee and other states, though many were short-lived. According to Sherwood, the Association officially folded on September 1, 1996. The reason for its folding, Sherwood told the press, was that "the whole movement is being distorted on one side by the press and the media and taken over by the nuts and the crazies on the other." Sherwood was also frustrated by the lack of recognition on the part of state legislators, who were "constitutionally and legally ignorant." His militia group had for some time suffered from declining membership dues and meeting attendance.

Sherwood became nationally known for his March 1995 statement at a militia meeting in Boise that militiamen should "Go up and look legislators in the face because some day you may be forced to blow it off." He later denied making the comment.

But there's a cloud surrounding every silver lining, and that goes for the patriot movement in Idaho, too. Though Idaho's militia movement may be waning, its common law court movement is still generating headaches for local and state officials. The latest reason to stock up on Ibuprofin comes from Gary DeMott, head of the Boise-based common law group called Idaho Sovereignty. DeMott, accusing 4th District Judge Patricia Flanagan of "stealing constitutional rights," threatened not only to arrest her, but also possibly hundreds of local officials statewide.

DeMott, claiming that county commissioners, clerks, sheriffs, treasurers, assessors and coroners had to re-do their oaths of office because the oaths did not include "so help me God," mailed 391 notices to local officials across the state. According to the notices, officials would have ten days to take their oaths again, or else face "town criers" on September 28 who would read the names of non-compliers from the steps of county courthouses, following which his followers would make citizen's arrests with the help of sheriff's deputies (unhelpful deputies would also be arrested).

DeMott's objection to Flanagan is that, according to him, she "stole" a constitutional right (due process) from a woman with Alzheimer's named Shirley Minton. County officials assigned Minton a guardian to take care of her and her estate, over objections by her family. Flanagan is presiding over the case.

Flanagan refused to dismiss the case just because common law court activists demanded it. State officials were similarly unresponsive to DeMott's plan for local officials, noting that anyone attempting to arrest Flanagan or local officials would face felony kidnapping charges.


'Million Militia March' a Bust

Abstracted from wire reports, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Internet materials and a Militia Watchdog correspondent's report.

There were too few people for the Park Police to bother counting, officials said of the two-day "Rally for the Bill of Rights" held in Washington, D.C., over the Labor Day weekend by antigovernment extremists. Sponsored by the radical firearms group The Committee of 1776 and the "patriot" group Citizens Against Legal Loopholes (CALL), the event, organizers hoped, would draw at least 15,000 people, but only a couple hundred showed up. For a gathering that its sponsors had imagined would demonstrate to America the strength of the extremist right, the rally proved disappointing indeed.

Rally supporters had various excuses for the pitiful turnout. Some claimed that people did not show up because they didn't want to have their picture taken (the media was very plentiful), while Charlena Alden, chair of CALL, said that turnout was small because the media had inaccurately reported that the rally was being staged by militia groups. Others said that D.C. traffic jams had kept supporters away. "I just got a call, and people are stuck in traffic," sponsor Joseph Corey explained to the thin crowd.

If attendees were sparse, speakers were plentiful, even though G. Gordon Liddy opted out, providing a full dose of conspiracy and paranoia. Former FBI agent Ted Gunderson promoted his theory that the government bombed itself at Oklahoma City as "an incident that was created by an evil element within our government to hasten the passage of anti-terrorism legislation." James Collier, author of Vote Scam, accused Janet Reno of vote fraud. Barbara Coe of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, an anti-immigrant group, spoke out about the supposed dangers of immigration. Bo Gritz sidekick and foe to the New World Order Jack McLamb also delivered a harangue that one attendee claimed brought tears to his eyes. Other groups had booths at the rally, including the Fully Informed Jury Assocation, the Conservative March to the 21st Century, the Libertarian Party and the American Gulf War Veterans Association.

Rally organizer Charlena Alden tried to portray the attendees as anything but radical. "We are not militia," she said. "We are here to get issues out in the open and call on Congress to at least hold hearings on legal reform and education issues. We are concerned about the United Nations and the sovereignty of this country. But we are not anti-government." However, her own group publishes literature which talks of armed confrontations if public officials fail to heed CALL's agenda. And the militia presence at the rally was considerable, including Bob Figueroa, leader of the New Jersey Militia; Drew Raynor, leader of the Mississippi Militia; and J. J. Johnson, former spokesman for the Ohio Unorganized Militia and current self-appointed spokesman for the Georgia Republic Militia. Militiamen from other states, including Michigan attended, as well as representatives of foreign countries--that is, if you call the neo-secessionists "The Republic of Texas" group a foreign country.

In the aftermath of the tiny rally, "patriots" were angry at the supposed multitudes who had stayed behind. "Was there something more important happening?" typed one miffed militiaman on the Internet. "Didn't want to miss your sports, maybe?..Or maybe nobody even gives a rats [sic] ass what the hell happens to this great country of ours? Well, I'm sure everybody tried their best to attend, just couldn't squeeze it in...Sad, very sad. Well, I'll be meeting you all in the concentration camps." But the rally merely served to illustrate that despite the great damage it can cause, the patriot movement still cannot command very great support.


Sovereign Citizens Attempt to Escape Death Row

Abstracted from wire reports, the Montgomery Advertiser, Harper's Bazaar, the Orlando Sentinel Tribune, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, congressional testimony, St. Petersburg Times.

Determined to live or die by their antigovernment philosophy, two death row inmates in Alabama have fired their lawyers and are attempting to wage a "sovereign citizen" defense to keep them out of the electric chair. Given the success rate of sovereign citizens in the courts, their chances of success seem about as great as were Roger Motley's chances of surviving after George Sibley and Linda Lyon shot him down. The Opelika, Alabama, police sergeant's death led to criminal convictions for Sibley and Lyon--but it was the political convictions the couple held that led to Motley's death in the first place.

George Sibley started off more or less as a typical antigovernment activist and tax protester--small actions led to greater ones. A resident of Orlando, Florida, Sibley was irritated by all forms of taxes and government interference. Like many such people, he joined the Libertarian Party, a fringe political party which advocates extreme cutbacks in government. When in 1991 Orange County levied a new tax on local utilities--which would cost about $111 a year--Sibley rose up in protest, refusing to pay the tax added to his utility bills. That same year at a Libertarian Party meeting, he met Linda Lyon Block, a woman of similar antigovernment views. Linda convinced Sibley to spend $20,000 to help finance her antigovernment newsletter; soon they viewed themselves as husband and wife, though they never got a marriage license, since that was government interference.

There was a problem, though. Linda had been married to an 80-year old man, Karl Block, by whom she had one son, Gordon. Linda and Karl separated in late 1991; Karl moved into an apartment. However, the following summer Karl petitioned the courts to get his house back.

This was too much for Linda and George Sibley, who now published magazines and other products on income tax avoidance. In August 1991 they showed up at Block's apartment, forced their way inside, tied Block to a chair and taped his mouth shut with duct tape. Linda ordered him to stop trying to get the house, then stabbed him in the chest with a small knife. Sibley taped the wound shut with duct tape.

When neighbors found the octagenarian, police charged Lyon and Sibley with aggravated battery on a person older than 65. Block decided not to press charges, but because of the nature of the case, the state attorney's office decided to pursue it anyway. In July 1993, a deal was struck: prosecutors would recommend probation if Sibley and Lyon pleaded no contest. The judge set sentencing for September 7, but that date was not met.

Instead, Lyon and Sibley embarked upon a more or less typical route for "sovereign citizens" (antigovernment extremists who basically don't believe that federal or most state laws apply to them): they began filing bizarre court papers. They withdrew their plea and decided to pursue a "Thirteenth Amendment strategy." Most Americans think of the Thirteenth Amendment as the Constitutional amendment that finally prohibited slavery. However, sovereign citizens have discovered a "missing" Thirteenth Amendment, which they claim was ratified early in the nineteenth century but buried because of a plot against liberty.

The proposed amendment--one of a handful of early amendments that never became law--is actually quite innocuous, stating that "If any citizen of the United States shall accept...any title of nobility or honour...from any emperor, king, prince, or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States..." The amendment came fairly close to ratification, getting twelve out of fourteen states needed for ratification (out of eighteen total). During James Monroe's administration, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams reported that it had stalled, but a few unofficial editions of the Constitution printed in those years listed this amendment (and a couple of other unratified amendments) as if they had been adopted. The Supreme Court, however, on numerous occasions, indicated that the proposed amendment had never been adopted.

But so-called "patriots" not only claimed the amendment adopted, they managed to misconstrue it in a radical way, claiming that it applied to lawyers because they put "esquire" after their names, which was a title of nobility. Although it is not clear which "emperor, king, prince, or foreign power" was granting these "titles of noblity or honour," the sovereign citizens had convinced themselves that the real government and court system could not have any lawyers.

Lyon and Sibley adopted this novel theory with a vengeance. They claimed that Circuit Judge James Hauser was an illegal alien because he used a title of nobility ("The Honorable James Hauser"). Furthermore, they renounced all ties to the federal (or state) governments, because such ties--such as drivers' licenses and social security numbers--supposedly bound them into a "contract" with said governments, which is the only the government could legally bring "sovereign citizens" under its jurisdiction. Linda Lyon even renounced her birthdate, stating that "Only very recently have I discovered that I do not have, nor have I ever had, a date of birth."

Needless to say, Lyon and Sibley did not show up for their court date. Instead, according to a letter they faxed to Judge Hauser, the county sheriff and the local newspaper, they "have now barricaded ourselves in our home here in Orlando, Florida, awaiting the inevitable attempt of the sheriff [sic] deputies to surround us and take us by force...We will not live as slaves--but would rather die as free Americans." The authorities were not particularly eager to surround the sovereign citizens, however. A deputy sheriff showed up and knocked on the door but when no one answered he left. A couple of days later a bail bondsman discovered the couple had disappeared.

Lyon and Sibley had decided to flee. They loaded up their Ford Mustang and with Linda's 9-year old son Gordon drove off, heading west. They took with them handguns, automatic weapons, and more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition. For a while, they remained out of sight and sound. But on October 4, 1993, they surfaced in the small town of Opelika, Alabama. Lyon and Sibley had stopped at a Wal-Mart there to buy some vitamins and for Linda to make a call to a friend back in Orlando.

While Linda talked to her Florida friend in a phone booth, Sibley and Gordon waited back with the car, loaded with their belongings. Fate intervened in the form of another Wal-Mart customer, who passed by Sibley's car and saw young Gordon mouth the words "Help me" to her. She looked around and saw an Opelika police officer's vehicle; Sergeant Roger Motley was there to get office supplies. The woman went to Motley and told him what she had seen. Inadvertently, she had passed a death sentence on the man.

Motley walked towards the Mustang and asked Sibley for his drivers license. Sibley informed Motley that he had "no contracts with the state." When the officer asked Sibley to stop away from the car, Sibley refused. In fact, Sibley was a pot about to boil over. When Motley touched his holstered gun, Sibley pulled his own weapon out and began shooting at the policeman.

Motley had not been expecting a gunfight. He tried to run back towards his cruiser, to call for help or perhaps simply to flee, but Sibley chased after him across the parking lot, still firing at the sergeant's back. Linda Lyon, at the phone booth, turned around when she heard shots. She dropped the phone and ran towards Motley, who was unaware of her presence or approach. When she reached him, she stopped, pulled out a gun and shot at him several times, hitting him in the chest as he turned around to face her.

The couple fled as the fatally wounded Motley crawled into his police cruiser and radioed for help--he died shortly thereafter at a hospital from the chest wound Linda gave him (Motley left behind a wife, two children and two stepchildren) . Linda and George, along with Gordon, sped east on rural roads, perhaps aiming for a "safe house" operated by Mark and Sandy Schaffer in Georgia for antigovernment extremists, but the authorities soon caught up with them. The two sovereign citizens refused to leave their car, causing a standoff for nearly four hours. During the negotiations they demanded a color tv set and an audience with the pope, but they eventually surrendered without either. Gordon, rescued at least, was placed with foster parents while Linda and George were arrested and charged with capital murder.

Their conviction--and death sentence--came quickly. They were the only couple on death row; Linda was one of only 47 women in the entire country on death row. But both were unrepentant. "There has to be a point at which you decide I'm not going to take injustice anymore," Linda Lyon later explained. 'The fact that he had a badge and a gun makes no difference to me."

Sibley's reaction was similar. "Most people...would tell me you're supposed to submit to this," he explained, "even though you know it's false arrest. And I just don't buy that whatsoever. That is a clear trespass against me. He becomes at that point no different than any other kidnapper." The fact that he was a fugitive from justice and Motley simply doing his job was irrelevant.

After the sentencing, Sibley and Lyon were sent to separate prisons, where they corresponded with each other about their legal situation. The couple, though they were represented by counsel during their trial, eventually decided to proceed with a "sovereign citizen" defense for their appeals. They fired their lawyers in early 1996, taking Alabama officials aback. The Alabama Attorney General's office even requested a hearing to insure that Sibley and Lyon had been adequately informed about the dangers of proceeding without attorneys; a judge informed them of the "dangers and possible disadvantages of waiving counsel and failing to file a brief on appeal."

However, Sibley and Lyon are firmly convinced that the court system is illegal and illegitimate. "George and I have irrefutable proof," Lyon said in one "press release," "that the American Bar Association is an unconstitutional monopoly...It acts without lawful jurisdiction, making every judge's ruling, order and sentence unconstitutional, and therefore invalid." Her press releases, like the 24-page pamphlet she and George wrote about their case, are designed for the "patriot" movement--that loose collection of tax protesters, militia members, common law court activists, white supremacists and other antigovernment extremists which is not only the movement from which the pair was birthed, but the only potentially sympathetic audience left to them.

George Sibley and Linda Lyon, two people willing to gun down a police officer in cold blood, are scary enough by themsleves, but the growing evidence is that they are not alone. While Sibley and Lyons may be willing to go to greater extremes, the difference between them and countless others may be one only of degree, not kind. Nowhere is this more evident than in the antigovernment group to which Sibley and Lyons belonged, the American Citizens Alliance (also called The Liberty Group).

Sibley and Lyons were hardly the only dangerous couples spawned by the American Citizens Alliance. In August 1994, four members of the group, Jance and Bud Chess of Altamonte Springs, Florida and Carlos and Hannelore Montalvo of Longwood, Florida, were arrested on charges of obstruction of justice, impeding a federal investigation and conspiracy. These two couples were unlike Sibley and Lyon only in that they chose paper terrorism over bloodshed.

Like many conflicts involving "sovereign citizens," this one started with foreclosures. In December 1993 Gulfstream Holdings Inc. instituted a foreclosure suit against the Montalvos, while Household Realty Corporation filed a similar suit against the Chesses. Each couple asked a federal judge to move their cases to federal court, but in the spring of 1994 U.S. District Judges Anne Conway and Patricia Fawsett ruled against the Chesses and Montalvos, respectively, sending the cases back to the state circuit courts from which they originated.

This angered the couples no end. Bud Chess wrote a threatening letter to Conway, while both he and Janice filed a court document titled "Notice of Intent to File Treason Charges." Janice Chess requested Fawsett's oath of office and financial disclosure forms in July 1994, then in August the two couples forged the judges' names on bogus lien documents that asserted that Fawsett and Conway, as well as several other judges and individuals, owed each couple $25 million. This action was what caused their arrest.

After a few days in jail, the couples announced that they were "withdrawing" the bogus liens, but they were hardly contrite. "The American people have been reduced to peonage and involuntary servitude," they claimed, "under a fraudulent, tyrannical and seditious foreign oligarchy, whose express intent is to institute and establish a dictatorship over the people..." They argued that the federal government lost its sovereignty in 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt reorganized the banking system and that it has no power over them because it is indebted to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Like other sovereign citizens, they believed all paper money was invalid. Their lawyer contended that it was just "an attempt by these people to get justice the way they see it and the way they read the rules." Soon Bud and Janice Chess pleaded guilty, deciding that they had been "misled"; later one of the Montalvos also pleaded guilty.

During the legal proceedings, Janice Chess revealed that the person who had helped her prepare the bogus liens was another American Citizens Alliance member, David Martell, a disbarred lawyer who had been suspended by the Florida Supreme Court ten years earlier for hiring someone to harm a man (and his dog) because the man owed him money. Since his disbarment, Martell frequently prepared legal documents for tax protesters, including giving advice on how to file bogus liens and how to send bogus checks to mortgage companies, just as the Montana Freemen and Family Farm Preservation had done. Martell also helped the Chesses prepare their letter threatening Conway with treason charges. Martell was arrested and charged with obstructing justice and mail fraud; in October 1994 he pleaded guilty

At about the same time, authorities received word that the American Citizens Alliance might be involved in an even larger plot from a talkative member, Gary Mires. Mires was a convicted felon (stolen property) who tried to convince a gunsmith to put a scope on an illegal machine gun (with an illegal silencer). It is illegal for convicted felons to own weapons, and illegal for people surreptitiously to convert weapons to full-automatic. Mires told the gunsmith that there were 60 similar weapons in circulations, and that there was a plot to kill various federal judges and congressmen across the country.

ATF officials investigated, but could not actually find signs of the plot. However, on their own, members of the American Citizens Alliance proved just as bothersome as a conspiracy. In November 1994, member Grant McEwan, another convicted felon who liked to carry guns around, was arrested on charges similar to those of the Chesses and Montalvos. McEwan, active in trying to create "unorganized militias," threatened to file a lien against an IRS agent in May 1994, ducked out on four state court hearings in a suit against him, and filed a $1.1 million bogus lien against the Internal Revenue Service.

During a meeting of the American Citizens Alliance, McEwan announced he had filed the lien agains the IRS and that he would seize by force the Longwood office of that agency and sell its contents at auction. He told members that police and militia members would help him. He also asserted that the American Bar Association, Congress and the Federal Reserve had declared war on them.

McEwan was well acquainted with Gary Mires and Mires' alleged plot against federal judges. According to one law enforcement officer, McEwan stated that "I'm not sure what Gary said was wrong. I think we are going to have to hang some judges, but we will do it after giving them a five-minute trial after they are indicted by 25 sovereign citizens, and they are found guilty of treason because they violated the oaths of office." McEwan's laywer discounted the bogus lien and the threats, saying that "what we have someone who is a tax protester who is exercising his right to free speech in some manner."

The head of the American Citizens Alliance, before it folded, was no slouch, either. Leader William Marrerro was convicted in December 1994, along with David Rose and Ted Navolio (both of whom, operators of the Citizens Law School, a tax protest school, pled guilty). on conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice charges. These three men, along with Janice Weeks-Katona and her son, Jason Weeks, were involved in Premier Benefit Capital Trust, an investment scam that defrauded investors out of $7.5 million. Weeks-Katona and Weeks were also convicted on various fraud, weapons and money laundering charges, as well as for plotting to kill U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday. It just wouldn't be an American Citizens Alliance imbroglio unless there was at least one scheme against a judge.

The American Citizens Alliance is now defunct, but many similar groups have risen to take its place, ensconcing themselves within the comfortable arms of the militias, common law courts and tax protesters of the so-called "patriot" movement.


Southern Poverty Law Center Must Reveal Sources, Judge Says

Abstracted from The Detroit News.

Militia figure Ray Southwell won a preliminary battle in court on August 16 in his libel suit against the civil rights group known as the Southern Poverty Law Center when U.S. District Court Judge Joseph G. Scoville ruled that the SPLC must reveal the confidential sources that it says connect the Michigan militia leader to racist groups.

The suit was prompted by the December 1994 issue of Klanwatch, published by the SPLC, which featured Southwell on its cover and claimed he had met with white supremacist leaders, including Aryan Nations member Bobby Norton, in Tennessee. Southwell denied the allegations and launched a lawsuit against the SPLC and Morris Dees, its controversial founder.


New York Militiaman Convicted of Resisting Arrest

Abstracted from The (Albany, NY) Times Union

Though he himself refused to take part in his own trial, New York militiaman Reinaldo DeJesus discovered that jury members were more willing take an active role as they found him guilty after only thirty minutes of deliberation on two counts of resisting arrest, and one count each of unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, operating with insufficient headlights, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and failure to comply.

DeJesus, from White Creek, New York, worked for the New York State Labor Department, but saw no particular reason to recognize the authority of New York state, including its courts. "I'm not going to sit back quietly," he said.

The case started in November 1995 when a police officer pulled DeJesus over for an inoperative headlight; the militiaman refused to pull over and was followed by the officer for six miles to DeJesus's residence. DeJesus entered his residence, ignoring the officer's orders to stop. An order was issued for his arrest when he did not show up at the local court, but when sheriff's deputies showed up to serve the warrant, DeJesus used a shotgun to warn them off, then called for militia reinforcements. He eventually surrendered. He faces a sentence of three to twelve months.


Washington Militiamen, Freemen, Arrested on Explosives, Firearms Charges

Abstracted from wire reports, Internet sources, the New York Times

The nation's eyes were still focused on Atlanta, where a July 27 pipe bombing at Olympic Centennial Park sent shockwaves well beyond the park's confines. Authorities claimed leads but no particular suspects. But on the other side of the continent, federal and local law enforcement officers had more than just leads on another group of pipe bombers. On Saturday, July 27, FBI agents and Bellingham, Washington, police swooped down on eight suspects, arresting five of them while they were actually attending a bomb-making class in Bellingham. Three others were arrested in their homes in the Seattle and Bellingham areas. The suspected leader of the group, John Irvin Pitner, 45, of Deming, Washington, was arrested at his home by FBI agents who allegedly posed as real estate agents.

Others arrested include William Smith, "about 60," Seattle; Judith Carol Kirk, 54, Seattle; John Lloyd Kirk, 56, Seattle; Richard Frank Burton, Jr., 38, Seattle; Frederick Benjamin Fisher, 61, Bellingham; Gary Marvin Kuehnoel, 48, Bellingham; Marlin Lane Mack, 24, Bellingham. All eight have been charged with conspiracy to make and possess explosive devices. Additionally Gary Kuehnoel is charged with transfer and possession of a machine gun, and along with John and Carol Kirk, Burton and Mack, with making and possessing explosive devices. Reportedly Pitner, Mack, Kuehnoel and Fisher are members of the Washington State Militia, while the others were Washington-area "freemen," or "sovereign citizens."

The complaint filed in Federal District Court accused the eight conspirators of attempting "to arm themselves for what they believed would be an eventual confrontation with the United States Government or the United Nations." According to authorities, the seven-month investigation witnessed group members meeting at the homes of Pitner and Kuehnoel at least twice to learn how to make pipe bombs. An FBI agent who infiltrated the group also witnessed Kuehnoel converting two rifles into machine guns.

Along with the arrests, FBI and local police found (and disarmed) at least seven pipe bombs or other explosive devices. At one location, they called in hazardous materials teams to assist.

It is not known if any of the eight are connected with the rash of bombings in Spokane, Washington, earlier this year.


New York City Policemen Arrested in Tax-Dodging Scheme

Abstracted from wire reports, the New York Times, New York Newsday, New York Daily News

Fifteen current and former New York City policemen were arrested on July 17 on charges of tax evasion in a scandal that may eventually encompass as many as 600 or 700 city employees. The officers avoided paying some $450,000 on $1,600,000 in income since 1992.

Ringleaders in the scheme appear to have been Detective Barton Adams and Officer Frank Sambula, who sold tax-avoidance packets to their fellow officers for $900 to $2,000. The tactics involved, however, were remarkably simple, and involved simply declaring 98 or 99 withholding allowances, as well as not filing returns and informing the IRS that they were "tax-exempt." Fourteen of the fifteen suspects worked for the (now defunct) Housing Police Department; the fifteenth for the Transit police.

Their ploy worked for several years because the Housing Police never notified the Internal Revenue Service that it was deducting no money from the officers' wages. When this was finally discovered, city officials ran a computer check on 200,000 city employees and discovered that nearly 1,000 people had declared 10 or more exemptions on their W-4 forms, and of those, possibly 600 or 700 were evading taxes.

The policemen involved, however, appeared to have borrowed a little of the philosophy of the Montana Freemen--currently languishing in jail--for many of them claimed in letters to the I.R.S. that they were exempt from taxes because they were citizens of the sovereign state of New York rather than of the United States (apparently, however, they did not pay state or city taxes, either). These arguments apparently had some merit with, if no one else, the payroll departments of several city agencies, which in some cases granted changes in tax status when presented with affidavits by tax evaders which stated that they didn't owe federal taxes because they lived in the "Republic of New York."

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and other city officials downplayed the "sovereign citizen" aspect, however. "This isn't ideological," Giuliani said at a press conference. "This is pure out-and-out cheating." However, at a hearing at the United States Magistrate's Court in Manhattan on Wednesday, three of the police officers declared that they did not recognize the court's authority and that they were not "citizens" as defined by the tax code. Also standard practice for "sovereign citizens," several refused to give fingerprints, to allow mug shots to be taken, or to divulge home addresses or telephone numbers, to sign personal-recognizance bail forms. One police officer told a Federal marshal that he did not understand the Miranda rights. Detective Jose Lugo informed the judge that "I have no standing in this court. I am not here voluntarily. I have committed no crime. This court has no jurisdiction and I demand to be released immediately." Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanner Jaffe Bloom noted that Lugo had been a member of a Federal warrants squad whose job it was to arrest fugitive criminals and book them. Giuliani, like most people confronted with the bizarre sovereign citizen doctrine, found the behavior duplicitous. "That's nothing but legal mumbo-jumbo and gibberish," he said. "On many of these job applications you have to be a citizen of the United States to get a job. If they were so concerned they would have quit their jobs."

Adams and Sambula, charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. as well as tax evasion, face up to 18 years in prison. The others, as well as Sambula, were charged with tax evasion or failure to file and face from one to five years in prison.

After being arrested, the officers were suspended from their jobs without pay.

The officers in question are: Detective Specialist Barton Adams, Officer Ronnie Artis, Officer Rongo Farrell, Officer David Gonzalez, Detective 3rd Grade Vincent Hall, Officer Dino Lawless, Detective 3rd Grade Jose Lugo, Officer Frank Sambula, Officer Kurt Washington, Officer Sigrid Chauncy, Officer Joseph Braithwaite, George Gaines (retired sergeant), Officer Juliet Jackson (fired in February).


Militiaman in Texas Pleads Guilty to Gun Charges

Abstracted from the Houston Chronicle

Galveston doctor and Texas Militia member Jose Luis Arce pleaded guilty on July 16 to federal weapons charges of possessing and selling unregistered machine guns, and possessing and making a silencer. He faces up to 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He had apparently been making and selling silencers out of his apartment. Arce plans to challenge the constitutionality of the firearms statutes in court.


Feds Crack Down on Militia Conspiracy

Abstracted from wire reports, the New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times

As the Fourth of July approached, bringing with it the promise of festivities and fireworks, federal agents acted on Monday, July 1, to forestall the use of some rather more dangerous explosives. Culminating a months-long investigation, federal agents arrested twelve members of an Arizona militia group that called itself the "Vipers." Police seized 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate.

The Viper Militia was apparently a rather active one. Unlike many militia groups, which meet only in restaurants to gripe, the Arizona group conducted field training exercises, practiced bomb-making, and trained with illegal automatic weapons. Furthermore, it had been doing so for some time. A video made by members of the group in the spring of 1994--a time when there were still very few militia groups nationwide--showed buildings housing the BATF, the FBI, the INS, the IRS, the Secret Service, the Arizona National Guard and the Phoenix Police Department, and discussed how to place explosives on them so that the buildings would collapse. The tape also suggested placing explosive devices in mailboxes near the entrance of one of the target buildings to harass U.S. Treasury employees, and noted that people could destroy a nearby water main to inhibit firefighters. Talking about the Phoenix PD, the narrator suggested that it would be a "major political statement" to take it over, and that its records and equipment would be "invaluable."

Militia experts know little about the Viper Militia, which was not a group that desired publicity. The indictment included an affadavit identifying 32-year old Randy Nelson, a house painter from Peoria, Arizona, as the group's leader.

The six-months long investigation of the Viper Militia was aided considerably by a state police officer who infiltrated the group in an undercover operation and watched its activities. These activities included detonating explosives (some powerful enough to create craters six feet across) and firing automatic weapons. The exercises were conducted in a remote area near the Sunrise Mine west of Wickenburg, Arizona. Members also assiduously stockpiled explosive materials, until by May 1996 they had accumulated close to 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate (the OKC bomb had an estimated 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil). Some group members apparently also dabbled at building rockets to launch explosives. The twelve group members who were arrested were indicted on charges of conspiring to manufacture and possess unregistered explosive devices and possession of unregistered destructive devices. Six members were charged with conspiracy and instructing people to use explosives to promote civil disorder. Three were charged with unlawful possession of machine guns. Neighbors of some of the members expressed surprise at the arrests. A Viper member boasted to the undercover agent that the group "could take any SWAT team," but there was no resistance to the arrests.

The militia movement's nemesis, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, conducted the investigation, considerably assisted by U.S. marshals, customs agents, Phoenix police, Arizona state police, and other local and federal officials. The investigation began after a hunter notified the ATF that he had had an encounter with a group of armed men while out hunting who would not let him travel down a certain road. ATF agents discovered a sizable crater left by the group's testing of explosives.

The members charged are Randy Lynne Nelson, Dean Carl Pleasant, Finis Howard Walker, David Wayne Belliveau, Ellen Adella Belliveau, Charles Franklin Knight, Scott Jefferey Shero, Walter Earl Sanville, Gary Curtis Bauer, Henry Alfred Overturf, Donna Star Williams, Christopher Alan Floyd. Most face maximum punishment if convicted of 15 years in prison and fines up to $750,000.

Some reports say more arrests are expected.


Pennsylvania Patriot Convicted on Explosives Charges

Abstracted from various articles in the (Allentown) Morning Call, 1995-96

The Time: April 1995.
The Place: In front of a government building.
The Culprit: A man angry over the Branch Davidian siege at Waco, angry at Janet Reno and the federal government, preparing for a future war.
The Materials: Deadly explosives.

Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing? No, although you may be forgiven for thinking so. The date was April 11, 1995, just one week before the Oklahoma City bombing, and the location was not in front of a federal building in Oklahoma, but in front of a rest stop on Interstate 80 near Delaware Water Gap in the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania. And instead of a truck full of fertilizer exposers, there was a large green ammunition box full of the lethal explosive triacetone triperoxide, so volatile it can be set off by the clapping of hands. The owner of the box? A mild-mannered man named Frederick Urban.

But the person to whom Urban was delivering the explosives was no Terry Nichols, but rather a government informant, leading to Urban's arrest, imprisonment and--finally--his conviction. On June 19, 1996, a jury convicted Urban of possessing unregistered explosives. He faces up to ten years in prison.

Frederick Urban, a 47-year old man with a wife and children, was not the sort of person you'd think would be making bombs in his basement. The owner of the Stencil 'N Stitch quilt shop in Pocono Township, Pennsylvania, Urban was a jack-of-all-trades well liked by his neighbors. He was always there to fix a furnace or to lend a hand. He kept to himself, but was no isolated loner.

There was another side to Fred Urban, though, one that occasionally let his anger slip through. Like many others on the far-right, Urban had been appalled and infuriated by the handling of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas. It was not incompetence that caused the deadly end to the siege but design. He took to calling Attorney General Janet Reno "Big Sister," and suggesting that a revolution was imminent. And he also developed a serious interest in explosives. He amassed a not inconsiderable library of books about explosives, many of them common fare at the gun shows he regularly attended, where he sold gun accesssories, flashlights and other products. If you want to know how to assassinate someone, how to set up a fake identity, or how to build a bomb, gun shows are your first stop. Among Urban's collection were books such as The Advanced Anarchist Arsenal, The Improvised Munitions Handbook, The Ranger's Guide to Home and Recreational Use of Explosives, The Anarchist Red Book of Explosives and Demolitions, and Improvised Land Mines. Nor did he just read about the subject. He began to accumlate large quantities of explosive materials, including the triacetone triperoxide, a chemical one expert characterized as "the most sensitive explosive known to man."

Whatever Fred Urban's ultimate plans were will always remain murky. That they were not carried out was due largely to his meeting with gun-shop owner John Moreton. After meeting Moreton at a gun show, Urban later showed up at Moreton's shop, trying to peddle pamphlets on how to make triacetone triperoxide, as well as booklets on making "spud guns," novelty items that launch potatoes for distance of up to half a mile. During the visit, Urban also talked about the ATF, Waco, and revolution. It was enough to unnerve Moreton, who perhaps also saw Urban as an opportunity. Moreton was a man with his own legal problems hanging over his head. Like too many gun dealers, he flirted with the gun laws. In this instance, he was caught, and faced two weapons charges. Seeking leniency, Moreton informed federal agents that Urban was a dangerous man with powerful explosives. Patrick Moreton, John's son, said that Urban complained of "tyranny" and that the quilt shop owner told them he was "getting his supply ready" for when the "shit hit the fan." The agents helped Moreton arrange a meeting with Urban, at which Urban would demonstrate that his explosives could cut through three-inches of steel. Urban would bring a small sample of the stuff to test on steel. The meeting would take place at the Delaware Water Gap visitor center, where ATF agents could maintain surveillance.

At the appointed time, the two met. John Moreton, wired for sound, had his car; Urban drove up in a van. After they greeted each other, Urban threw open the doors to his van. Instead of the small sample of triacetone triperoxide, there was an entire cannister of the stuff.

Moreton stared at the deadly substances. "That, uh, how safe is this to put in here?" he asked.

Urban reassured the gun dealer. "It's ok, oh yeah, it's not gonna...I don't have it armed." He manhandled the case of explosives from his own vehicle to the trunk of Moreton's car. That was all federal agents needed; they moved in and arrested him. The bomb squad looked at their prey and decided that it was far too dangerous to move. They closed off I-80, dug a two foot hole in the ground in front of the center, gingerly placed the explosives in the hole, and detonated the material. The explosion sent shrapnel and dirt flying for up to fifty yards; a plume of smoke fifty feet high billowed in the air. A four foot crater was all that remained of the green cannister; spectators, including employees, bicyclists and passers-by, were amazed. At Urban's home, agents found his explosives library, as well as cylinders, fuses, a silencer, metal pipes, and containers of acetone and aluminum powder.

Urban was promptly lodged in jail, where he spent the next year. The judge denied him bail, and the Oklahoma City bombing, which almost immediately followed, insured that he would stay there, even though he didn't seem like that much of a risk for flight. Urban and his various lawyers (he went through three during the year he spent in jail) strongly maintained his innocence. He didn't even belong to the NRA, he protested, much less think of building bombs. At the gun shop Urban had not talked revolution; instead a legless man using a wheelchair who had been a Green Beret was the one who made those statements. Urban had met Moreton just to test a spud gun. It was Moreton, they said, who brought the explosives. Urban was set up.

The trial lasted for three days; there were no defense witnesses. In the end, Urban's own words, indicating that he had brought the explosives, helped to convict him. "It was unanimous," said the jury foreman. "We came to the conclusion that it was obviously Fred Urban who brought the explosives."

Urban still faces federal charges in Philadelphia for illegal possession of a silencer authorities found, and for possessing triacetone triperoxide in his home (the site of his arrest was in the Scranton federal district; the site of his home in the Philadelphia federal district).


UFO Nuts Launch Bizarre Radium Plot

Abstracted from UPI, The (Bergen) Record, The New York Times.

At least three conspirators were involved in a too-weird-to-be-believed plot to kill Republican county officials on Long Island, New York. On June 13, police raided the Bellport home of John Ford, 47, seizing dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Also arrested was Joseph Mazzachelli, 42, a Manorville resident. But it was not the weapons and ammo the police were after, but radium. An undercover operation revealed that Mazzachelli and Ford were conspiring to use lead canisters containing radium to kill local Republican leader John Powell and county officials Fred Towle and Anthony Gazzola. Ford and Mazzachelli planned to spread radium on the seat of his car and to put it in his food (experts were somewhat dubious whether the radium would have seriously harmed him).

The next day, a third suspect, Edward Zabo, was arrested in Medford, New York. Zabo had been a government electrical inspector at military contractor Northrop Grumman since 1973. The three men are all members of the Long Island UFO Network; Ford was president. The group has accused the government of covering up sightings of extraterrestrials.

The intended victims of the plot did not know why the conspirators had targetted them. Zabo had been arrested twice for driving while intoxicated, and apparently had some tax troubles; Mazzachelli was a convicted burglar. During the raid on Ford's home, police uncovered what they and the media described as large quantities of "militia" literature. However, the only example given, a magazine which the media said was published by the Montana Freemen, was actually a rather innocuous libertarian publication. Actual militia ties are dubious.


Quote of the Day

"This is how quickly things move. Yesterday, the Freemen left the compound and today, a Century 21 agent was showing the place to the Michigan Militia." --David Letterman


Militia Member Who Assaulted Police Officer Admonished by Judge

Abstracted from the (Bend, Oregon) Bulletin.

Chelan County Superior Judge Carol Wardell is a patient person, but even the patience of saints can be tried eventually. In this case, it took neo-militiaman Bruce Alden Banister to use up her store of good will. By all accounts, that is something Banister is good at.

Banister, the 29-year old East Wenatchee leader of the Wenatchee Minuteman Militia, began his career as court nuisance after being issued a citation for expired license tags in early February 1996 by a Wenatchee police officer. Banister, who believes that vehicle licenses are unconstitutional and does not recognize police authority, used physical force to make his carefully nuanced arguments. He was arrested and charged with third-degree assault against an officer and resisting arrest.

From his arrest, Banister was determined to be obstructionist. He refused to take part in any court proceedings because, said he, the prosecutor's office had written his name in all capital letters on court documents. Banister argued that his real name was not BRUCE ALDEN BANISTER, but Bruce Alden, and that Banister was his family name. He also refused to tell Judge Wardell whether or not he wanted an attorney and (for a time) resisted efforts to give an address.

When the case finally came to trial, in May, a jury took all of an hour and a half to deliberate before finding him guilty. He was sentenced to 70 days in work release, but this only made Banister more energetic. Banister filed a motion to overturn his sentence because the court lacked jurisdiction over him. He contended that the state of Washington was a fictitious entity, as well as other typical "sovereign citizen" arguments such as the notion that the court was an admiralty court because it displayed the U.S. flag improperly and that because judges and lawyers are paid in paper currency the court has become a corporation.

Judge Wardell listened to his bizarre arguments for some time before telling him that she would begin charging him for using up the court's time. "You can argue all you want with somebody else, but I'm done," she told Banister on May 29. "I've used up all the patience I've ever had. If I or another judge...have to deal with the very same arguments, I will request that you pay attorney's fees."


Crackdowns on Common Law Cultists

Abstracted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, UPI, and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Authorities in several states have begun to place pressure on the various so-called "common law courts" that have appeared in many states within the past years. These bogus courts try public and private citizens, invariably in absentia, then issue judgments against them, usually in the form of frivolous liens against their property.

Early in May, county prosecutors in Edwardsville, Illinois, unearthed a little-used state law against simulating the civil process to file misdemeanor charges against twenty four common law court members. Ten pleaded guilty and were fined and sentenced to probation; charges against three were dropped. Late in the month, prosecutors filed charges against thirty-two more people, most of them from Pike and Montgomery counties in Missouri. This is one of the largest concerted efforts yet against the pseudo-courts.

In June, the efforts of the Illinois prosecutors were joined by similar efforts in Missouri. Attorney General Jay Nixon charged twenty Missouri and Illinois residents with threatening a judge by filing a bogus lien against him--a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The common law activists had filed a $1.5 million lien against Associate Circuit Judge Patrick S. Flynn, who had dared to rule against 17-year old Amanda Lenk in a traffic citation case. The lien accused Flynn of treason, conspiracy and fraud. The group filed other liens against the Lincoln County prosecutor and a state trooper. By June 18, seventeen of the twenty were in custody.


Survivalists Arrested in New Jersey, Pennsylvania

Abstracted from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Reuters.

The ATF raided two homes in March and April, uncovering huge caches of illegal weapons. The two survivalists, both with militia ties, were Russell Fauver, 45, of Evesham, New Jersey, and William Kay, 59, variously mentioned as being from Skippack and Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

Fauver had on his property 24 handguns, rifles, assault weapons, shotguns and a flamethrower, as well as 100,000 rounds of ammunition, while William Kay had five Sten machine guns, a Maxim machine gun, two grenade launchers, an Uzi, a hand grenade, and silencers. Fauver was a former member of the Christian Patriot Defense Lague, while Kay was a chaplain with the Unorganized Militia of Pennsylvania.

When enformed of Kay's arrest, militia leader Douglas R. Williams suggested that Kay had been entrapped by the ATF. "What I'd want to know," he asked, "Is there some type of conspiracy?" Kay's attorney suggested he had bought all the guns "for investment purposes."

The two men did not know each other.


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