10 Apr 2008 10:28
Subject: Ed And Elaine Brown Supporters Found Guilty
By Margot Sanger-Katz
April 10, 2008 – 6:47 am
A federal jury found two men guilty of aiding and arming Plainfield tax protesters Ed and Elaine Brown yesterday. But after three days of deliberation, the jury has failed to reach a verdict on a third man accused of similar crimes.
Jason Gerhard of Brookhaven, N.Y., and Daniel Riley of Cohoes, N.Y., were both found guilty of conspiring to prevent U.S. marshals from arresting the Browns after the couple fled their federal tax evasion trial, holed up in their fortified concrete home and vowed to die before surrendering. Gerhard and Riley were also found guilty of aiding and abetting the Browns and bringing guns to the house to help prolong the standoff. Riley was found guilty, and Gerhard not guilty, on a charge that they handled explosive devices.
The third man, Cirino Gonzalez of Alice, Texas, is also charged with conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and a weapons charge. He is not accused of handling any explosives. Judge George Singal, who is presiding over the case, instructed the jury last night to continue deliberating despite difficulty reaching a verdict.
During the two-week-long trial, each of the men’s lawyers conceded that their clients visited the Browns and shared some of their unconventional political views. But they argued that the defendants never collaborated on any plan to prevent authorities from arresting the Browns. Gonzalez, the only defendant to testify in his own defense, told jurors that he had gone to the couple’s house not to help defend them, but to leverage their celebrity to advance his own causes.
The Browns attracted national attention for their grandiose statements, their ability to recruit like-minded supporters, and their effective use of the internet to spread their message. Ed Brown, a longtime local militia leader, warned supporters last January that the situation at his house might turn into “another Waco.” In June, he welcomed Randy Weaver, a survivor of the Ruby Ridge standoff, who came to New Hampshire and pledged his support. During a daily radio show, the Browns updated supporters on their stand and issued repeated threats against the judge, prosecutor and law enforcement figures involved in their case. The couple hosted two concerts, which drew more than 100 supporters each. Many brought guns, food or other supplies. The couple’s standoff lasted nearly nine months.
The Browns were ultimately arrested in October, when a team of undercover marshals posed as supporters and tricked them while they were home alone. When agents searched the castle-like home, they found dozens of improvised explosive devices and an array of homemade and conventional firearms scattered around the house. The Browns’ supplies also included tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, night vision scopes and months’ worth of dehydrated food.
The Browns are serving 63-month sentences for their tax crimes and have not been charged in connection with the standoff.
The one who testified
Prosecutors presented evidence that many of the guns and other supplies found at the Plainfield house were purchased by the defendants.
Robert Wolffe, a man who faced similar charges and pleaded guilty, told jurors that he saw Riley handling explosive devices and homemade guns designed to be set off by tripwires.
The government also showed the jury e-mails, videos and audio recordings of the men describing their commitment to the Browns. In one video, shot from the Browns’ fourth-story observation deck, Gonzalez told a sympathetic videographer that he and others helping the Browns were prepared to use force.
“We have weapons, and we’re going to defend ourselves. We know what’s going on,” he says in the interview, which was played three times during the trial. “This is a serious situation. This is basically a revolution.”
But Gonzalez’s own testimony undercut the government’s portrayal of him as a key ally of the Browns. He said that he came to the house because he shared the Browns’ anti-tax views but that he stayed to meet with activists and increase publicity for other political concerns, including beliefs that the U.S. government brought down the World Trade Center and was poisoning its soldiers with radioactive weapons materials.
“The majority of my efforts were blogging and raising awareness on the internet,” he said.
In several public statements and online postings during his tenure at the Browns’, Gonzalez described himself as a security guard for the couple. But when cross-examined by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kinsella, Gonzalez denied that he was there for security. Several character witnesses described him as a “man of peace.”
Gonzalez left the home in late June, sooner than the other men, after his family members quarreled with Ed Brown, according to the family. Gonzalez testified that there were no explosives at the house when he was there and that he took all of his guns home with him.
According to an article Gerhard wrote in his Suffolk Community College newspaper, he began visiting the Browns last winter and brought a gun with him during his first visit. Sales receipts and other records showed that Gerhard purchased five more guns in New Hampshire during the standoff and bought ammunition, rifle scopes, pipes, rifle accessories and other supplies with his credit card. Many of these items were found by federal agents in the Browns’ house.
A deputy U.S. marshal who spoke with Gerhard twice said that Gerhard issued veiled threats. According to Kenneth Nunes, Gerhard said the marshals were violating the Constitution by seeking the arrests of the Browns and said that the punishment for treason is death.
At the time of his arrest in September, Gerhard was in basic training at an Army base in Missouri. Wolffe said Gerhard told him he had joined the Army’s engineers in order to learn more about explosives.
No witnesses said they saw Gerhard with any bombs, and no fingerprint or DNA evidence linked him to the devices. Although Gerhard was charged with handling explosives, the jury found him not guilty.
During a video recording Riley made in March, he said that he supported the Browns’ efforts to expose the “international bankers” who are running the country and hoped to visit them and bring them gifts. According to sales records, he later purchased a .50-caliber rifle found at the Brown house and ordered ingredients to make the type of exploding rifle targets that were found hanging from trees around the house.
According to court documents, Riley also told marshals about the explosive material, called Tannerite during an interview in June. Riley stumbled on a team of marshals positioned at the foot of the Browns’ driveway and was detained after he tried to run away. In an e-mail shown to the jury, Riley asked the manufacturer to cancel his order, saying that he would be arrested if he received it.
But Riley returned to the Browns’ and apparently brought the Tannerite; shipping boxes for the material were found in Plainfield addressed to his father’s New York home.
In a 90-minute radio recording played to the jury, Riley asked Brown supporters to come to the house, following what he believed was the beginning of an assault by U.S. marshals in late July. It turned out to be a false alarm
“This is a life-or-death situation. This is the real deal,” Riley said in the recording. “We’re at our battle stations. We’re ready to lay our lives down for you.”
Lawyers for Gonzalez and the government met in a room adjoining the courtroom for more than half an hour following the reading of the verdicts. After their conference, they met with Singal in his chambers. The judge later instructed the jury to keep deliberating.
Just before the jury left the room, Gonzalez yelled a message to them.
“Jury nullification is your right,” he said. A second statement was difficult to hear.
Singal called the parties back into his chambers after the outburst.
Gonzalez was not the only person to speak out of turn in the courtroom yesterday. Joe Haas, a Gilmanton Iron Works man who has been following the case closely and providing legal advice to the defendants, stood up just before the jury came in to issue its verdicts. Wearing a tweed blazer and a brown hat, and surrounded by marshals, Haas yelled “point of order,” and Singal ordered him removed from the courtroom. Chief Deputy Marshal Gary Dimartino said later that Haas had not been arrested, just escorted from the building.
The jury will continue deliberating on Gonzalez’s case today.
One Conclusion: Make more Orgonite and Watch America Freedon to Fascism by the late Aaron Russo, like him, Ed and Elaine and their supporters the government has never shown them or anyone else the law requiring citizens to pay income taxes. The judge in this case disallowed any and all mention of the legality of the income tax during the proceedings.