!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Profile: Montana Freemen

Related Entities:

Montana Freemen was a participant or observer in the following events:

A portion of the cover of ‘Mirache on Main Street.’A portion of the cover of ‘Mirache on Main Street.’ [Source: Book Covers (.com)]Nashville musician Frederick “Tupper” Saussy III, who makes a living writing advertising jingles, writes a popular anti-tax protest book, Miracle on Main Street. Along with claiming that taxation is illegal (see 1951-1967, 1970-1972, and 1976-1978), Saussy concocts a fraudulent kind of “checkbook” money he calls “Public Office Money Certificates,” and says tax protesters can use them to pay their debts. The “certificates,” he claims, are “redeemable in dollars of the money of account of the United States upon an official determination of the substance of the money of account.” The idea will be copied by Posse Comitatus protesters (see 1969) and, later, by the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994). In 1985, Saussy will be convicted of tax evasion and will become a federal fugitive. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2001]

Entity Tags: Frederick (“Tupper”) Saussy III, Posse Comitatus, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Clark ranch.The Clark ranch. [Source: Billings Gazette]The Clark family of Jordan, Montana, led by Ralph Clark and including his brother Emmett, Emmett’s wife Rosie, Ralph’s son Edwin, his nephew Richard, his grandson Casey, and Richard’s wife Kay, begin exhibiting radical anti-government views. The Clarks, who work a 960-acre wheat farm, are not averse to accepting over $700,000 in government assistance, but due to poor planning and overextensions due to land and machinery purchases, they find themselves deeply in debt. In 1981, they stop paying their federal farm loans. By 1995, they owe $1.8 million in missed payments. By that time, the Clarks have begun listening to the tax-resister, anti-government rhetoric of the “Montana Freemen” in Roundup, Montana, some 150 miles away (see 1983-1995 and 1993-1994). Alven Clark, Ralph and Emmett’s brother who refuses to join them in their increasingly extremist views, will later say: “This thing just kept building every time I talked to them. They just listened to these prophets.” After their farm is foreclosed and sold at a sheriff’s auction for $493,000, the Clarks take a central part in one of the Freemen’s first major assaults on the local judiciary (see January 1994). [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996] In 1996, Ralph Clark’s grand-nephew Dean Clark will say: “My grandfather worked hard all his life, but his brother is another story. Ralph Clark has always been into one get-rich-quick scheme after the next. But he hasn’t done any real work. He hasn’t done a damn thing for the past 15 years but drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and look out the window and daydream.” [New York Times, 6/10/1996]

Entity Tags: Ralph Clark, Dean Clark, Casey Clark, Alven Clark, Edwin Clark, Montana Freemen, Emmett Clark, Rosie Clark, Kay Clark, Richard Clark

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

An undated photo of LeRoy Schweitzer.An undated photo of LeRoy Schweitzer. [Source: WorldNews]LeRoy Schweitzer, a crop duster in Montana and Idaho, becomes increasingly frustrated and resentful at what he considers interference by the government. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Schweitzer moves toward becoming an anti-government tax resister. He becomes fascinated by the legal ideology of the Posse Comitatus (see 1969), attends numerous Posse meetings, and has some contacts with members of The Order (see Late September 1983). Schweitzer, well-liked by his neighbors and friends, begins to worry them with his increasing extremism. He helps a friend, Bernard Kuennan, mount a legal defense against charges of letting his dog roam unvaccinated, and the two hammer the judge with questions about the differences between “admiralty” and “common law” (see Fall 2010). He defies police officers who stop him for traffic violations. He moves to Montana, where he refuses to get a license to fly his Cessna crop duster, resulting in federal arrest warrants. His refusal to pay federal taxes causes the IRS to seize his plane in November 1992, his Bozeman, Montana home, and other equipment, and sell it all to pay his $389,000 delinquent tax bill, dating back to the 1970s. Thoroughly radicalized, Schweitzer meets Rodney Owen Skurdal, another legal manipulator. Skurdal is an ex-Marine and Posse Comitatus advocate who, during litigation of a worker’s compensation suit in the 1980s, tells the judge that the federal government lacks the authority to print paper money and demands, fruitlessly, to be paid his compensation in gold bullion. One Wyoming newspaper claims that Skurdal’s extremism begins after he suffers a fractured skull in 1983, the source of the compensation claim; Skurdal’s former wife says after the injury that Skurdal refuses to use a Social Security number or driver’s license. Skurdal, like many in the Posse, is an adherent to the virulently racist Christian Identity belief system (see 1960s and After), and in court filings claims non-whites are “beasts,” and Jews “the children of Satan.” Skurdal routinely intertwines Identity, Posse Comitatus, Biblical, and Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) tenets in his court filings (see 1994). In 1993, the IRS seizes his farm near Roundup, Montana, for back taxes; Skurdal continues to occupy the farm and no local official dares to evict him. In late 1994, Skurdal invites Schweitzer to move in with him; they are joined by Daniel Petersen in early 1995. The three become the nucleus of what will become the Montana Freemen. Skurdal’s farm becomes a headquarters for the nascent organization, with computers, fax machines, laser printers, and satellite dishes going round the clock. The inhabitants post a sign on the edge of the property, reading: “Do Not Enter Private Land of the Sovereign.… The right of Personal Liberty is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen, and any unlawful interference with it may be resisted.” Local authorities want to curb the group, but do not want to risk violence and bloodshed. Musselshell County Sheriff G. Paul Smith says: “These people want to be martyrs. I don’t know how far they are willing to carry that.” Moreover, Smith and his small sheriff’s department are outnammed and outgunned. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: The Order, Bernard Kuennan, Daniel Petersen, Posse Comitatus, G. Paul Smith, Montana Freemen, LeRoy Schweitzer, Rodney Owen Skurdal

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Terry Nichols, a white supremacist member of the so-called “Patriot Movement” (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and February 1992), renounces his US citizenship via a “nonresident alien” declaration to the Evergreen, Michigan, Township Clerk. “[T]here is total corruption in the entire political system,” Nichols says; “the entire political system from the local government on up thru and including the President of the United States, George Bush.” He adds: “I no longer am a citizen of the corrupt political corporate state of Michigan and the United States of America.… I follow the common laws, not the Uniform Commercial Codes, Michigan Statutes, etc., that are all colorable laws.… I lawfully, squarely challenge the fraudulent usurping octopus of jurisdiction/authority that does not apply to me. It is therefore now mandatory for… the so-called IRS, for example, to prove its jurisdiction.” He calls himself “a nonresident alien, non-foreigner, stranger to the current state of the forum.” Many will later detect language similar to that used by the Posse Comitatus movement (see 1969). Nichols has already sent his bank a letter revoking his signature on a credit card application, in an attempt to avoid paying $14,000 in credit card debt (another source will say Nichols owes closer to $40,000), writing in part: “I came across some information and in researching it further I have found that your credit, money, and contracts are all based upon fraud, etc., as stated in my revocation document.” The bank wins a lawsuit to compel Nichols to pay his debt; Nichols attempts to pay the debt with a fraudulent “Certified Fractional Reserve Check,” a scheme somewhat similar to the fraudulent checks advocated by the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994), which the bank refuses to accept. During the court proceedings, Nichols, ordinarily an unusually quiet and shy man, repeatedly defies judicial orders to, among other things, come to the front of the courtroom, and at one point tells the judge, “I’m… a layman, a natural person, a freedom of common-law citizen under threat and duress and to challenge the jurisdiction of this court.” Circuit Judge Donald A. Teeple will later recall: “He was hollering in a loud voice. I informed him that if he didn’t keep quiet, I’d send him to jail. Then he decided to come around the rail” and participate quietly in the hearing. [New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 5/28/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 12/24/1997; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003; Nicole Nichols, 2003] Both Terry Nichols and his brother James (see December 22 or 23, 1988) routinely stamp their paper money with the words “Discharged Without Prejudice,” a phrase indicating they do not accept its validity. The money-stamping is popular among Posse Comitatus members (see 1969) as they claim money not backed by gold lacks credibility. They also refuse to buy license plates for their vehicles or register them. James Nichols will also renounce his citizenship sometime later [Nicole Nichols, 2003; Nicole Nichols, 2003] , telling local courthouse officials that he is “no longer one of your citizens or a resident of your de facto government.” In mid-1992, Nichols will spend several days in jail for refusing to recognize a court’s authority to make him pay child support; after those days in a cell, he will agree to the court’s mandate. [New York Times, 4/24/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 109] Nichols will later be convicted for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 23, 1997).

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, James Nichols, Posse Comitatus, Donald A. Teeple, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

An image of a fraudulent ‘Freeman check’ signed by LeRoy Schweitzer.An image of a fraudulent ‘Freeman check’ signed by LeRoy Schweitzer. [Source: Anti-Defamation League]During this time period, over a dozen Montana anti-government tax resisters—the kernel of what will become the “Montana Freemen” movement (see 1983-1995)—establish themselves, creating what they term “common law courts” in Garfield and Musselshell Counties, and mounting a massive bank fraud scheme. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
Beliefs - According to a Washington Post article, the Freemen espouse a number of beliefs that directly contradict federal, state, and local laws. These are:
bullet All forms of organized government are illegitimate and have no right to perform duties routinely assigned to governments, from collecting taxes to requiring automobile licenses.
bullet Thusly, the Freemen can perform a multitude of actions, such as defying foreclosures, issuing arrest warrants, and even putting government officials on “trial.”
bullet They can also act as their own central banks and defraud the government, financial institutions, and area merchants.
Racist 'Christian Identity' Ideology - According to the Montana Human Rights Network and local citizens, most of the Freemen espouse some form of “Christian Identity” religious ideology, which claims that whites are inherently superior to other “inferior” races (see 1960s and After); they also hold radical anti-government views. [Washington Post, 4/1996; Washington Post, 4/9/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] The Anti-Defamation League traces the roots of the Freemen ideology to the the Posse Comitatus movement (see 1969). [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996] They call themselves “Freemen” because, in their view, white Christian males have special “Freemen” citizenship status, while non-whites, non-Christians, and women have second class status or worse. Freemen are above government prosecution and taxation. As US currency has no intrinsic value, any loans taken by Freemen need not be repaid. The US government is run by Jews and therefore has no legitimacy. “Common law” is the rule of the land. [New York Times, 6/15/1996] The Reverend Jerry Walters of Roundup, Montana, will later characterize the Freemen’s beliefs as a “bizarre distortion of the Christianity taught in most churches on Sundays.” (Rodney Skurdal will file a $100 billion lien against Walters after Walters refuses to alter his sermons to reflect Skurdal’s Christian Identity beliefs.) The Post will observe: “American history is littered with examples of how hard economic times produce hard-edged political splinter groups, but the Freemen of Montana are a particularly virulent strain. Their philosophy, a hodgepodge drawn from the Old Testament, the Magna Carta, the anti-tax Posse Comitatus of the 1980s, and a highly selective reading of the Constitution, is laced with racism and talk of a Jewish conspiracy, and puts them at the extreme of the Christian patriot movement.” Steven Gardner of the Coalition for Human Dignity will say: “The Freemen have, in effect, appointed themselves judge, jury and executioner. They are trying to form their own shadow government for a white Christian republic.” [Washington Post, 4/1996; Washington Post, 4/9/1996; Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] “What’s driving them is their biblical and theological agenda,” Walters will say. “Their anti-government conspiracy theories, their anti-tax stance—they’re looking at these things through the lens of Christian Identity.” [Washington Post, 4/9/1996]
Fraudulent Liens - LeRoy Schweitzer and the others concoct a scheme to generate money by filing phony liens against various Montana property owners, or the Montana or US government. The liens have no value; however, once they are created, it takes time for bank computers to recognize them as invalid. During that “window” of time, the liens can be used to generate money transfers from unsuspecting banks. The Freemen file the liens and deposit fake money orders at other banks to be drawn upon the bank listing the lien. The money orders are usually signed by Schweitzer, though Skurdal, Daniel Petersen, and William Stanton (see October 17, 1994) also sign them on occasion. The money orders look quite official, though sometimes they deliberately spell the words “United States” with a lowercase “u.” The Freemen also issue bogus checks labeled “Certified Bankers Check—Controller Warrant,” instead of a bank name, along with account and lien numbers. Many checks are drawn against a non-existent account in a Butte, Montana, branch of the Norwest Bank. The checks state that they are also redeemable at the Office of the US Postmaster. The scheme is, on the whole, quite profitable. The Freemen also sell the money orders, advertising them to their fellow citizens as a quick means of getting out of debt. One distributor explains on a Web site: “LeRoy Schweitzer does have their [sic] own monetary system. When you attend their course on location, they will issue you CHECKS times two (biblical) to pay off all IRS debts and all loans to banks for no charge. They are having success in this area, but it is hard fight [sic].” One Omaha, Nebraska, county treasurer will later explain, “People see these and, if you’re a very unsuspecting person, they really do look authentic.” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996] Schweitzer, Skurdal, and Petersen are influenced by Roy Schwasinger, described by federal authorities as a right-wing con artist and head of the Colorado extremist group “We the People.” Schwasinger originated the financial schemes that the Freemen run. [New York Times, 6/15/1996]
Appointing Themselves as Legal Officials - The Freemen appoint themselves “justices,” issue “arrest warrants,” and flood local courts and counties with what the Billings Gazette will term “bogus documents.” One of the documents, written by the three Freemen leaders, Skurdal, Schweitzer, and Petersen, is interpreted by local law enforcement officials as a threat. It states: “We the Honorable justices, will not hesitate to use our Lawful force by whatever means necessary to fully support, protect, guarantee, and defend our (common) Law… and… Right of self governing as a free sovereign and independent state.” District Court Judge Peter Rapkoch calls the documents “a bucket of snakes.” In July 1994, one of the Freemen, Skurdal, is prohibited by court order from filing or recording any “frivolous” document with any Montana county clerk of court, clerk and recorder, or the secretary of state (see 1994); Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean A. Turnage calls Skurdal’s filings “not only nonsensical but meritless, frivolous, vexatious, and wasteful of the limited time and resources of this court, of the clerk of this court, and of the various public officials and counsel that are forced to deal with and respond to Mr. Skurdal’s abuse.” Garfield County prosecutor Nick Murnion files misdemeanor charges of impersonating public officials against 13 residents and a felony charge of solicitation of kidnapping against Ralph Clark for a $1 million bounty posted around the county for court officers, the sheriff, and Murnion. Garfield County Sheriff Charles Phipps organizes a posse of about 90 local residents to come to the aid of his outmanned, outgunned three-person department (see January 1994). Murnion eventually files felony criminal syndicalism charges against Freemen members. US Attorney Sherry Matteucci works with local and state officials to share information on anti-government activities. “I think their purpose is to intimidate people and to cause chaos in governmental operations,” she says. [Washington Post, 4/9/1996; Chicago Tribune, 4/19/1996; Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Charles Phipps, Daniel Petersen, Montana Human Rights Network, LeRoy Schweitzer, Jerry Walters, Jean A. Turnage, William Stanton, Anti-Defamation League, Sherry Matteucci, Nick Murnion, Steven Gardner, Posse Comitatus, Peter Rapkoch, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Ralph Clark, Montana Freemen, Roy Schwasinger

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Rodney Skurdal, a leader of the “Montana Freemen” movement (see 1993-1994), files a 20-page treatise with a Montana court that claims the Freemen are the descendents of the true Anglo-Saxon “chosen people,” and that the land occupied by the United States was promised to them by God. Skurdal, who signs the document “the honorable Justice Rodney O. Skurdal,” writes: “In reading the Bible, one must understand that there are ‘two seed lines’ within Genesis. It is the colored people, and the Jews, who are the descendants of Cain… when We move into a new land, We are to kill the inhabitants of all the other races… nor are We to allow the other races to rule over us.” Skurdal writes extensively of the Freemen’s opposition to governmental rule of any sort, justifying it by referencing his interpretation of Biblical teachings: “We, Israel, must obey God only; not man-made laws by our purported Congress and state legislators and/or the United Nations, under the purported ‘new world order’ i.e., ‘Satan’s laws.’” Skurdal adds that taxes, marriage licenses, driver’s licenses, insurance, electrical inspections, and building permits are all instruments of Satan’s law. He writes that the “land of milk and honey” bequeathed by God to whites is actually the territory now considered the United States, and notes, “If we the white race are God’s chosen people… why are we paying taxes on ‘His land.’” Michael Barkun, a Syracuse University professor and expert on radical Christian ideologies, will call Skurdal’s treatise “pure Christian Identity” (see 1960s and After). This theological claim to land, Barkun will say, goes further than a lot of other Identity adherents do. “What’s unusual here is that this isn’t simply a kind of collective granting of a piece of soil by God to his people, but it’s a kind of literal granting of ownership and control: Because we are his people and this is his land, no one can tell us what to do with it,” Barkun will observe. [Washington Post, 4/9/1996; Chicago Tribune, 4/19/1996] Skurdal has come to the notice of Montana legal authorities before. At one point he had legal actions going simultaneously in every one of Montana’s 56 counties. He has succeeded in getting to the Montana Supreme Court three times over traffic tickets. When the state judiciary ruled that Skurdal’s legal filings were frivolous and could not be accepted without being signed by a lawyer, Skurdal merely mailed his writs and documents to out-of-state agencies, which, assuming the documents were misdelivered, returned them to Montana authorities, where they were filed. After four years of dealing with Skurdal’s legal court cases, Musselshell County Attorney Vicki Knudsen quit her job. One of Skurdal’s filings was a “Citizens Declaration of War” which claimed foreign agents were surreptitiously infesting “the country of Montana.” Another accused county officials of attempting to help institute a New World Order (see September 11, 1990). “Once a court accepts one of these asinine Freemen things,” Knudsen later says, “it’s in the system. Everybody named in it becomes involved [and] has to respond. It’s not funny. It’s not romantic. It’s scary.” Knudsen is referring to the threats issued by Skurdal and his fellow Freemen towards herself and other county officials over their filings. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Montana Supreme Court, Michael Barkun, Montana Freemen, Vicki Knudsen, Rodney Owen Skurdal

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A poster issued by the Freemen placing a $1 million bounty on the head of Garfield County Attorney Nick Murnion.A poster issued by the Freemen placing a $1 million bounty on the head of Garfield County Attorney Nick Murnion. [Source: Anti-Defamation League]Frustrated at the foreclosure of their farm, the Clark family of Jordan, Montana (see 1980s-1994), takes part in an armed takeover of the local county courthouse. The assault is carried out by a group of Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994), an anti-government, tax-resister group recently joined by members of the Clark family. The Clarks set up their own “common law” court, and join some three dozen Freemen in taking over Garfield County’s courthouse. They hold a meeting declaring themselves the county government. Presiding at the meeting are two of the Freemen founders, Rodney Skurdal and Daniel Petersen (see 1983-1995). Richard Clark is the presiding judge. The “court” charges the real judge, and others whom the Clarks feel have persecuted them, with contempt. Richard Clark tells the 30 people, “We’ve opened our own common law court and we have the law back in the county now.” They even videotape the meeting. Within days, posters appear around Jordan, offering a $1 million bounty for the arrest of the Garfield sheriff, county attorney, and judge. A rather bemused Sheriff Charles Phipps asks one of the Freemen if he would get the bounty if he turned himself in. The Freeman replies he would get the money, he wouldn’t live long enough to enjoy it: he’d be “tried, convicted, and hung.” Phipps’s amusement drains quickly, but he realizes there is little he can do: he has one deputy and a two-cell jail and little more. He realizes that if he intends to force the Clarks off of their farm, he will require outside help. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Daniel Petersen, Charles Phipps, Richard Clark, Montana Freemen, Rodney Owen Skurdal

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Montana Freemen member Ralph Clark (see 1980s-1994 and 1993-1994) is issued an order to appear in court to face charges of solicitation of kidnapping, based on his threats to kidnap and “hang” Garfield County Sheriff Charles Phipps (see January 1994). Clark refuses to appear. Phipps, who has only one deputy while Clark has a heavily armed group of family members and fellow Freemen, is unable to compel Clark to appear. Phipps issues a warrant for Clark’s arrest, but has no way to enforce it. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Charles Phipps, Ralph Clark, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A group of Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) file a $50 million lawsuit against Governor Marc Racicot (R-MT) and Garfield County Sheriff Charles Phipps (see April 1994), alleging violation of their civil rights. The claims are signed by William L. Stanton as the “honorable justice” of a “common law Supreme Court.” [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Charles Phipps, Montana Freemen, William L. Stanton, Marc Racicot

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994), emboldened by their recent successes in Jordan, Montana (see January 1994 and April 1994), issue “subpoenas” against Montana’s two senators, its state supreme court justices, and the district judge. The next month, in response to an upcoming trial of five Freemen charged with impersonating public officials, they mail letters to 45 prospective jurors that threaten them and their property if they convict the Freemen. Garfield County Attorney Nick Murnion finds an old, rarely used law, “criminal syndicalism,” which defines as a felony the advocacy of violence or terrorism for political purposes, and that was originally used against left-wing labor protesters, to use against the Freemen (see October 17, 1994). The crime carries a 10-year prison sentence. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Nick Murnion, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

William L. Stanton, a 64-year-old rancher and self-styled “justice” of a “common law Supreme Court” (see April 23, 1994), is arrested in Billings, Montana, on felony criminal syndicalism charges. The rarely-invoked criminal syndicalism statutes make it a crime to defend, advocate, or set up an organization committed to the use of crime, violence, sabotage, or other unlawful means to bring about a change in the form of government or in industrial ownership or control (see June-July 1994). [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Encyclopedia.com, 2005; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Stanton will be convicted, sentenced to 10 years in prison, and fined $10,000 (see February - March 1995).

Entity Tags: William L. Stanton, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Montana Freeman William Stanton is convicted on charges of criminal syndicalism (see June-July 1994 and October 17, 1994). Stanton, an elderly rancher whose property suffered foreclosure in 1993, joined the Freemen after Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer offered him a $3.8 million loan to cover the foreclosure debt (see 1993-1994). The loan was worthless, but instead of reacting angrily to Schweitzer’s fraudulent loan offer, Stanton blamed the local and federal government for his predicament. As an increasingly active Freeman, Stanton has issued fraudulent money orders, offered a $1 million bounty for Garfield County officials (see January 1994), and threatened to hang the Garfield County sheriff from a bridge. Stanton is sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. The FBI learns that the Freemen might be planning to retaliate against Garfield County Attorney Nick Murnion, who successfully prosecuted Stanton, Murnion’s fellow prosecutor John Bohlman, and the judge who sentenced Stanton, Roy C. Rodeghiero. The FBI informs the local sheriff that the Freemen intend to kidnap the judge, “try” him in their “court,” sentence him to death, and videotape his hanging. In response, Musselshell County puts reserve deputies in the courthouse to protect Rodeghiero and accompany him to and from work. On March 3, a Musselshell County deputy stops two Freemen, Dale Jacobi and Frank Ellena, for driving a pickup truck with no license. The deputy finds both are carrying concealed weapons without permits. A subsequent search finds a hand-drawn map of the town of Jordan, with the office and home of Murnion labeled. The truck contains a plethora of weapons and ammunition (including armor-piercing rounds), 30 sets of plastic-strip handcuffs, $60,000 in gold and silver, $26,000 in cash, duct tape, a video camera, a still camera, and radio telecommunications gear. The deputies are sure they have captured two of the intended kidnappers. That evening, three Freemen walk into the Musselshell County Jail and demand that the deputies on duty give them the items seized from the truck. Two other Freemen wait outside the jail. One deputy notices one of the Freemen concealing a handgun, and the two deputies manage to arrest him without incident. One of the arrested Freemen is John Trochmann, the founder of the Montana Militia (sometimes called the Militia of Montana, or MOM—see January 1, 1994); it is later learned that Trochmann has become something of a Freemen enthusiast. Deputy Orville Jones later says of Trochmann’s presence, “If this isn’t evidence that some type of evil intent was afoot, then I’m not a very good policemen.” Jones is sympathetic with the plight of Stanton and many of the other Freemen, but not of their tactics, saying: “My Grandpa lost his ranch during the Depression.… I go by that ranch every day, and I see the trees my Grandma planted, and I see where my dad was born. And it just tears at my heart. God, I understand them almost to the point that it scares me. But I do not tolerate crimes of violence.” The arrests bear little fruit. The sheriff’s office is bombarded with hundreds of phone calls, most threatening violence. Bohlman receives at least 40 of what he will call “straight-out death threats” against himself and his secretary. Bohlman’s secretary moves her daughter temporarily to Minnesota after one caller threatens the child. Many of the long-distance calls demand Trochmann’s immediate release and are clearly from Montana Militia members, though Montana Militia co-founder Randy Trochmann denies any connections between his group and the Freemen. A judge will throw out most of the charges against Trochmann and the six Freemen, because of irregularities in the search procedures. Ellena and Jacobi jump bail. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Montana Militia, John Bohlman, Frank Ellena, Dale Jacobi, John Trochmann, Montana Freemen, LeRoy Schweitzer, William L. Stanton, Nick Murnion, Orville Jones, Roy C. Rodeghiero, Randy Trochmann

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Rodney Skurdal, the co-founder of the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994), writes a court filing demanding the resignation of Musselshell Count Sheriff G. Paul Smith. In the document, Skurdal writes: “This is a holy war. God’s laws vs. man-made laws.” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Rodney Owen Skurdal, G. Paul Smith, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Musselshell County Attorney John Bohlman, frustrated at his and his fellow authorities’ failures to stem the flouting of the law by various area Montana Freemen (see June-July 1994 and February - March 1995), writes a letter to President Clinton pleading for federal assistance in curbing the heavily armed Freemen (see 1993-1994). “[P]ersonally, I believe we will have a confrontation that ends in gunfire before the end of the year,” Bohlman writes. Many area residents, who have grown more and more disgusted with the Freemen’s actions, believe that the FBI is likely conducting surveillance of the group, but no direct actions are taken. Local reporters believe the federal government’s refusal to act is due to what they call “Weaver Fever,” the backlash caused by the bloody standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 (see August 31, 1992). [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Clinton administration, John Bohlman, Montana Freemen, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Vendors and individuals begin questioning the legitimacy of checks passed throughout the Rocky Mountain region and issued by the Norwest Bank of Anaconda-Butte in Montana. Subsequent investigation shows that the checks are phony, and are issued primarily through the auspices of Rodney Skurdal, a member of the anti-government Montana Freemen (see 1983-1995 and 1993-1994). Norwest president Bruce Parker says the checks are “totally without merit or value.” He says the Butte branch of the bank has been “involuntarily involved” since June 1993 with members of the Freemen movement. Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer and others issue false checks and file liens for hundreds of millions of dollars against public officials, private citizens, and journalists. The Freemen claim the money is owed for offenses against their sovereignty. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Rodney Owen Skurdal, Bruce Parker, LeRoy Schweitzer, Norwest Bank of Anaconda-Butte, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Judge Martha A. Bethel, a municipal judge in western Montana, writes of her experiences with the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994). She characterizes them as one of several “hate groups” that operate in Montana alongside the Montana Militia (see January 1, 1994 and February - March 1995) and others, and says the Freemen are little more than “terrorists.” She writes that in January 1995, a “Freeman” appeared in her court on charges related to outstanding traffic tickets. He refused to cooperate with the court proceedings, she writes, and said he was “not in any way bound by the laws of Montana.” In March, he filed legal documents asserting that Bethel had violated her oath of office. The documents, she writes, “recounted a hearing held before ‘justices’ of a ‘common law’ court, one of a number of tribunals created in Montana recently by the fringe groups that claim they have jurisdiction over our district and local courts. The ‘Ravalli County Court, Common Law Venue, Supreme Court, Country of Montana’ demanded that I dismiss the charges within 10 days or a warrant would be issued for my arrest. On the same day, the documents were filed in several other courts as well.” Subsequently, Bethel writes, she was threatened with kidnapping and trial before the “common law court,” and promised she would be sentenced for “treason.” One telephone caller told her, “Don’t come to Darby tonight for court tonight, or you won’t be leaving.” Other court officials were threatened: “[S]omeone threatened to shoot a justice of the peace in the head. A deputy county attorney was warned that his home would be burned and that he would be shot in the back. Our district judge heard threats, to his face, that he would be hanged in the city park.” An unknown person followed Bethel home after one night court session, and shortly thereafter someone called her to tell her that the Freemen knew where she lived. Bethel has received dozens of threatening phone calls as well as calls “from concerned citizens warning me of what they heard would happen to me or my home.” Callers have threatened to “riddle [her] home with gunfire.” She has received instructions from the police on how to hide from armed assailants, and once was advised to leave the county after police learned of a planned attack on her house. Recently, a federal law enforcement agency informed her that a contract for her murder had been issued, probably by someone involved with the Freemen. Bethel has twice sent her three pre-teenaged children to live with their father for a week to keep them safe. She says she and many of her fellow court officials and citizens “share a sinking feeling of helplessness” that little is being done to address the situation (see April 1995). “I used to enjoy hearing the deer, bears, and other animals move about at night without a second thought, other than expressing thanks for the beautiful place in which I live,” Bethel writes. “Now, when I hear deer giving their warning calls, or when I hear animals moving through the brush in the woods, I worry if an intruder is frightening them.” She concludes: “This has been a living nightmare. As judges, we all expect to deal with disgruntled people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. But who in their right mind would choose to serve their community when the community becomes defenseless in the face of such terrorism?” [New York Times, 7/20/1995]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Martha A. Bethel

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A typical ‘LeRoy check,’ issued on a fraudulent lien.A typical ‘LeRoy check,’ issued on a fraudulent lien. [Source: Anti-Defamation League]Montana Freemen leaders LeRoy Schweitzer, Rodney Skurdal (see 1993-1994 and May 1995), and others leave Skurdal’s Roundup, Montana, log cabin at night (see 1983-1995) in an armed convoy, and “occupy” the foreclosed ranch of Freeman Ralph Clark (see 1980s-1994) north of Jordan, Montana. The group renames the ranch “Justus Township.” Skurdal and the Freemen had named Skurdal’s two-story cabin and his 20 acres of land “Redemption Township.” In the ensuing months, people from around the area come to the ranch to take “classes” on their common law theories and check-kiting schemes, learning of the classes through ads in militia newsletters and displayed at gun shows. Federal authorities, fearing violence (see April 19, 1993), decide not to hinder the occupation. The “township” has its own laws, court, and officials; Clark is the “marshal” of Justus, and others serve on its court. [Chicago Tribune, 4/19/1996; Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; New York Times, 5/29/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] The “classes” teach what the Southern Poverty Law Center will call a “peculiar combination of common law ideology and break-the-bank schemes.” The Freemen accept pupils in groups of 25, charging varying fees per participant. “We are the new Federal Reserve,” Schweitzer tells one group. “We are competing with the Federal Reserve—and we have every authority to do it.” Many people who try to put the Freemen’s teachings into practice, such as common law ideologue Ron Griesacker, will claim to have attended “a school of learning” with Schweitzer before setting up “common law courts” in Kansas. Griesacker will be charged with fraud and conspiracy, as will others who attempt to set up “common law courts.” The Freemen teachings will continue to propagate for years, and banks across the region will be plagued with “Freemen checks” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/1998] , which locals call “LeRoy checks.” (Most area businesses have learned to demand cash-only payments from known Freemen.) One favorite trick is to issue a fake check to pay for merchandise, write the check for much more than the cost of the merchandise, then demand immediate cash refunds of the difference. A template letter included in a seminar packet reads in part, “You will be billed monthly for the principal, plus 18 percent per year for the balance due if you refuse to send refund.” Paul Dinsmore, a local radio station host who will say he attends “about a dozen” seminars, will comment: “They have set up a complete mirror image of the banking system. It’s a scheme for them to live high on the hog.” One Montana government official calls the Freemen scheme “paper terrorism.” [New York Times, 5/29/1996] Skurdal will be incensed when federal authorities auction his cabin and property for his failure to pay back taxes. [Chicago Tribune, 4/19/1996]

Entity Tags: Rodney Owen Skurdal, Ronald Griesacker, Montana Freemen, LeRoy Schweitzer, Southern Poverty Law Center, Ralph Clark, Paul Dinsmore

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

M. Elizabeth Broderick, a Palmdale, California, resident, becomes one of the biggest perpetrators of the Montana Freemen’s fraudulent “lien schemes” (see 1993-1994). Broderick, who was convicted of running a pyramid scheme in Colorado, attends a seminar at the Freemen’s “Justus Township” (see September 28, 1995 and After). She begins holding her own seminars in California, where she teaches the Freemen’s methods of distributing bogus checks and issuing fraudulent liens. Her seminars, which cost $125 to attend, regularly draw over 300 participants, and she employs 30 staffers. One supporter tells a reporter that her schemes are “based on common law and God’s laws. A sheriff in full dress uniform came in and said everything was true.” Federal officials later claim that Broderick has written more than $30 million worth of fraudulent checks; later still, the figure is revised upward to over $100 million. Broderick regularly sports a button that reads “Lien Queen,” and tells her students that her checks are accepted around 50 percent of the time. In early 1996, she tells a reporter that her liens caused Orange County, California, to go into bankruptcy. She estimates that she has some $1.18 billion in liens against California; she allows her seminar participants to write checks on those liens. She also has liens on the federal government. “Many, many mortgages, many, many car loans have been paid off,” she tells one reporter. “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.” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996] In 1997, Broderick will be convicted of multiple felonies and sentenced to 16 years in prison (see March 1997).

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, M. Elizabeth Broderick

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

October 2, 1995: Freemen Rob ABC News Crew

A group of armed Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) take $66,000 worth of camera equipment from an ABC News crew filming a segment at the Freemen’s “Justus Township” (see September 28, 1995 and After). [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: ABC News, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The US Marshals sell the foreclosed Montana ranch of farmer Ralph Clark for the Farmers Home Administration (FHA). Clark’s ranch has been occupied by the anti-government Freemen (see 1993-1994) and declared an independent “township” (see September 28, 1995 and After). The Freemen choose not to leave the ranch, though it now belongs to a local farmer. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: US Marshals, Montana Freemen, Ralph Clark

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Two Montana county attorneys, Garfield County Attorney Nick Murnion and Musselshell County Attorney John Bohlman (see February - March 1995), testify before Congress on the havoc being wrought in their area by the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, January 1994, April 23, 1994, and June-July 1994). Murnion says of the Freemen: “I believe this group has declared war on our form of government. They are in open insurrection.” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: John Bohlman, Nick Murnion, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Montana Freemen, increasingly isolated in their “Justus Township” hideaway (see September 28, 1995 and After), become disenchanted with their former friends, the Montana Militia (sometimes called the Militia of Montana, or MOM—see January 1, 1994). They even put a bounty on the head of Montana Militia founder John Trochmann (see February - March 1995). The Militia later says that the Freemen leaders are not entirely stable. “We’ve pretty much washed our hands of them,” MOM leader Randy Trochmann will say. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: John Trochmann, Montana Militia, Randy Trochmann, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Armed Freemen (see 1993-1994) beat and kidnap an Associated Press reporter and photographer on a county road outside “Justus Township” (see September 28, 1995 and After). Before permitting the two to leave, the Freemen search their vehicle and seize the photographer’s film. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Associated Press

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Montana Freemen (see September 28, 1995 and After), seemingly unrestrained by local laws (see January 1994, June-July 1994, February - March 1995, May 1995, September 28, 1995 and After, and October 2, 1995), publish a “public notice” in local newspapers announcing their intention to take control of a huge swath of land in northeastern Montana, including land owned by private citizens, the State of Montana, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They announce that anyone trespassing on their land will be “arrested” and punished. The people of Jordan, Montana, and the nearby areas are outraged. “So if Dad was out feeding his cows,” says the son of a rancher who leases 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, enraged by local, state, and federal inaction against the Freemen, schedule a meeting to discuss their own actions against the Freemen, including cutting the telephone lines to the Freemen ranch and blockading the county roads leading to their compound. In apparent response, Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer holds a meeting (videotaped and later shown in court) outlining their own plan to kidnap government officials, perhaps a preemptive strike against the local citizenry. Schweitzer says: “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.” Afterwards, many speculate that the FBI, likely conducting surveillance against the Freemen for months and aware of the escalating conflict, decides the time is right to move against the Freemen (see March 25, 1996). [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Federal Bureau of Investigation, LeRoy Schweitzer

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A Eureka, Montana, arms dealer, Cajun James, currently suing Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see 1993-1994) and other Freemen discloses that in February 1995 Schweitzer tried to buy $1.4 million in military-style weapons and equipment, including 200 .50-caliber rifles, 200,000 rounds of ammunition, 200 bulletproof vests, and 200 sets of binoculars. The Freemen’s money order bounced and the arms were never delivered. The FBI seized the check Schweitzer wrote and informed James it was fraudulent. James says the check looked so authentic that his bank had set up a new savings account for him and credited him with the money after reviewing the check. “It says ‘Certified Money Order,’ has the name and address of the ba[n]k on it and a notary signature,” James says. “By looking at it, there is no reason to think it is fraudulent. It was good enough to fool my bank.” The account number on the check was traced to the US District Court in Butte, Montana, and was active between 1990 and 1994, when it was shut down because Freemen were writing counterfeit checks on it. [Washington Post, 4/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cajun James, LeRoy Schweitzer, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Residents of the area around Jordan, Montana, where three Montana Freemen were arrested and the remaining Freemen are trapped inside their compound (see March 25, 1996), react with gratitude towards the FBI and anger towards the Freemen. A local bank hangs a sign reading: “Goodbye, LeRoy. Hello, FBI” (referring to arrested Freeman LeRoy Schweitzer). A resident, K.L. Bliss, recalls that he used to farm near the Clark family, who are active members of the Freemen (see 1980s-1994), and says that “everybody had planted by June—but [Ralph 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.” Local farmer Tom Wilson says of the Freemen: “These guys haven’t had a job for quite a while. We drive by their place and never see them doing anything. They’re just sitting around dreaming up trouble.” One local resident, unidentified by the Associated Press, shouts: “I want to see blood! I’ve lived with this for two years, and it’s ruining my life. I want it over.” Ranch hand Terry Kastner calls the Freemen “brainwashed,” and wishes “they [the FBI]‘d go in there and shoot ‘em all. It would save the taxpayers a lot of money and time.” Tom Fogle, a county worker, is 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.” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; New York Times, 5/28/1996]

Entity Tags: Terry Kastner, Federal Bureau of Investigation, K.L. Bliss, LeRoy Schweitzer, Tom Fogle, Tom Wilson, Montana Freemen, Ralph Clark

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Two armed Freemen man a patrol outpost on their besieged ranch. The US flag is flown upside down to indicate distress.Two armed Freemen man a patrol outpost on their besieged ranch. The US flag is flown upside down to indicate distress. [Source: Idaho Observer]Undercover FBI agents arrest the leader of the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994), LeRoy Schweitzer, and two of his colleagues, Daniel E. Petersen Jr. and Lavon T. Hanson, on the “Justus Township” ranch (see September 28, 1995 and After). Schweitzer and Peterson go out in the early morning to inspect the site of a ham radio antenna they were having set up to facilitate communications; the site is on the ranch, but some distance from the main compound. The two are responding to a request from the chief of the installation crew to inspect the antenna. When they arrive, they learn that the installation crew is actually composed of FBI agents. Though Schweitzer and Petersen are heavily armed, they do not resist arrest. Hanson is also arrested without incident. Federal agents then surround the ranch with over 100 agents. Six Freemen voluntarily leave the compound; 20 or more heavily armed Freemen remain inside the ranch, along with several children, and a standoff between the Freemen and the FBI begins. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] A lawyer who visited a Freemen residence in the fall of 1995 recalls seeing guns such as AR-15 assault rifles, shotguns, and hunting rifles in every corner, and gas masks hanging from the doors. Authorities believe that the Freemen ensconsced in the ranch house have those weapons and more besides. [Chicago Tribune, 4/19/1996]
Tactics Very Different from Ruby Ridge, Waco - US Attorney Sherry Matteucci says that federal authorities are seeking eight other people who are not in custody in the Freeman case, including Rodney Skurdal, who has been at large since a warrant for his arrest was issued in March 1995. Skurdal is the de facto leader of the Freemen holed up inside the ranch. The FBI says it is going to great lengths to ensure that this standoff does not end badly, as previous confrontations have in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). “The FBI has gone to great pains to ensure that there is no armed confrontation, no siege, no armed perimeter, and no use of military assault-type tactics or equipment,” says Attorney General Janet Reno. “The FBI is trying to negotiate a peaceful solution.” The FBI says the confrontation is not a “siege,” as two of the three roads leading out of the Freeman compound are not blocked. Matteucci says authorities believe there are women and children among the besieged Freemen, but will not speculate as to the Freemen’s numbers or composition. FBI Director Louis Freeh decides at the outset not to use overt military tactics, as was done at both Ruby Ridge and Waco. Agents and law enforcement officials on the scene do not wear camouflage or black uniforms, but civilian clothes, and no armored personnel carriers are brought in. The FBI’s quasi-military Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) is heavily supplemented by trained negotiators and “profilers.” Instead of snipers, the FBI installs video surveillance cameras on a microwave tower leading into the farm, as well as extensive audio surveillance equipment. No perimeter is established, only roads leading into the ranch are blocked, and many people are allowed to drive in and out of the farm after being stopped and questioned by FBI or law enforcement agents. (Days after the arrests, the Freemen themselves will block the county road in front of their farm with a barbed wire barricade.) The HRT does not manage the standoff, as it did in Waco; instead, the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group is in charge. The FBI agent in charge is Robert “Bear” Bryant, an assistant FBI director who in 1988 participated in the Marion, Utah, siege of a group of armed religious zealots that ended peacefully. Local police block media access to the farm, allegedly fearing violence against journalists. The FBI and the various law enforcement agencies establish an operations center at the Jordan county fairgrounds, with vehicles, command post trailers, and even an airstrip. The FBI sets up a dedicated telephone line into the farm for family members, and cuts the other phone lines. Jim Pate of Soldier of Fortune magazine, who met the Freemen leaders last year, warns that the confrontation could easily become violent. Lynn Davis of the Montana Human Rights Network agrees. “They haven’t shot anybody, but they’ve held people at gunpoint,” she says. “They’ve threatened. I’ve had two calls in the past week threatening my life, my children. Phone calls to both my home and office.” [CNN, 3/28/1996; Chicago Tribune, 4/19/1996; Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]
'Sad, Middle-Aged Men' - Nick Murnion, the Garfield County attorney and a lifelong resident of Jordan, says of the Freemen, “It’s like they’re brainwashed.” The Freemen represent maybe one percent of the town, Murnion says, but “they are causing misery for the whole county.” A Jordan resident who asks to remain anonymous says: “We’re tore up about it. A lot of us have family out there.” She says that the Freemen have rejected everyone who does not share their beliefs, even family members. “If we’re not with them, we’re against them,” she says. [Washington Post, 4/1996] Matthew Sisler, the lawyer who visited the Freemen last year, has a somewhat different view. When he saw the group of heavily armed men, he says he did not fear them: “What we saw was a bunch of sad, middle-aged men who had lost their homes, who had not paid loans back or taxes, and wanted someone to blame.” [Chicago Tribune, 4/19/1996]

Entity Tags: Nick Murnion, Sherry Matteucci, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Robert (“Bear”) Bryant, Matthew Sisler, Montana Freemen, Louis J. Freeh, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Critical Incident Response Group, Daniel Petersen, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lynn Davis, Jim Pate, LeRoy Schweitzer, Lavon T. Hanson, Janet Reno

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The reaction among various militia and anti-government groups to the standoff between the FBI and the Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996) is mixed. Some militia and “common law” (see Fall 2010) organizations issue statements in favor of the Freemen, warning that the FBI will cause another bloody debacle similar to those experienced at Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). Some predict that the Freemen standoff is the first step in a federal clampdown on the “patriot” movement, and call themselves ready for violence and even civil war. Other militia organizations are more cautious. The Tri-States Militia, a loose confederation of several militia organizations (see October 1995 and After), issues a press release criticizing the Freemen and saying 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 and other militia groups contrast the Freemen with their own, presumably “constitutional,” militias. (Later it is learned that the FBI had contacted a number of militia groups before they moved against the Freemen, apparently in an attempt to forestall any rash actions on the parts of the militias.)
Montana Militia Reactions - The Montana Militia (sometimes called the Militia of Montana, or MOM—see January 1, 1994) is cautious, perhaps attempting to ascertain where public opinion is before taking a stand. MOM founders John and Randy Trochmann say the group has sent representatives to the scene to “monitor” the situation and talk to Freeman Dale Jacobi, who used to run a business near MOM’s Nixon, Montana, headquarters. The group issues a press release asking other militias to “stand down” and not come to Montana. John Trochmann even says: “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 (see March 1996 and March 25, 1996), from the local law enforcement (see November 1995), 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.” Other MOM members are less cautious. Militiaman Steve McNeil announces that he is leading a militia caravan to Jordan, Montana, in support of the Freemen; he is later arrested at the courtroom where two of the Freemen are being arraigned (see March 26, 1996) for violating his probation. Had McNeil managed to bring an actual caravan, he may have found himself in conflict with a cordon of some 30 local ranchers who have grouped together to stand up to any such militia operations. Local farmer Cecil Weeding later explains: “The militias will just pump more hot air into the Freemen and make it worse. 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.”
'Operation Certain Venture' - Former MOM leader Norm Olson, perhaps looking for a way to re-enter the limelight after his recent disgrace (see Summer 1996 - June 1997), tells reporters that the FBI is seeking a way to massacre the Freemen with the complicity of the local and national media, and calls on militia organizations to converge on Montana. He even releases his plans for “Operation Certain Venture,” an unarmed convoy of food, mail, and other supplies (including what he calls “women’s necessities”) that he says will help prevent an FBI slaughter. April 19, the day of the Branch Davidian conflagration and the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), might be a good day to set forth, Olson suggests. Olson is joined by the Alabama-based Gadsden Minutemen, led by Jeff Randall; Randall issues a plea for “dedicated volunteers,” but notes that “arrest is possible, and the FBI could very well decide to shoot unarmed civilians.” Mike Kemp, founder of the Minutemen, promises “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 says the entire issue is over a few debts, and says the situation can easily be handled in civil court. On CBS’s Face the Nation, Olson says that if Jordan “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.”
Other Opinions - Lawyer Gerry Spence, who represented Randy Weaver after the Ruby Ridge debacle, compliments the FBI on its restraint. “Patriot” leader James “Bo” Gritz, who helped negotiate Weaver’s surrender, implies that he is available to help negotiate a surrender for the Freemen as well, warning 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. Samuel Sherwood of Idaho’s United States Militia Association calls the Freemen charlatans and rogues, and tells a reporter: “We’ve told everybody to stay away. These people aren’t what they are purporting to be. They are not the innocent victims of oppression.” Some members of Gritz’s “patriot” commune in Kediah, Idaho, a subgroup calling themselves the “Freemen Patriots,” go against their leader and issue claims of support for the Freemen, adding that the FBI standoff is a trap to capture more “patriots” and claiming that US Special Forces units have already been deployed at the scene. Some of the “Freemen Patriots” announce plans to hold a protest rally in Lewistown, Montana, on April 1 to support the Freemen, and ask all supporters to come sporting white ribbons. “We support the God-given right of our Freemen Brothers at Jordan, Montana, to be heard in a righteous constitutional court of law,” they proclaim. However, on April 1, only a few people actually show up. Lewistown police officer Bob Long describes 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.” One extremist militia member, Bradley Glover, urges an array of violence to be mounted on behalf of the Freemen, but gets little reaction (see Late March 1996).
Twos and Threes - However, a small number of militia members attempt to visit the compound, usually traveling in groups of two or three. Some are allowed to visit the Freemen, but most are turned away, particularly if they are armed. If they are carrying fuel, groceries, firearms, or ammunition, these supplies are confiscated. Oklahoma militia leader and fugitive Stewart Waterhouse, with another militia member, Barry Nelson, breaks through a roadblock and drives into the ranch to join the Freemen. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Stewart Waterhouse, Norman (“Norm”) Olson, Samuel Sherwood, Steve McNeil, Tri-States Militia, Montana Militia, Randy Trochmann, Mike Kemp, Dale Jacobi, Cecil Weeding, Bradley Glover, Bob Long, Barry Nelson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Montana Freemen, John Trochmann, Gadsden Minutemen, James (“Bo”) Gritz, Jeff Randall, Freemen Patriots, Gerry Spence

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Daniel Petersen and LeRoy Schweitzer.Daniel Petersen and LeRoy Schweitzer. [Source: Associated Press]The day after the FBI besieges the Montana Freemen compound (see March 25, 1996), federal indictments are unsealed charging Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer, along with Freeman Daniel E. Petersen Jr. and others, with conspiracy, mail and bank fraud, armed robbery, and threats against federal officials (see January 1994, June-July 1994, February - March 1995, May 1995, and September 28, 1995 and After). [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Schweitzer was arrested after passing a fraudulent check to an undercover FBI agent. According to the indictment, Schweitzer gave an FBI agent a fake “comptroller’s warrant” for $3 million, in return for the profits made by selling imports bought with the $3 million. Had the scheme gone as planned, Schweitzer could have netted $1 million in cash from the operation. Lavon Hanson is charged with facilitating Schweitzer’s scheme. Some of the indictments have been pending for a long time; some of them apply to Freemen currently involved in the standoff with the FBI. Schweitzer, Petersen, Rodney Skurdal, Richard Clark, and Emmett Clark are charged with conspiracy to impede government function and threatening to assault, kidnap, and murder a judge and other government officials. The same five, along with John McGuire, Cherlyn Bronson Petersen, Agnes Bollinger Stanton, William Stanton (see October 17, 1994), Ebert Stanton, Ralph Clark (see 1980s-1994), and Dale Jacobi are charged with 51 counts of conspiracy to defraud and to obtain money through false pretenses, and interfering with commerce (see October 2, 1995). McGuire is in custody in another state; Stanton is behind bars. Ken Toole of the Montana Human Rights Network says of Schweitzer and the Freemen: “They have essentially drawn a line in the sand with law enforcement who have tried to enforce those laws. They have threatened local law enforcement and other public officials.” Addressing accusations that the FBI is harassing Schweitzer and his fellows for their beliefs, Toole says the indictments are “clearly a matter of what they have done, not what they believe.” [CNN, 3/28/1996; Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996] The arraignment hearing does not go well. Schweitzer and Petersen scream down the judge and other members of the court, shouting that the court has no jurisdiction over them and they will not listen to court officers. They demand a change of venue to “Justus,” and yell about “admiralty law” vs. “common law” and the fringed flag voiding any civil jurisdiction (see Fall 2010). The judge sends Schweitzer and Petersen into another room, and completes the arraignment without their participation, giving them written copies of the arraignment. Author Mark Pitcavage later notes that every court appearance by the Freemen is an opportunity for guerrilla theater. Soldier of Fortune writer Jim Pate later observes that their fanaticism is like a holy war (see April 1995). “Their political philosophy is based on their religious philosophy. And in that respect, they are very similar to the young man who was just convicted of murdering the prime minister of Israel (see November 4, 1995). They’re similar in the depth of their convictions to Hamas.” Musselshell County Attorney John Bohlman (see February - March 1995), learning of the FBI arrests, moves himself and his family from their Roundup, Montana, home, fearing Freemen retaliation; CB scanners pick up reports that the Freemen intend to come into Roundup and kill people, though none actually do. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Ebert Stanton, Richard Clark, Daniel Petersen, William Stanton, Cherlyn Bronson Petersen, Agnes Bollinger Stanton, Ralph Clark, Montana Freemen, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Dale Jacobi, Jim Pate, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Emmett Clark, Mark Pitcavage, LeRoy Schweitzer, John Bohlman, Ken Toole, John McGuire, Lavon T. Hanson

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

FBI agents broadcast a television appeal for the Montana Freemen to voluntarily surrender (see March 25, 1996). US Attorney Sherry Matteucci promises that there will be no violence or harm done to them, saying: “All of us very much want this situation to be resolved peacefully. 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.” Garfield County Sheriff Charles Phipps also asks the Freemen to surrender. The Freemen do not respond. As the standoff wears on, the Freemen will continue to be relatively unresponsive. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Sherry Matteucci, Montana Freemen, Charles Phipps, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

As part of its far-flung raid against the Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996), the FBI serves warrants on bank fraud specialist M. Elizabeth Broderick and over two dozen of her associates (see October 1995 - March 1997). Broderick declares the government has no authority to arrest or detain her. The FBI agents ignore her protests and seize boxes of evidence from the Essex House Hotel in Lancaster, California, where she runs her fraud seminars. Broderick is not arrested, but is ordered to appear in court (see April 1, 1996). [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, M. Elizabeth Broderick, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Indicted Montana Freemen Daniel Petersen and LeRoy Schweitzer, who have previously attempted to disrupt court proceedings with shouts, curses, and specious legal wrangling (see March 26, 1996), remain quiet in the court while Judge Richard Anderson reads the indictment to them. However, when asked to enter a plea, Petersen shouts at Anderson that he wants “you to be an honest person and the rest of these perverts to be honest people.” Petersen is taken to a holding cell to watch the proceedings; Anderson enters “not guilty” pleas on their behalf. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Daniel Petersen, Richard Anderson, Montana Freemen, LeRoy Schweitzer

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Richard Clark, a Montana Freeman not among the members besieged inside their compound (see March 25, 1996), surrenders to federal officials. When Clark is arraigned in federal court the next day, he refuses to accept a lawyer or to give his name, saying that his name is “private.” For a time, he refuses to eat. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Richard Clark

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI prevents a concerned father, Utah truck driver Steve Mangum, from entering the Freemen compound outside Jordan, Montana, currently surrounded by FBI and law enforcement agents (see March 25, 1996). Mangum is concerned for the safety of his ex-wife Gloria Ward and their daughter Jaylynn, who are in the compound. Mangum agrees not to try to enter, but says he is particularly worried about his daughter; he tells reporters that since his ex-wife joined the Freemen, his daughter has been taught “to hate blacks, taught to hate policemen, [and that] school was evil.” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Gloria Ward, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jaylynn Joy Mangum, Montana Freemen, Steve Mangum

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Indicted Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see March 26, 1996) declares himself on a hunger strike, and is remanded to a federal detention center in Springfield, Missouri, that handles sick prisoners, so his health can be monitored. Both Schweitzer and his colleague Daniel Petersen refuse to bathe or change their clothes. In the following days, Schweitzer will abandon his hunger strike. Petersen will issue a barrage of legal documents, including “writs of mandamus” demanding his immediate release and charges to be dropped. He will threaten US Attorney Sherry Matteucci with imprisonment and a $1,000/day fine if she does not let him go. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Daniel Petersen, Sherry Matteucci, Montana Freemen, LeRoy Schweitzer

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Bradley Glover, a Kansas militia member (see October 1995 and After), faxes a pronouncement to other militia members titled “Operation Worst Nightmare,” in which he urges overt and violent support for the Montana Freemen, currently involved in a standoff with federal authorities (see March 25, 1996). Glover calls on militia units around the country to carry out a number of actions, from destruction of federal facilities to “confiscating” weapons from gun stores and even seizing jails, should the federal authorities use military force against the Freemen. “We must make every effort to avoid open conflict at all costs,” he writes, “but let us be clear if the federal [sic] step across this line [using military force] the constitutional militia have no choice.” Glover is not trusted by many in the militia community, and his call to action receives little support. [Mark Pitcavage, 1997]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Bradley Glover

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

M. Elizabeth Broderick, under investigation for a massive Freemen-inspired check fraud scheme (see March 27, 1996), fails to appear in court to answer charges filed against her. Neither do her accomplices, Adolf Hoch and Laura Marie Hoey, appear. A woman who refuses to give any other name than “Myra” appears on their behalf and says she is filing a response to the injunction prepared by Broderick’s attorney. Judge William Keller issues injunctions against Broderick filing fraudulent liens against a postal service employee and against her distributing fraudulent checks. Broderick continues giving her seminars teaching people how to defraud banks (see October 1995 - March 1997), but stops handing out checks. “I am just appalled to think that a federal judge, someone who we’re supposed to admire and respect, is committing a fraud,” she says. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Laura Marie Hoey, Adolf Hoch, Montana Freemen, M. Elizabeth Broderick, William Keller

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Two people voluntarily leave the Freemen ranch near Jordan, Montana, currently surrounded by FBI and law enforcement agents (see March 25, 1996). Val Stanton and her young daughter Mariah leave. Stanton is not wanted on any charges. Some believe that their departures trigger the departure of Ebert and Agnes Stanton; they leave three days later, and are taken into custody. Agnes Stanton is released from jail, ordered to remain in “house arrest” at the residence of her son in Billings, Montana, and given an electronic ankle monitor. Ebert Stanton is denied bail. [Associated Press, 4/6/1996; Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Val Stanton, Agnes Bollinger Stanton, Mariah Stanton, Ebert Stanton, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Four Montana legislators meet with four Freemen in “Justus Township,” currently besieged by FBI agents (see March 25, 1996), to discuss ending the standoff. The four are Democrats Joe Quilici and John Johnson, and Republicans Karl Ohs and Dick Knox. The eight meet in a mobile home near the main ranch house for several meetings over two days. The negotiations produce no tangible results. Two days later, Quilici characterizes the situation as “very, very volatile,” and says, “Right now, I can’t be optimistic.” The Freemen continue to insist on their own government and their own grand jury. Garfield County prosecutor Nick Murnion, who has dealt extensively with the Freemen (see 1993-1994 and November 1995), advocates a firmer approach, saying, “The only way negotiating works is if you apply pressure from a position of strength, and they are not doing that.” Instead, the FBI allows Ohs to promise the Freemen a “mechanism whereby their story could be heard.” Jim Pate, a Soldier of Fortune magazine reporter who has managed to visit the Freemen in their compound during the siege, reports that negotiations have failed, that the Freemen are unwilling to meet with any federal government officials, and that they are content to wait for a long time. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Joe Quilici, Dick Knox, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jim Pate, Karl Ohs, Nick Murnion, Montana Freemen, John Johnson

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Republican state senator Casey Emerson of Bozeman, Montana, who has ties to the state’s militia movement, recommends that the government give serious concessions to the Freemen who are engaged in a standoff with FBI and law enforcement authorities (see March 25, 1996). Emerson says the government should give the Freemen money, dismiss many of the charges against them, allow them to make their case on national television, and even be tried in a “common law” courtroom “so they can get their b_tching done.” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Casey Emerson, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Montana Freemen, engaged in a standoff with federal and state authorities (see March 25, 1996), post a press release on the gate of their compound for authorities and media members to read. It declares the “independence” of “Justus Township” (see September 28, 1995 and After) and reads in part, “It should be further made known to all Men that this republic, Justus Township, Montana state, united States of America, so affirmed in Law is NOT that de facto fiction, the corporation, incorporated in London, England in the year of Yeshua, the Christ, eighteen hundred seventy-one, A.D., the United States, a corporation, so defined as their own Title 28 U.S.C. 3005 (A)(15).” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Michael Barkun, a Syracuse University professor and expert on the “Christian Identity” ideology (see 1960s and After) espoused by the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994), says the low-key methodologies the FBI is using in its standoff with the Freemen (see March 25, 1996) is the proper approach. Barkun says: “They’ve done precisely what they should be doing with a group of this kind, namely being very careful not to act in a way that confirms the group’s beliefs. That suggests that some very important lessons have been learned.” Barkun is referencing the aggressive methods used by the FBI during its siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, that ended in a fiery conflagration that killed most of the Davidians (see April 19, 1993). [Washington Post, 4/9/1996]

Entity Tags: Branch Davidians, Montana Freemen, Michael Barkun, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The New York Times publishes an op-ed commending the FBI on its restraint in handling the standoff with the Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996). The FBI is using what the Times calls a “creative, restrained strategy for dealing with” extremists such as the Freemen, whom the Times calls a “strange, sometimes threatening band of religious bigots and tax scofflaws… hunkered down in farmhouses they have commandeered in rural Montana.” The Times notes the FBI’s “notoriously impulsive confrontations in years past,” an obvious reference to the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992) and Waco (see April 19, 1993) debacles (which the editorial references later in the piece). “[T]his is a downright boring operation, with no forceful showdowns or violent deaths after nearly three weeks,” the Times states. “The bureau should keep it that way even if, as may happen, pressures for dramatic action mount.” The Times concludes: “The FBI deserves no special commendation for behaving in a rational manner. It should have done that before. What deserves praise is the bureau’s imaginative deployment of agents and local law enforcement officers around the farmhouses, at distances that give the Freemen no cause to fear imminent attack. This firm but unthreatening attitude sends a message that peaceful surrender is the inevitable end.… Local resentment could easily rise in the days to come, testing the FBI’s new patience. But time is on the bureau’s side. Having squandered that advantage at Ruby Ridge and Waco, the bureau should stick to its present civilized course.” [New York Times, 4/14/1996]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A 2009 photo of Ray Southwell and Norm Olsen. Both are wearing Alaska militia emblems.A 2009 photo of Ray Southwell and Norm Olsen. Both are wearing Alaska militia emblems. [Source: Redoubt Reporter]Former Michigan Militia leader Norm Olson (see March 25 - April 1, 1996) appears at the Freemen compound outside Jordan, Montana, currently surrounded by federal authorities (see March 25, 1996). Olson is wearing military fatigues and accompanied by two others, colleague Ray Southwell and attorney Scott Bowman. In recent days, Olson has issued a number of inflammatory statements, saying Jordan will be the site of a “second American revolution” led by Olson as “battlefield commander,” and promising “the loosing of the dogs of war.” He informs the FBI that he intends to breach its perimeter and go inside the compound, and issues a number of vague threats. “We will discuss either the terms of the FBI’s surrender,” he will later report that he tells the FBI, “or… the order of battle.” He also distributes fliers to agents which read, “FBI-ATF, are you ready to die because of the corruption within?” referring to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Agents refuse to talk to Olson, and stop him several miles from the compound. The next day, Olson again attempts to enter the compound and is again foiled. He then begins shouting at the officers and the reporters who have followed him. It does not take long for Olson to become a figure of fun among the reporters and citizens of the area. He will spend a lot of time in a Jordan restaurant, and an agent dubs him and Southwell “Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo.” Olson tells one amused FBI agent, “You come up to Northern Michigan, mister, and I’ll see you in my crosshairs.” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Scott Bowman, Ray Southwell, Norman (“Norm”) Olson, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Five of the Freemen currently besieged in “Justus Township” by federal officials (see March 25, 1996) meet with Montana State Representative Karl Ohs (see April 4-7, 1996) and Montana Assistant Attorney General John Connor Jr. for almost two hours on a road outside the Freemen compound. After the meeting, the Freemen issue another statement claiming the government has no legitimacy, and saying they consider themselves above federal and state law. Ohs says some progress is made during the discussions, but refuses to elaborate. He will meet with Freemen several more times during the standoff. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Karl Ohs, Montana Freemen, John Connor Jr.

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Jack McLamb during his days as a Phoenix, Arizona, police officer.Jack McLamb during his days as a Phoenix, Arizona, police officer. [Source: Jack McLamb]The FBI refuses to allow three “celebrity” would-be negotiators to enter the Montana Freemen compound, currently surrounded by federal and local authorities (see March 25, 1996). Famed “Patriot” leader James “Bo” Gritz (see March 25 - April 1, 1996), Gritz’s associate Jack McLamb, and Ruby Ridge survivor Randy Weaver (see August 31, 1992) offer their services as negotiators, but are not allowed to go through the perimeter. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996] The FBI will eventually allow Gritz and McLamb to attempt to negotiate with the Freemen (see April 27, 1996).

Entity Tags: Jack McLamb, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Randy Weaver, Montana Freemen, James (“Bo”) Gritz

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal attorneys in California charge M. Elizabeth Broderick, who used Freemen teachings to defraud dozens of banks and businesses of millions of dollars (see October 1995 - March 1997 and March 27, 1996), and four assistants with 30 counts of fraud, counterfeiting, and conspiracy. Along with Broderick, authorities charge Adolph Hoch, his daughter Laura Marie Hoey, Barry Switzer, and Julian Cheney. All four are arrested and taken into custody. Broderick is denied bail after officials show that she is planning to flee the country; Switzer and Hoch are also denied bail. Broderick, as she has done before, claims the court has no jurisdiction on the floor; this time, to demonstrate her contempt for the proceedings, she throws the indictment on the floor. She refuses to enter a plea, so the presiding judge enters a plea of “not guilty” on her behalf. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996] Broderick will be convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison (see March 1997).

Entity Tags: Julian Cheney, Adolf Hoch, Barry Switzer, M. Elizabeth Broderick, Laura Marie Hoey, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI allows “Patriot” militia leader James “Bo” Gritz and his partner, former police officer Jack McLamb, to take part in negotiations to end the siege of the Freemen compound outside Jordan, Montana (see March 25, 1996 and April 25, 1996). The two men helped end the Ruby Ridge siege in Idaho (see August 31, 1992). Most law enforcement officials do not like either Gritz or McLamb, but they hope that with the two’s established credibility in the militia movement and their success in Idaho, they may be able to negotiate a successful surrender. Garfield County prosecutor Nick Murnion says: “There’s some hope. I think [Gritz] is of the right political persuasion, and certainly probably has more credibility with these folks than a lot of potential negotiators. So he does seem to offer them the possibility to come out in a more dignified manner.” After seven hours of negotiations with the Freemen, militiaman Stewart Waterhouse, who joined the besieged Freemen weeks before (see March 25 - April 1, 1996), leaves the compound, and authorities begin to hope that Gritz and McLamb are making headway. But Gritz gives mixed impressions in his initial reports to the press. He says the situation is “bridgeable,” but seems to fundamentally misunderstand the Freemen, saying that they “have no white supremacy, separatist tendencies that I saw. None at all.… They brought up the fact and said, ‘Where is the media getting the idea we have any prejudice or bias?’” Many of the Freemen, including leader Rodney Skurdal, have produced inordinate reams of court documents and other statements laced with virulently racist and anti-Semitic diatribes. Author Mark Pitcavage will later write, “In any event, there was something that Gritz was not ‘getting.’” [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Gritz and McLamb will give up after four days (see May 1, 1996).

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Jack McLamb, James (“Bo”) Gritz, Mark Pitcavage, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Stewart Waterhouse, Nick Murnion

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Militia leader James “Bo” Gritz, brought in four days earlier to help negotiate an end to the Freemen standoff in Montana (see March 25, 1996 and April 27, 1996), quits. On the third day of negotiations, the Freemen told Gritz and his partner, Jack McLamb, that they would surrender if they could speak before the Montana legislature—which is not due to convene until 1997. No one was sure if the offer was a sincere one. Gritz relayed offers of reduced or even dropped charges for some of the Freemen. He and McLamb, along with Soldier of Fortune reporter Jim Pate, believe that the Freemen are divided into two groups: one willing to negotiate a deal, and one controlling the group and entirely unwilling to make any deal. Despite the hopes of the negotiators, no one else leaves the compound. Instead, the Freemen tell Gritz that all of them have made an “affirmation” to God not to surrender, and even say that God has placed an invisible barrier around the farm that protects the Freemen from outsiders. They restate their demands for a common law court of male, “non-14th Amendment” citizens, not government employees or in debt to anyone (see Fall 2010). [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] In his newsletter, Gritz will say that the Freemen are ruled by a small “hard core” of leaders—Edwin Clark, Dale Jacobi, Russell Landers, and Rodney Skurdal—who are holding others hostage, including three young girls. Gritz will write that he had implored Clark to let the nonmembers go, to no avail. “I beseeched Edwin to release the non-Freemen,” he will write. “His pained reply made it clear that they knew the value of placing children between themselves and the FBI.” Gritz will write that Clark replied, “But, Bo, if the others left, what would happen to the Freemen?” Gritz says his time with the Freemen was marked by dwindling food stores, a large weapons arsenal, and incessant rants about the “Zionist Occupational Government” the Freemen say is manipulating the United States. According to Gritz, the oldest of the three girls, 14-year-old Ashley Taylor, tells him: “I am only here because of my mom. This is not something I am willing to die for. I haven’t even started to live.” Her mother is Dana Dudley Landers. [New York Times, 5/18/1996] Gritz calls the Freemen a “potpourri circus of over-the-hill outlaws, people with no past or future.” According to Gritz, the Freemen’s grip on reality is sometimes tenuous. He will say that Dudley Landers told him her father had been a great physicist murdered in Europe because he knew the truth about flying saucers; recalling that tale, Gritz will say, “I expected to see Alice and the Mad Hatter appear.” [New York Times, 6/15/1996]

Entity Tags: Jim Pate, Dana Dudley Landers, Dale Jacobi, Ashley Taylor, Edwin Clark, James (“Bo”) Gritz, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Russell Dean Landers, Montana Freemen, Jack McLamb

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI offers the Montana Freemen, currently imprisoned by law enforcement authorities inside their compound near Jordan, Montana (see March 25, 1996), a meeting under a “flag of truce” to end the standoff. The FBI proposes a meeting at a local community hall between two FBI agents and two Freemen. The bureau promises to work for a “mechanism leading to a legislative forum following your court arraignment.” The offer comes with a veiled threat: “Failure to pursue meaningful dialogue through this meeting will indicate your lack of genuine interest in seeking a peaceful and equitable solution. In this case, the FBI will reserve the right to take whatever action it deems necessary to resolve the situation.” The Freemen respond by claiming the bureau “does not exist as a government agency.” They also issue a videotape and a 13-page document explaining their position to the press; the videotape contains 45 minutes of a speech by Freeman leader Russell Landers calling the FBI unconstitutional and illegal in Montana, calling the “United States” a corporation while the “United States of America” is a republic, and daring the authorities and the press to prove them wrong. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Russell Dean Landers, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Charles Duke.Charles Duke. [Source: Crooks and Liars]At the FBI’s request, Colorado Republican State Senator Charles Duke, a respected figure in militia circles, arrives in Jordan, Montana, to negotiate with the besieged Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996). Duke and FBI negotiators spend six days in fruitless negotiations culminating in an argument between Duke and Freemen leader Rodney Skurdal. Duke says only half of those in the compound are real Freemen, with the rest “nothing but criminals trying to escape prosecution.” The Freemen promise to allow Duke and an FBI team to interview everyone in the compound, and to release two young girls among their number, but fail to deliver on either promise. [Chicago Tribune`, 5/24/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Gloria Ward and her two daughters, aged 8 and 10, appear at one negotiating session with their luggage packed as if readying to leave, but instead of exiting the compound, they go back inside when the talks end. [Reuters, 5/20/1996]
Talks End in Angry Shouts; No Support from Militias - Duke is blazingly angry at the Freemen’s refusal to honor their promises. As Skurdal climbs into an automobile to go back to the ranch house, he shouts, “You aren’t enough of a man to come face me, get out of that car!” Afterwards, Duke says: “I told him, ‘I’m going to go out of here and I’m going to tell the American people what you’re doing here. You will not get support from the patriot community, you will not get support from the militia community, and if you die, nobody’s going to avenge you.’” Many in the militia community have similar feelings as Duke’s. Montana Militia leader Randy Trochmann says: “People in contact with them understand now that what they were doing was fraud. With the public, a good percentage of them want the FBI just to leave, put a berm around the house, and let the state police patrol it. And another percentage just want them [the FBI] to go in and finish them off.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/5/1996] Duke adds: “The FBI has now pursued each and every avenue to a peaceful solution. If it should come to a less than peaceful solution, I can tell you for sure the FBI has bent over backwards to avoid it.… One can only conclude the adults inside care only for their safety and care not one whit for the safety of their children, because they’re willing to sacrifice them and use them as a shield (see May 1, 1996). I think it’s unconscionable.” After Duke leaves, the Freemen begin rotating armed foot patrols, something they have not yet done during the duration of the standoff. [Associated Press, 5/21/1996] After leaving the Freemen ranch, Duke says he sees little hope of resolving the standoff by peaceful means. “I realized this is going nowhere,” he says. It is time for the FBI to make the Freemen “feel some pain.” [Chicago Tribune`, 5/24/1996] “This is not a battle for the militias,” Duke later adds. “The Freemen are using the Constitution as a facade to prevent their incarceration for illegal activity.” Militia leader James “Bo” Gritz, who himself attempted to negotiate an end to the standoff (see May 1, 1996), says the standoff is not a cause for any militia groups or their supporters. “There isn’t anyone in the legitimate patriot movement who doesn’t want to see the Freemen out and before the bar of justice,” he says. “The FBI are wrong in their fears.” Gritz is referring to fears that if the FBI moves on the Freemen, the right-wing militia groups will condemn the bureau for its actions, and perhaps launch counterattacks. [New York Times, 5/24/1996]
Fear of Cancer, 'No Brains' Drugs - At least one of the Freemen expresses his fear of being injected with cancer cells and “no brains” drugs if he were to go to jail, and several of the Freemen say they are ready to shoot it out with the FBI. The information comes from audiotapes Duke makes of his conversations with the Freemen; he will publicly air some of the tapes on the June 17, 1996 broadcast of Dateline NBC. Freeman Edwin Clark says: “When [LeRoy Schweitzer, the Freeman in federal custody] went to Missouri (see March 30-31, 1996), a man, a doctor from New York City, come in and told Leroy, he says, ‘You’ll never see the light of day.’ And he says, ‘I’ll guarantee you before you leave here I’m gonna inject you with a, with a deadly ah… dose of cancer.” Clark says that government officials have tried to kill other jailed Freemen: “I know of two of them, one of them at least, he was as healthy as a [expletive] horse when he went in there, and he came back… there was another one, I can’t remember his name, they, they give him a lethal dose of ‘no brains’ when he come back.” [Associated Press, 6/17/1996]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, LeRoy Schweitzer, Gloria Ward, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James (“Bo”) Gritz, Edwin Clark, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Randy Trochmann, Charles Duke

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI orders reporters and photographers to leave a hill overlooking the Montana Freemen compound, currently surrounded by law enforcement authorities (see March 25, 1996), but deny that the move is a prelude to a raid against the group. “We’re trying to do everything we can to peacefully resolve the situation,” Attorney General Janet Reno says, “and we will continue those efforts.” FBI officials say they decided to evict the news media after a Fox Television news crew went to a fence around the compound the night of May 28, and attempted to negotiate for interviews without FBI knowledge. “The negotiators have their own strategy for contacting the Freemen and don’t want this kind of disruption,” says a senior official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity. Fox News chairman Roger Ailes complains that his journalists are being used as scapegoats, and alleges that the FBI had planned on moving the news media from the hill well before they made contact with the Freemen. [Associated Press, 5/30/1996]

Entity Tags: Fox News, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Montana Freemen, Janet Reno, Roger Ailes

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI, attempting to escalate pressure on the besieged Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996) to surrender and exit their compound, brings three armored vehicles and a helicopter to a staging area outside Jordan, Montana. Officials say they may be needed to make rescues or to occupy part of the Freemen compound, and insist they have no plans to raid the compound. The three armored vehicles are stationed anywhere from two to four miles away from the compound. The helicopter is positioned for takeoff 35 miles away. Indications are that the Freemen are keeping three young girls inside the compound as “insurance” that the FBI does not raid the compound. [Los Angeles Times, 6/3/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

In its escalating pressure against the besieged Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996), the FBI shuts off the electricity to the Freemen’s compound. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] The Freemen have at least one generator, so they are not entirely without electricity; it is possible that they could go for months without outside power. If the power shutdown elicts no response, the FBI has other options it can implement, including moving agents incrementally closer to the main buildings, disrupting the Freemen’s satellite feeds and other communications, and even blocking their access to outside food sources such as fish ponds and storage buildings. “In effect, we could shut them off from the world,” says one official, who adds that the steps would be put into effect gradually in the hope that any one of them might lead to negotiations. Officials say any escalation would have to be gradual to ensure that the situation does not escalate out of control. They say they have no plans to raid the compound at this time. FBI Director Louis Freeh is monitoring the standoff very closely, officials say, and has mediated discussions and disputes between his aides and his field commanders. [New York Times, 6/5/1996; Associated Press, 6/10/1996]
Dissenting Viewpoints on Efficacy of Power Shutdown - The next day, retired FBI agent Joe Conley tells PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer that he thinks the power shutdown is “basically going to send a signal. In and of itself, turning off the electricity isn’t going to prompt these people to come directly to the negotiating table, but it is telling them that the FBI is there, law enforcement is there, and law enforcement is not going to go away.” Freelance writer and reporter Lawrence Myers disagrees with Conley about the efficacy of shutting down the Freemen’s power, saying: “They, first of all, don’t recognize the jurisdictional authority of the people who have them surrounded. Second of all, as I recall looking into this, I flew up there last year to talk with these people and look into it, and the fact is that in the late 1980s, the electricity was shut off on the Clark ranch (see September 28, 1995 and After) for three years. Nobody came out. Nobody moved away.” State Senator Charles Duke (R-CO), who has come off a series of frustrating negotiations with the Freemen (see May 15-21, 1996), says while he believes the electricity shutdown will have a “helpful long-term” effect, the Freemen are not a unified whole: “Had it just been up to the Clarks, this would have been over sometime ago, I believe. But what you’ve got there are some destabilizing factors, such as Russ Landers, Dale Jacobi, and Rod Skurdal,” he says, and those men are influencing the others to stay put in defiance of the FBI. “[T]hose are the three main destabilizing factors, and my recommendation to the FBI when I left is that those three somehow be isolated from the remainder of the farm, if necessary by force. And I think the rest of the farm would capitulate. I have seen people who are prepared to die for their beliefs, and these people don’t strike me as that type of person.”
Senator: FBI Showing Admirable Restraint - In a sidebar to the conversation about the power shutdown, Duke tells Lehrer that he admires the FBI’s restraint in handling the Freemen. “I think they have been lenient deliberately,” he says. “That’s really to the FBI’s credit—not to say they will always do this, but they’re at least doing that in this case. I think it’s more going out of their way, even over-correcting, if necessary, in order to make sure that the constitutional rights of these people is observed, and an example of how far the FBI was willing to go is they were willing to step aside if these people on the Clark ranch would simply walk across the cattle guard, the FBI would step aside and let the county sheriff process this, these people or the Montana State Police, or the Montana state legislature.” Myers agrees, noting that Attorney General Janet Reno said if given the chance to redo the FBI siege in Waco, Texas, which resulted in the deaths of almost 80 Branch Davidians (see April 19, 1993), “she’d do a lot of things differently. Well, this is the opportunity to demonstrate what type of patience they’re willing to show with American citizens. I think they’re doing fine so far and I know it’s problematic.… I think [Duke] and I and Mr. Conley can agree, this is a very unique, very difficult, and incredibly complicated negotiating situation here.” [PBS, 6/4/1996]

Entity Tags: Louis J. Freeh, Montana Freemen, Russell Dean Landers, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Lawrence Myers, Jim Lehrer, Dale Jacobi, Charles Duke, Janet Reno, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joe Conley

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Two adults and two children leave the Montana Freemen compound, which has been surrounded by federal and local law enforcement officials for 74 days (see March 25, 1996). Gloria Ward, her common-law husband Elwin Ward, and her two preteen daughters, Courtnie Joy Christensen and Jaylynn Joy Mangum, leave voluntarily. Gloria Ward faced charges in Utah for felony custodial interference for taking the girls out of state in defiance of a court order; Utah agreed to drop the charges as part of the deal that persuaded the Wards to leave the compound. “The love of family played a significant part in this result,” says US Attorney Sherry Matteucci. “This is a positive indication we’re moving forward. It was a very important accomplishment to get those kids out of there.” Courtnie Joy Christensen’s biological father, Robert Gunn, who has custody of his daughter but has not seen her for 18 months, hopes to take her home soon. Garfield County prosecutor Nick Murnion says: “When a mother with two children sees armored vehicles, helicopters, and SWAT teams come into position with her power cut off (see May 31, 1996 and June 3, 1996), she’s going to realize it’s getting dangerous.… I don’t see this as a green light for the FBI’s tanks to roll in tomorrow. But this is a relief to everybody in this community.” [New York Times, 6/6/1996; Los Angeles Times, 6/7/1996]

Entity Tags: Jaylynn Joy Mangum, Courtnie Joy Christensen, Elwin Ward, Gloria Ward, Montana Freemen, Sherry Matteucci, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nick Murnion, Robert Gunn

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI brings a Montana Freemen member (see March 25, 1996), Edwin Clark, to Billings, Montana, to discuss terms of the Freemen’s surrender with jailed Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer, who gives his “blessing” for a surrender. Clark will emerge as the Freemen’s primary negotiator, and will be credited by federal officials with helping bring the standoff to a peaceful end (see June 13, 1996). A source tells the Associated Press: “Edwin had to become at peace with LeRoy about it [a surrender]. He didn’t want to go forward without checking with LeRoy first.” The source adds: “They’ve pretty much agreed it won’t be a gun battle. I’m extremely hopeful at this point. It’s an extremely positive sign.” The deal is conceived of and brokered by Kirk Lyons, an attorney famous for representing Aryan Nations members (see Early 1970s and 1981 and After) and other right-wing extremists in court. The FBI was not sanguine about letting Clark meet with Schweitzer in the Billings prison. Neill Payne, who works with Lyons in the CAUSE Foundation, a white supremacist legal organization, will later recall that an FBI agent initially responded to the plan by saying: “Let me get this straight. You want us to take a man who is technically under arrest, fly him in an FBI plane to a jail we hope to see him incarcerated in, bring him home, and then put him under siege again? Is that what you’re asking?” The FBI eventually agreed to the plan, though it was worried that Schweitzer might advise his colleagues to continue the standoff. The deal almost backfires when, after bringing Clark back to the ranch, the Freemen spot large tractors in neighboring fields and become instantly suspicious of an FBI trick. “Seeing those tractors was like waving a red flag at a bull,” Payne will later say. “Our guys were incredulous, and the Freemen were acting like an ants’ nest that got kicked over. They got their guns and they manned their sentry posts.” But Lyons and the FBI manage to calm the Freemen’s fears. [Associated Press, 6/12/1996; Associated Press, 6/13/1996; Los Angeles Times, 6/15/1996; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: LeRoy Schweitzer, CAUSE Foundation, Edwin Clark, Kirk Lyons, Montana Freemen, Neill Payne, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A flurry of talks between FBI negotiators, outside parties, and the holed-up Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996) signals that the 80-day standoff is about to conclude. Yesterday, LeRoy Schweitzer, the jailed leader of the Freemen, gave his blessing for a surrender (see June 11, 1996). A 16-year-old girl, Ashley Landers (whom federal authorities say is legally named Amanda Michele Kendricks), voluntarily leaves the compound; a local prosecutor says she will be taken into state custody. She was the last child left inside the compound. Karl Ohs, a Montana legislator acting as a mediator between the FBI and the Freemen (see April 17, 1996), arrives in nearby Jordan, Montana, to help conclude the final surrender negotiations. Agents in flak jackets dismantle the tent-like shelter at the compound’s entrance, used for meetings between Freemen and negotiators, and other agents drive three passenger vans to a nearby church, apparently in preparation for the Freemen’s surrender and departure. The FBI wins the cooperation of neighboring farmer Dean Clark, who tries to begin planting on 2,300 acres adjacent to the Freemen ranch; he agrees to delay planting for a day. [Associated Press, 6/13/1996; New York Times, 6/13/1996] The next day, the Freemen surrender peacefully (see June 13, 1996).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ashley Landers, Dean Clark, Karl Ohs, LeRoy Schweitzer, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

June 13, 1996: Freemen Surrender Peacefully

A distant shot of the Freemen compound. Reporters were not given much access to the area, and photographs of the area and the participants in the standoff are limited.A distant shot of the Freemen compound. Reporters were not given much access to the area, and photographs of the area and the participants in the standoff are limited. [Source: CNN]The besieged Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996) surrender peacefully to federal authorities. Officials credit Freemen leader Edwin Clark (see June 11, 1996) with playing a key role in negotiating the surrender. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] The New York Times writes that the siege ends “so peacefully that the surrender [does] not even disturb the cows grazing at the group’s remote Montana ranch.” Local postal carrier and rancher Ruth Coulter exclaims after the surrender: “My God, it’s finally over! And nobody got killed! Wonderful. Wonderful!” [New York Times, 6/14/1996]
16 Freemen Surrender - CNN identifies 16 people still inside the compound: Ralph Clark (see 1980s-1994), the elderly leader of the Clark family and one of the group’s leaders; Clark’s wife Kay; Clark’s brother Emmett Clark, the actual former owner of the 960-acre wheat farm occupied by the Freemen and dubbed “Justus Township” (see September 28, 1995 and After); Emmett Clark’s wife Rosie; Ralph Clark’s son Edwin; Edwin Clark’s son Casey Clark; Rodney Skurdal, a founder of the group (see 1983-1995); Russell Dean Landers, one of the leaders of the group and a member of a North Carolina anti-government, anti-tax group called “Civil Rights Task Force”; Dana Dudley Landers, Landers’s common-law wife, a fugitive from federal and state charges, and a member of the “Civil Rights Task Force”; Dale Jacobi, a former Canadian policemen; Steven Hance, who faces state charges from North Carolina; Hance’s sons John Hance and James Hance; Cherlyn Petersen, the wife of arrested Freemen member Daniel Petersen; Casey Valheimer; and Barry Nelson, who with another man entered the ranch after eluding blockades (see March 25 - April 1, 1996). [CNN, 6/12/1996] The surrender is peaceful; the Freemen drive to the ranch gates in cars, trucks, and a Winnebago motor home. They gather in a quiet circle for a final prayer. Then Edwin Clark approaches an agent and shakes hands. Finally, in pairs escorted by Clark, they surrender to waiting agents, who ease them into passenger vans. Clark is the last one to enter custody. Fourteen of the Freemen are taken to the Yellowstone County jail in Billings, 175 miles away from Jordan. Two, Kay Clark and Rosie Clark, face no charges and are not jailed, though the FBI says they will not be allowed to return to the compound. After hearing of the surrender, President Clinton tells guests at a state dinner, “We will all say a little prayer tonight for this peaceful settlement.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/14/1996]
FBI Director 'Obviously Relieved' - FBI Director Louis Freeh, described by the Los Angeles Times as “obviously relieved,” says the FBI “put patience above the risk of bloodshed” to end the standoff. He says the bureau “made no deals to drop or lessen the federal charges” against any of the Freemen in order to precipitate the surrender. Of critics who called for quicker and perhaps more “tactical” solutions, Freeh says: “I understand their impatience. But it was essential that we followed our established crisis management procedures.” He says the standoff proves the worth of the new crisis response plans implemented after the tragedies in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). This time, the bureau used “a fundamentally different approach” that “may not always work, but it worked here.” Giving negotiators more influence during the standoff did cause some “disagreements” and “friction” within the FBI, Freeh acknowledges, but it was the right decision to make. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick says “[t]he tactical option was always on the table.” Freeh notes that as the standoff wore on, the Freemen gained a certain level of reluctant trust in the bureau. “We never broke a promise to them,” he says, and “we told them before things happened,” such as cutting off electrical power (see June 3, 1996). [Los Angeles Times, 6/15/1996]
Outreach to Rightist Figures, Low-Key Techniques Brought Successful Resolution - FBI agents credit help they received from militia members in helping to resolve the standoff, along with the new, more low-key techniques of handling such confrontations now being used by the bureau. “Overall, our approach was to find a balance between negotiations and other lawful means,” says FBI agent Ron VanVranken, who took part in the final settlement negotiations. “We recognized it would be prudent and beneficial to use the services of third-party intermediaries and to be constantly soliciting the advice of outside experts.” Freeh says he was supportive of the decision to use third-party negotiators who hold similar anti-government views to those of the Freemen: “I think that, given all the other cumulative steps over the last 81 days, that that helped persuade the remaining subjects to finally come out of the compound.” The Los Angeles Times says that the FBI’s strategy of reaching out to far-right figures may have had an added benefit of creating dissension among rightist groups (see March 25 - April 1, 1996) and avoiding a “united front” of opposition that might have helped strengthen the Freemen’s resolve to continue holding out. “It was probably a wise move that the Freemen came out, as opposed to being burned out or shot,” says Clay Douglas, publisher of the far-right Free American newspaper and a leading member of the “Patriot” movement. “And it’s an election year, so the FBI had to be good.” However, the FBI’s decision to use “Patriot” negotiators “was pretty smart on their part. It has divided a lot of patriots. A lot of people thought they were being traitors for going in and trying to talk them out. Some people side with the Freemen. Some people side with the ‘Patriot’ leaders. So it’s just another small part of how the government keeps America divided. It’s called gradualism. They keep gradually encroaching on our freedoms.” The FBI brought in militia leaders James “Bo” Gritz and Jack McLamb (see April 27, 1996), Colorado State Senator Charles Duke, a rightist sympathizer (see May 15-21, 1996), and white supremacist lawyer Kirk Lyons (see June 11, 1996); even though most of their attempts at negotiations failed, it served to build a “bridge” between the FBI and the Freemen. Another technique was to promote Edwin Clark, the Freeman the FBI considered the most likely to leave the compound, as a leader in the absence of arrested Freemen LeRoy Schweitzer and Daniel Petersen (see March 25, 1996). The final element was the introduction of Lyons, who was contacted three weeks ago by FBI agents and asked for a plan to negotiate with the Freemen. Lyons’s colleague Neill Payne says somewhat incredulously, “It is to Director Freeh’s credit that he was broad-minded enough to go along with a crazy scheme like ours.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/15/1996]

The Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, Montana, where the 14 Freemen are arraigned.The Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, Montana, where the 14 Freemen are arraigned. [Source: Civic Images (.com)]A group of 14 Montana Freemen make their first court appearance after surrending to federal authorities (see June 13, 1996). The 14 Freemen being processed are: Casey Clark, Edwin Clark, Emmett Clark, Ralph Clark, James Hance, John Hance, Steven Hance, Dale Jacobi, Dana Dudley Landers, Russell Dean Landers, Barry Nelson, Cherlyn Petersen, Rodney Skurdal, and Casey Valheimer. The elderly wives of two of the Freemen, Kay Clark and Rosie Clark, face no criminal charges. The Freemen in court are defiant and disruptive. Most of them object to the proceedings and refuse to acknowledge the charges being brought against them. Some of them refuse to acknowledge their names; when Magistrate Robert Holter asks Skurdal his name and explains that he wants to ensure that he is the right person, Skurdal retorts, “I object to your calling me a person, your honor.” Dana Landers responds to a similar question by reciting: “I am a Christian. My flag is red, white, and blue; it’s an American flag. The Holy Scriptures are my law. I’m not familiar with your tribunals.” Each demands their right to “effective counsel,” meaning that they should be able to choose their own lawyers but the court must pay for them. Many object to their names being spelled with all capital letters, as is common in legal briefs. One male Freeman requires physical restraint. Holter refuses to hear their arguments that their own alternative government’s rules must apply over those of the federal legal system. Working through a barrage of shouts, imprecations, and recitations, Holter assigns them lawyers over their objections, and sets arraignment and bond hearings. [CNN, 6/12/1996; New York Times, 6/14/1996; Los Angeles Times, 6/15/1996] New York Times reporter Carey Goldberg writes: “When they appeared in court on Friday, and rejected everything from the American flag to the capital letters in their names, the 14 newly surrendered Freemen laid bare, in word and posture, the central spirit of the anti-government group that held off federal agents for 81 days. It was a culture of collective denial. Each member came from a different set of circumstances, but the freedom they sought was freedom from American reality.… [W]hat united them was the ideological structure they built, in which the debts they owed were nullified, the criminal charges against them were invalid, and their position in society was considered supreme.” [New York Times, 6/15/1996]

Entity Tags: Dale Jacobi, Cherlyn Bronson Petersen, Steven Hance, Casey Clark, Carey Goldberg, Barry Nelson, Rosie Clark, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Russell Dean Landers, Ralph Clark, Emmett Clark, Edwin Clark, Dana Dudley Landers, James Hance, Robert Holter, Montana Freemen, John Hance, Casey Valheimer, Kay Clark

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

As a federal court in Billings, Montana, formally charges nine Montana Freemen with a variety of crimes (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, June 13, 1996, and June 14, 1996), the defendants repeatedly interrupt the proceedings with shouts, curses, and threats. They challenge everything from the flag displayed behind the judge to his jurisdiction over the case, refuse to answer questions from the bench and their own lawyers (one demands that his lawyer be jailed), shout a variety of curses and garbled Latin phrases, and denounce “this kangaroo court.” Before the hearing, defendant Dale Jacobi sprained his thumb resisting fingerprinting. Another defendant, Steven Hance, shouts at US Magistrate Richard Anderson after being ejected from the courtroom, “You’re going down, son.” Prosecutor James Seykora asks the court to hold Hance in contempt, and Hance shouts: “Contempt? That’s not a strong enough word.” The Freemen refuse to participate in the hearing; Anderson denies bail for the nine and enters pleas of “not guilty” on their behalf. [Los Angeles Times, 6/26/1996; New York Times, 7/27/1996]

Entity Tags: Steven Hance, Dale Jacobi, Montana Freemen, James Seykora, Richard Anderson

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

M. Elizabeth Broderick, who used Freemen teachings to defraud dozens of banks and businesses of millions of dollars (see October 1995 - March 1997 and April 25, 1996), and has been convicted of a number of fraud-related charges, is sentenced to 16 years in prison. After Broderick’s conviction, prosecutor Nora Manella says of her: “Behind Ms. Broderick’s anti-government rhetoric was a classic con artist. She appealed principally to financially strapped people who wanted something for nothing. They wound up further in debt and she wound up a convicted felon.” Federal judge Dickran M. Tevrizian says Broderick did more damage to the banking system “than most bank robbers,” and says, “You dropped an atomic bomb on the banking system with this bogus scheme.” Broderick attempted to claim that she was a patriot battling the tyranny of the US government, and claims that the government went bankrupt in 1932 and had been issuing worthless paper money ever since. Tevrizian retorts: “You’re not a patriot.… You defrauded thousands of people… people who were desperate.” Broderick, who represented herself during the trial, claimed the government had no jurisdiction over her, and called herself a political prisoner, is defiant during sentencing, saying: “I was here to give damages to the American people. You can lock me up, but you can’t lock up my knowledge.” Three other Californians, Barry Switzer, Julian Cheney, and Adolf Karl Hoch, are convicted as her accomplices. Broderick garnered some $1.2 million during her scheme. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Los Angeles Times, 10/5/1996; Los Angeles Times, 3/11/1997]

Entity Tags: Julian Cheney, Adolf Hoch, Barry Switzer, Dickran M. Tevrizian, Montana Freemen, Nora Manella, M. Elizabeth Broderick

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The New York Times publishes an overview of the ongoing criminal trials of the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, June 13, 1996, and March 16, 1998 and After), and calls the proceedings “an absurdist drama that could be called Alice in Wonderland on the Yellowstone River.” Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer, indicted for multiple counts of civil fraud and threatening federal officials (see March 26, 1996), recently announced himself as “Supreme Court Justice LeRoy Michael” in a court hearing, and told the judge: “Supreme court is in session. You are removed from the bench under impeachment.” Most of the Freemen are refusing to cooperate with either the court officials or their own defense lawyers; some of them had to be compelled to give fingerprints and be photographed for booking. Defendant Daniel Petersen, indicted along with Schweitzer and a third Freeman, Rodney Skurdal, disrupted a recent proceeding by shouting that the “Supreme Court of Yellowstone County” was now in session, and yelled at the judge and prosecution, “I’m charging all of you with misprison of treason and misprison of felony.” Defendant Steven Hance (see June 14, 1996) told one judge, “I am above the Constitution,” called the judge “an outlaw,” and informed him, “You are out of order.” Hance’s two sons, James Hance and John Hance, answered their indictments by belching at the judge; James Hance told the judge: “You’re going to be impeached. How are you going to feel about that?” and his brother added: “You’d better start obeying the law, sir. You’re incompetent.” Another defendant, Dale Jacobi, accused the judge of holding “blood sacrifices.” During a North Carolina trial of one Freeman, Russell Landers, the judge at that trial ordered Landers—defending himself—to cease his rambling opening statement, threw him out of the courtroom, and had him watch his trial by closed-circuit television; in his turn, Landers claimed he was being held hostage by a foreign power and accused the judge of wearing a black robe to disguise his real identity as “a Roman tribunal.” One judge, Charles Lovell, recently said that Schweitzer has “no business in the courtroom unless he is chained and taped,” and banned him from the courtroom. The defendants are routinely expelled from the courtroom for their antics. They call themselves “white Christian men” who are, by definition, “sovereign American naturals” and therefore not subject to United States laws and courts. They hold that their system of “common law” (see Fall 2010) places them above the “ordinary” American judicial system. The judges have uniformly ignored the Freemen’s arcane legal claims, which the New York Times calls “a salad of the Uniform Commercial Code, the Magna Carta, biblical admonitions, and meaningless Latin phrases.” Lovell called Schweitzer’s legal defense “nonsensical” and added, “This is preposterous, absolutely preposterous—it has no more bearing in law than an ounce of sand.” The Montana Supreme Court threw out 37 pages of Freemen court documents as “nonsensical filings,” and another judge called a Freeman’s legal arguments “bunkum.” While similar trials of right-wing militia figures have drawn numerous protesters agitating on behalf of the defendants, the Freemen are drawing a vanishingly small number of supporters; “sympathizers are rare, and protest placards have not been seen in more than nine months,” the Times observes. [New York Times, 3/25/1997]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Dale Jacobi, Charles C. Lovell, James Hance, LeRoy Schweitzer, Montana Supreme Court, New York Times, Steven Hance, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Russell Dean Landers, John Hance

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A New York Times editorial warns that the conviction and death sentence of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) has done nothing to stem what it calls “the violence of the militias that inspired him.” The editorial warns: “The militias are different from anything that preceded them because they gather not to take out their rage on Communists or minorities, but to wage war against a government they consider treasonous. In recent years militia groups have assaulted, harassed, and threatened scores of government officials. It is difficult for most Americans to take seriously a group of people whose targets include America’s county clerks and whose members hold that manufacturers’ labels on the backs of road signs actually point the way to the nearest concentration camp. But militia ideology has already provoked the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), the worst act of terrorism ever to take place on American soil. Since that act the militias have continued to grow, and the possibility of more terrorism is undimmed.” Some American communities, the editorial observes, “can no longer enforce their land, tax, and weapons laws, unwilling to risk that an employee might be attacked by militia members” (see January 1994 and April 1994). Firefighters fear taking helicopters over land owned by some militia members, because they worry they will be shot down. Militia officials have filed phony liens against local officials in at least 23 states (see 1993-1994). The editorial states: “The militias are a particularly insidious strain of the American viruses of paranoia and violence. They echo the white supremacy of the Ku Klux Klan and the conspiracy theories and gun obsessions of the John Birch Society. They draw on the American icon of the man who wants to be left alone to live by his creed, taking ideas and leaders from the rural Posse Comitatus movement that reached its peak during the farm crisis of the 1980s (see 1969).… [W]ith the end of the cold war, it may be that conspiracy theories once obsessed with Communism turned inward toward the American government. The militias, most of which operate in small, autonomous groups, now also have the Internet to propagate theories and plans.” The McVeigh case has invigorated many hardcore militia groups, many of whom insist the bombing was carried out by the government to discredit the militia movement and to justify its intention to implement martial law and tyranny. Many mainstream groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) welcome militia members and echo many militias’ ideologies and beliefs. And some lawmakers, such as Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), are openly sympathetic to the militias (see February 15, 1995 and May 2, 1995). The editorial concludes with praise for the federal government’s peaceful resolution of the Montana Freemen standoff (see June 13, 1996), stating: “The Freemen standoff also showed the importance of public condemnation of violence. The Freemen found little support in surrounding communities. While militia forces thrive on government attacks, they cannot withstand the disdain of their neighbors. The militias are so widespread because they ostensibly draw on ideas strongly rooted in American history. But even citizens with sympathy for those ideas need to distinguish between their peaceful and their violent expression.” [New York Times, 6/14/1997] The editorial echoes concerns recently expressed by Times columnist Frank Rich (see June 5, 1997).

Entity Tags: National Rifle Association, Frank Rich, Helen P. Chenoweth, Montana Freemen, Timothy James McVeigh, New York Times

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Six Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, and June 13, 1996) are tried in a district court in Billings, Montana, accused of being accessories to helping fugitives avoid arrest during the FBI siege of the Freemen compound. Four Freemen will be ejected from the courtroom for being disruptive during the trial; the four attempt to derail the proceedings by cursing and screaming. All six Freemen have refused to participate in their defense, rejected their court-appointed counsels, and refused to dress themselves for the trial. “It’s a difficult trial to get prepared for,” says Lisa Swanson, who represents defendant James Hance. “He won’t talk to me. The only way he would talk with me is if I would denounce my membership in the American Bar Association.” Three are dragged in and out of the courtroom after refusing to walk, and one is transported in a wheelchair. As they are taken into the courtroom, they yell “non-assumptus,” their term for their claim that the judge has no authority over them. Another defendant, Steven Hance, yells at the presiding judge, “Let the record show I’m placing you under arrest,” and curses him. Hance then knocks over a chair and tries to knock over a computer monitor. A third defendant, James Hance, curses the US Attorney prosecuting the case, Sherry Matteucci. [New York Times, 3/16/1998; Los Angeles Times, 4/1/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Five of the defendants will be convicted (see March 31, 1998).

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, James Hance, Lisa Swanson, Sherry Matteucci, Steven Hance

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Five Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, and June 13, 1996) are convicted of serving as accessories to helping other Freemen escape arrest during the 81-day standoff (see March 16, 1998 and After). Steven Hance and his two sons, James and John Hance, are convicted of being accessories and for being fugitives in possession of firearms. Barry Nelson, who joined the Freemen during the standoff (see March 25 - April 1, 1996), is convicted of being an accessory. Elwin Ward is acquitted of accessory charges, but found guilty of submitting a false claim to the Internal Revenue Service. Edwin Clark is acquitted of all charges. [New York Times, 4/1/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] The Hances and Nelson will receive lengthy jail sentences (see June 6, 1998).

Entity Tags: Elwin Ward, Barry Nelson, Edwin Clark, James Hance, John Hance, Steven Hance, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The cover of ‘False Prophets.’The cover of ‘False Prophets.’ [Source: Amazon (.com)]Dale Jakes and his wife Connie Jakes release a new book, False Prophets, that details their experiences as FBI informants who infiltrated the Montana Freemen for 14 months in 1995 and early 1996 (see 1993-1994). The Jakes write that they collected enormous amounts of information for the FBI. Dale Jakes was welcomed by the Freemen because of his knowledge of explosives, and Connie Jakes became the group’s unofficial office manager. They left the group shortly before the March 1996 standoff between the Freemen and law enforcement authorities (see March 25, 1996). The two also collected information on dozens of other extremist groups that the Freemen were in contact with, including many who came to visit the Freemen and take what Dale Jakes calls “basic hate courses” in ideology and financial fraud (see September 28, 1995 and After). The Jakes say that the FBI delayed attempts to arrest the Freemen leaders to give the Jakes the chance to collect more data. A former sheriff’s deputy for the area confirms that the two did work for the FBI. Dale Jakes says that one of the more worrisome moments came when a group of Freemen assaulted an ABC News crew and chased them off the property (see October 2, 1995). “Unknown to the film crew, four high-powered rifles with scopes were trained on the driver and his passenger,” Jakes says. “In the cabin, a debate raged among the Freemen leaders as to whether or not to ‘shoot them.’” [Associated Press, 5/12/1998]

Entity Tags: Connie Jakes, ABC News, Dale Jakes, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Garfield County, Montana, prosecutor Nick Murnion receives the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for enforcing the law despite death threats from the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994). Murnion receives the award from the Kennedy family at the JFK Library in Boston. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Nick Murnion, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Four members of the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) are forcibly wheeled into court in wheelchairs after refusing to come to court under their own power, and are sentenced to prison for their part in the group’s standoff with the FBI (see March 25, 1996 and March 31, 1998). US District Judge John C. Coughenour sentences Steven Hance to 78 months in jail. Hance interrupts the proceedings with shouts that he is not a US citizen and not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Barry Nelson receives 71 months. John Hance receives 63 months. James Hance receives 67 months. Fellow Freeman Elwin Ward, who does not resist being brought to court, is released for time served. [Associated Press, 6/6/1998]

Entity Tags: John Hance, Barry Nelson, Elwin Ward, John C. Coughenour, Montana Freemen, Steven Hance, James Hance

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Republic of Texas logo.Republic of Texas logo. [Source: Republic of Texas]Three members of the separatist Republic of Texas (RoT) are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in a plot to assassinate President Clinton and other federal officials. The plot consists of an anthrax-like toxin to be delivered via a cactus thorn fired from a modified butane lighter. One man, Oliver Dan Emigh, is later acquitted. The other two, white separatists Jack Abbot Grebe Jr. and Johnnie Wise, will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The RoT considers itself the sovereign governing body of Texas, under what it calls “common law” similar to beliefs espoused by the Montana Freemen (see 1983-1995 and Fall 2010). In 1996, the RoT split into three factions, led by different members. The faction led by Jesse Enloe harbors Grebe, Wise, and Emigh. Computer consultant John L. Cain was approached by Grebe and Wise for help in sending “untraceable” email messages to government officials. Cain informed the FBI, worked with Grebe and Wise, and provided the evidence that led to their arrests. Though some RoT members will express their anger and opposition to their fellow group members’ criminal activities, Grebe and Wise will be listed as “prisoners of war” on the RoT Web site. After Grebe and Wise’s convictions, RoT will become a less extremist organization, and after the 9/11 attacks, some members will say they stand ready to help the government stand off terrorist attacks. RoT members will turn their attention to patrolling the Texas-Mexican border, sometimes forcibly deporting illegal immigrants. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2010]

Entity Tags: Johnnie Wise, Jack Abbot Grebe, Jr, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jesse Enloe, Montana Freemen, John L. Cain, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Republic of Texas, Oliver Dan Emigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A jury convicts Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) leader LeRoy M. Schweitzer (see 1983-1995) and three of his fellows, Dale Jacobi, Daniel E. Petersen Jr., and Russell D. Landers, for conspiracy and bank fraud (see May 27, 1998 and After). Schweitzer is found guilty on 21 of 30 counts, most involving fake checks and money orders issued by the group. Schweitzer, Petersen, Richard Clark, and Rodney Skurdal are found guilty of two counts of threatening to kill Judge Jack Shanstrom. The defense argued that the Freemen sincerely believed that they were doing what was necessary; defense attorney Anthony Gallagher said during the trial, “These were folks that legitimately believed that their government was no longer their government.” After several days of jury deliberations, District Judge John C. Coughenour declares a mistrial on 63 unresolved counts of the 126 total charges; one of those charges is that all the defendants engaged in an enormous fraud scheme. [Reuters, 7/3/1998; Associated Press, 7/3/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Dale Jacobi, Daniel Petersen, LeRoy Schweitzer, Richard Clark, Russell Dean Landers, John C. Coughenour, Rodney Owen Skurdal

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Ten Montana Freemen are retried in a Billings, Montana, court (see July 3-8, 1998). This case centers on 35 criminal charges, mostly for bank and mail fraud and armed robbery indictments. Sixty-five witnesses will testify in the trial. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A federal judge sentences three members of the anti-government Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, May 27, 1998 and After, and July 3-8, 1998) to jail. Russell Landers, who told the court that it had no jurisdiction over him, receives over 11 years in prison for conspiracy, bank fraud, threatening a federal judge, and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm. Emmett Clark, who is ill, is sentenced to time served plus three years’ probation; he pled guilty to threatening to kidnap and murder Montana federal judge Jack Shanstrom. Dana Dudley, Landers’s wife, pled guilty to interstate transportation and is sentenced to time served plus another 21 months in prison. When the sentencing hearing begins, Landers interjects, “This is now the supreme court of Justus Township, Russell Dean presiding.” Landers is referring to “Justus Township,” the ranch formerly occupied by the Freemen (see September 28, 1995 and After). When Judge John Coughenour attempts to proceed, Landers says: “Bailiff, remove me. I have no part in the United States, no part in these proceedings.” He repeats his contention and sits quietly for the remainder of the hearing. [New York Times, 11/8/1998]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Dana Dudley Landers, Jack Shanstrom, Emmett Clark, Russell Dean Landers, John C. Coughenour

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A jury convicts 10 Montana Freemen on an array of fraud and armed robbery charges (see October 23, 1998). All but one of the Freemen charged with armed robbery are convicted; some of the defendants are acquitted on mail fraud charges. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Judge John C. Coughenour sentences Montana Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see November 18, 1998) to over 22 years in prison, and orders almost $40,000 in restitution, on charges stemming from the Freemen’s expansive bad-check scheme that spread throughout the country (see 1993-1994). Freemen leader Rodney Skurdal receives a 15-year sentence. Another group leader, Daniel Petersen, is sentenced to 15 years and ordered to pay $39,845 in restitution. Former Canadian police officer Dale Jacobi receives 13 years. Richard Clark receives 12 years. William Stanton (see October 17, 1994) receives a three-year sentence. Two of the convicted Freemen’s wives, Agnes Stanton and Cherlyn Petersen, are sentenced to time served and released. Coughenour says of the Freemen’s crimes, “What we are talking about is a calculated and organized program to undermine the banking system of this country and to encourage other, more ignorant people to violate the law.” He says that the Freemen’s sentences should send “a loud and clear message to those who pass this hatred and ugliness around.… Be forewarned, your personal liberty is at stake.” Schweitzer and five other Freemen, continuing to refuse to accept the sovereignty of the court, refuse to attend the sentencing and watch the proceedings from a holding cell. [Seattle Times, 3/17/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]

Entity Tags: John C. Coughenour, Agnes Bollinger Stanton, Cherlyn Bronson Petersen, Daniel Petersen, LeRoy Schweitzer, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Dale Jacobi, Montana Freemen, Richard Clark, William Stanton

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Donald Beauregard, the head of a militia coalition known as the Southeastern States Alliance (SSA), is charged with conspiracy, providing materials for a terrorist act, and gun violations in connection with a plot to bomb energy facilities and cause power outages in Florida and Georgia. Beauregard became known in 1995, when he and his militia group, the Florida-based 77th Regiment Militia, claimed to have discovered a map printed on a box of Trix cereal depicting the United Nations takeover of the United States. Beauregard also issued statements threatening the federal government with terrorist acts during the FBI’s standoff with the Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996). During his tenure as the SSA’s leader, he developed a number of plans for terror attacks; unfortunately for him, the SSA is thoroughly infiltrated by Florida law enforcement. After pleading guilty to conspiracy and other charges, Beauregard will be sentenced to five years in federal prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2010]

Entity Tags: Southeastern States Alliance, 77th Regiment Militia, Montana Freemen, Donald Beauregard

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Two Tucson, Arizona, residents, David Vigil and his wife Whitney Starr, are arrested for filing false liens against local officials in Oro Valley. Vigil and Starr describe themselves as “Freemen,” though it is not clear that they are affiliated to the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994 and March 16, 1999). They used Freemen-like legal tactics against local officials when those officials cited a relative of theirs for driving without a license and registration; in retaliation, Vigil and Starr filed false liens against the officials’ property. John Evans of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office says, “That ended up with these people assisting and filing enormous liens against police officers, most of the Oro Valley City Council, [and] the Mayor, alleging that they owed the Starrs millions of dollars.” The liens were eventually dismissed. Authorities believe Vigil and Starr may be part of a larger group. [KOLD-TV, 11/7/2002]

Entity Tags: David Vigil, Whitney Starr, Montana Freemen, John Evans

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Ervin Elbert Hurlbert and Donald Little are arrested while trying to impersonate “Montana marshals” in order to facilitate the escape of Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see 1983-1995) from a federal prison in Edgefield, South Carolina. Schweitzer is serving a 22-year sentence for a variety of crimes relating to bank and check fraud (see July 3-8, 1998 and March 16, 1999). Both Hurlbert and Little are arraigned for attempting to aid a prisoner’s escape; Hurlbert is also charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer. The two enter the lobby of the Edgefield prison, identify themselves to a prison official as “Montana marshals,” and tell the official that they are there to take custody of Schweitzer. They give the official documents to “prove” their assertion, including a writ demanding that the warden relinquish custody of Schweitzer to “Marshal Ervin Elbert clan of Hurlbert.” One of the documents reads, “United States of America Special appointed Marshal Ervin Elbert: clan of Hurlbert shall assume full responsibility for the custody of the Justice/Petitioner,” meaning Schweitzer. The documents state that Schweitzer is “volunteering to return to the Country of Montana.” The documents are signed by Schweitzer and three former Edgefield inmates. Instead of releasing Schweitzer, prison officials notify local law enforcement, and sheriff’s deputies arrest Hurlbert and Little. FBI agent Deborah DeVito tries to interview Little, but he refuses to answer questions and instead repeats the claim that he is a “process server, noncombatant.” Little also tells DeVito that he is not a United States citizen but an “American National Citizen” and a foreigner from the “Country of Montana.” Hurlbert waives his legal rights, but refuses to sign a waiver form, telling DeVito that he owns his name and will not sign anything. Hurlbert says Schweitzer sent him the documents. He also tells DeVito that the codes of the “Country of Montana permit the establishment of their own Supreme Court and Justices.” Hurlbert says he had no intention of using violence, but admits to having a pistol in his vehicle. He says the gun is registered in the “Country of Montana.” [Associated Press, 3/25/2003]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Deborah DeVito, Donald Little, LeRoy Schweitzer, Ervin Elbert Hurlbert

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Russell Dean Landers, a member of the anti-government Montana Freemen serving an 11-year prison sentence for conspiracy, bank fraud, and threatening a federal judge (see November 8, 1998), is sentenced to an additional 15 years after being convicted of trying to extort his release from federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma. Landers and two other inmates, Clayton Heath Albers and Barry Dean Bischof, filed legal documents demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars from prison officials for using the inmates’ names, which they claim had been “copyrighted.” The three also fraudulently obtained a credit report on the prison warden, and used the information in it to try to file false liens against the warden’s personal property. In 2004, the three hired a man to seize the warden’s vehicles, freeze his bank accounts, and change the locks on his doors, based on the liens; Landers and his accomplices did not know that they had hired an undercover FBI agent. Believing that the warden’s property had been seized, the three demanded to be released from prison before negotiating the return of the warden’s property. Two other inmates, Carl Ervin Batts and William Michael Roberson, have already pled guilty for their parts in the scheme. Albers and Bischof also receive lengthy jail terms. [US Department of Justice, 4/7/2008; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/2008]

Entity Tags: Clayton Heath Albers, Barry Dean Bischof, Carl Ervin Batts, Russell Dean Landers, William Michael Roberson, Montana Freemen

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Montana Freemen leader Daniel Petersen (see 1983-1995), convicted of multiple counts of bank fraud involving false liens and bogus checks (see March 16, 1999), is sentenced to over seven additional years in prison for filing false liens from his Minnesota jail cell. Petersen is sentenced under a 2008 law making it a felony to retaliate against any government officer by filing false liens; his is the first time the law has actually been used. Minnesota US Attorney B. Todd Jones says in a statement: “Over the years, Petersen and his accomplices have repeatedly broken the law in an effort to enrich themselves. Those who have tried to stop them, including members of law enforcement and the judiciary, have been singled out for retaliation.… This prosecution, hopefully, will impress on Petersen and others that, regardless of their beliefs, they will be prosecuted if they break the law, and their attempts at retaliation or intimidation will not succeed.” Petersen filed false liens against three judges, including District Judge John C. Coughenour, who presided over his trial, and two Texas federal judges. He invented a company he claimed held assets, including a $100 trillion default judgment against the United States, and sold “shares” in the company to fellow inmates and others. The shares were supposedly backed by “redemption certificates” Petersen said could be redeemed as soon as he collected on the judgment he said was owed to him by the government. Peterson concocted the scheme after former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declined to respond to his demand for $100 trillion, plus $1 billion per day in interest, for unlawfully confining him. Peterson also filed liens against real property owned by the three judges, offered bounties for the arrest of the judges, and offered rewards to anyone who brought the three to Minnesota to answer his liens. Prosecutors said Petersen ignored repeated warnings while in custody that his actions were unlawful. [Billings Gazette, 4/8/2010]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, B. Todd Jones, Daniel Petersen, Madeleine Albright, John C. Coughenour

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) provides a lexicon for some of the terminology used by a variety of “sovereignists” and other anti-government organizations. The SPLC writes, “Adherents of the ‘sovereign citizens’ movement and of sovereign financial scams like ‘redemption’ are known for their bizarre use of language and Byzantine belief system.” Some of this terminology has been adapted for use by more widely known (if barely organized and rather fluidly constructed) groups such as the “birthers,” who have gone from questioning President Obama’s status as a US citizen (see August 1, 2008 and After, October 8-10, 2008, and November 10, 2008) to pushing for Constitutional amendments designed to curtail citizenship rights for the children of immigrants and non-citizens; “tenthers,” who construe the Tenth Amendment to mean that states are not bound by federal laws; and others. The SPLC provides the following terms and definitions:
bullet 14th Amendment citizen “Sovereign citizens describe 14th Amendment citizens as subject to federal and state governments, unlike themselves. Because the amendment gave citizenship to freed slaves, a racist variant of sovereign citizen theory holds that blacks are subject to the governments and that being white is a prerequisite to being a sovereign citizen. Others claim all state citizens were converted by the constitutional amendment to ‘Federal Citizens,’ who can only be freed by a process known as ‘asseveration.’”
bullet Accepted for value “When a sovereign receives a bill from the IRS, a bank, or even the cable company, under a twisted reading of the Uniform Commercial Code, he believes he can simply write ‘Accepted for Value’ on that bill and it will be paid by his secret Treasury Direct Account, set up by the government when he was born.”
bullet Admiralty law/common law “According to sovereign beliefs, there are two types of law: common law and admiralty law. Since the US went off the gold standard in 1933, sovereigns say, no one has been able to pay a debt with ‘real’ money, and therefore the country has been operating under commercial law, which sovereigns equate with admiralty law, the law of the seas. Thus, they argue, completely speciously, that Americans have been deprived of their original common law, under which the government can only impose regulations on citizens with their consent, since 1933.”
bullet Bill of Exchange “A fake check used to access the funds in the secret Treasury account supposedly set up by the government to monetize the value of each citizen’s life at birth.”
bullet Birth certificate “This form establishes each person’s corporate shell, a kind of evil doppelgänger that is attached to every flesh-and-blood baby. That shell is then supposedly sold by the government as a security to foreign investors to enrich Federal Reserve bankers. The proof that the certificate has secret meaning is found in the use of all capital letters, bond paper, and a seal and/or watermark—all of which are thought to reflect admiralty law.”
bullet Citizen/citizen “In the 18th century colonies, nouns were usually capitalized, although the practice was going out of style by the time of the Revolution. Based on that, sovereigns see secret meaning in the use or non-use of capitalized letters. For example, a ‘citizen’ is a sovereign citizen imbued with all natural rights, whereas a ‘Citizen’ is a 14th Amendment citizen subject to the rules and regulations of government.”
bullet Common law court “Pseudo-legal courts set up to hear matters concerning sovereign citizens, sometimes also called ‘freemen’ (see 1993-1994). They have been used to put enemies on trial for such offenses as treason, rule on matters of interest to sovereigns and, frequently, to formalize citizens’ declarations of sovereignty, a process often known as asseveration.”
bullet Flag fringe “Based on the fact that Navy flags and many other military flags have gold fringe, sovereigns believe the presence of fringe on flags in federal courts isn’t just decorative, but rather proof that the nation is under admiralty law.”
bullet Form 1099-OID “Although the IRS uses this form for zero-coupon bonds and collateralized bonds, sovereigns believe that the 1099-OID gives them access to the money in the secret Treasury Direct Account that the government funded at their birth.”
bullet Name in all capital letters “JOHN ROBERT DOE, for instance, signifies the corporate shell of a person, as opposed to the flesh-and-blood person.”
bullet Name punctuation “John-Robert: Doe signifies a flesh-and-blood person named John-Robert of the family Doe, as opposed to a punctuation-free name, JOHN ROBERT DOE, which refers to the corporate shell of a person.”
bullet Negative averment “The trick, used by many sovereigns, of twisting all statements into the form of a question in order to shift the burden of truth to the opponent.”
bullet Red ink “In some states, bonds are canceled using red ink. Sovereigns therefore sign many legal documents and correspondence in red ink to signify that they are canceling the bond attached to their birth certificate or corporate self. Others believe the color of the ink represents the blood of the flesh-and-blood person.”
bullet Redemption “The phony legal process sovereigns use to separate a person’s flesh-and-blood body from their mythical corporate shell. Since only the corporate shell is subject to taxes, traffic laws, and license requirements, the ability to separate the two is the key to liberating people from such requirements. An added bonus is that the newly freed sovereign can then write checks, or ‘bills of exchange,’ on the account the government has set up to monetize the person’s life and earnings.”
bullet Strawman “The label assigned to the corporate shell in the redemption process. This corporate shell is attached to a baby at birth when a birth certificate is typed out using all capital letters and a Social Security number is applied for.”
bullet Sui juris “Many sovereigns add this Latin phrase, meaning ‘of one’s own right,’ to their flesh-and-blood names on legal documents to signify that they are reserving all the rights to which a free man is entitled.”
bullet Treasury Direct Account “When a baby is born, sovereigns believe that the government funds a secret Treasury account in that baby’s corporate shell name, based on that person’s future earnings. This account can be accessed by writing special checks to pay taxes, mortgage balances, and other debts. Sovereigns variously believe the account’s value is between $600,000 and $20 million.”
bullet Truth language “A complex and bizarre set of language rules designed to mimic the secret language of the law. All sentences must start with the preposition ‘for,’ have a minimum of 13 words, and use more nouns than verbs. Punctuation rules are just as complex.”
bullet UCC-1 Statement “When a sovereign successfully separates his flesh-and-blood body from his corporate shell in the redemption process, the flesh-and-blood body then can file a UCC-1 statement against their corporate self in order to preserve the value of that corporate self’s Treasury Direct Account for their own use. Since most jurisdictions are getting wise to sovereigns’ UCC games, sovereigns often must shop jurisdictions until they find one willing to file the statement without question.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2010]

Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Southern Poverty Law Center

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike