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US Domestic Terrorism

Montana Freemen Standoff with FBI

Project: US Domestic Terrorism
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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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Federal Government Actions, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff, Other Violence, Anti-Tax Rhetoric and Actions

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]

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Gender-Based Rhetoric and Actions, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff, Harassment and Threats, Rhetorical Violence

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff, Christian Identity

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

Category Tags: Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Michigan Militia, Montana Freemen, Other Militias, Separatists, Freemen/FBI Standoff, Harassment and Threats, Rhetorical Violence

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.

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Other Militias, Separatists, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Other Militias, Separatists, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Militia, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Law Enforcement Actions, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Militia, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff, Harassment and Threats, Shooting/Guns

The jury trial of Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see March 25, 1996) and 11 other Freemen begins in the Billings, Montana, district court, amid tight security. (Three others charged in the indictment have already pled guilty.) The Freemen are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, bank and wire fraud (see May 1995), filing false IRS claims, interstate transportation of stolen property, threatening federal officials, armed robbery of news crews (see October 2, 1995 and February 8, 1996), and firearms violations (see March 14, 1996). Prosecutors give their opening arguments, and tell the jury that the case against the anti-government group centers on fraud and not politics. Lead prosecutor James Seykora says that the Freemen issued over 4,000 fraudulent checks worth a total of $18 billion; while most were rejected, the Freemen garnered $1.8 million in illicit payments from the checks. The checks—called at various times certified money orders, certified banker checks, comptroller warrants, or lien drafts—were drawn on a Norwest Bank account that never held over $116. “This is a fraud of truly epic proportions, a fraud fueled by hatred and motivated by greed,” Seykora says. “They bought some computers, they bought some fancy paper and sat down and made their own checks, their own money.” Authorities in Utah, California, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and elsewhere have uncovered similar schemes and linked the fraud rings to Schweitzer. Overall, authorities say phony money orders worth $20 million were disseminated as part of the fraud, which they liken to a variation of the Bank of Sark scam of the 1970s. Defense lawyers argue that the Freemen sincerely believed their checks had value, an argument challenged by prosecutors’ assertions that the Freemen did not themselves honor such checks if anyone tried to pay them for the seminars the Freemen provided (see September 28, 1995 and After), nor did they use them to pay telephone or electric bills. In previous Freemen trials, followers, not leaders, have appeared (see March 31, 1998); Ken Toole of the Montana Human Rights Network says: “Now, you have the real leadership on trial. These are the hard-core ideologues.” Judge John C. Coughenour presides over the trial. Two of the defendants, Schweitzer and Rodney Skurdal, have issued “arrest warrants” for Coughenour, charging him with a string of alleged crimes including “perjury, contempt of court, sedition, and treason.” Defendant Daniel Petersen has informed Coughenour that he has filed a $956 million claim against him. The defendants have largely shunned their court-appointed lawyers. Skurdal’s lawyer, Gregory Jackson, has twice asked to withdraw from the case, noting that Skurdal has sued him for libel and slander, and calls him “a servant of Satan” and “dumb, stupid, and lazy.” Today Jackson tells the court that Skurdal is “a gung-ho patriot, a gung-ho Marine.” Security at the courtroom and other federal buildings in Billings, the site of the trial, is high, with many of the security precautions adopted during the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) in place here as well. Nine of the 12 defendants have refused to come to court, and monitor the proceedings over closed-circuit television in a Yellowstone County Jail holding cell two miles away. [Washington Post, 4/1996; New York Times, 5/29/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Two of the Freemen in the holding cell even refuse to dress, and watch the proceedings in their underwear. [New York Times, 5/27/1996] One of the Freemen who pled guilty, Dana Dudley Landers, has agreed to testify against her former colleagues. She pled guilty to interstate transportation of stolen goods, mostly vehicles and office equipment purchased in North Carolina with worthless Freemen checks and brought to Montana. Prosecutors say the vehicles were to have been used by the Freemen in kidnapping public officials for “trials” before a Freemen tribunal. Another Freeman, Emmett Clark, has pled guilty to threatening to kidnap and murder a federal judge, but has not agreed to testify against his former fellows. [New York Times, 5/27/1996; Associated Press, 5/27/1998]

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff, Robberies, Larcenies, Fraud, Etc.

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Court Actions and Lawsuits, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

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

Category Tags: Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action, Montana Freemen, Freemen/FBI Standoff

Ordering 

Time period


Categories

General

Abortion-Based Rhetoric and Actions (109)Anti-Communist Rhetoric and Actions (5)Anti-Government Rhetoric and Action (548)Anti-Health Care Reform (24)Anti-Semitic Rhetoric and Actions (83)Anti-Tax Rhetoric and Actions (42)Environmental Activism (63)Faith-Based Rhetoric and Actions (102)Gender-Based Rhetoric and Actions (67)Other (6)Race and Ethnic-Based Rhetoric (158)

Interventions

Court Actions and Lawsuits (279)Federal Government Actions (56)Law Enforcement Actions (212)

Organizations

Animal Liberation Front (27)Army of God (21)Aryan Nations (38)Christian Identity (31)Earth Liberation Front (30)Elohim City (24)Ku Klux Klan (16)Michigan Militia (11)Montana Freemen (76)Montana Militia (14)National Alliance (30)Oath Keepers (5)Operation Rescue (18)Other Anti-Abortion Groups (6)Other Environmental Activists (5)Other Militias, Separatists (128)PLAL (6)Posse Comitatus (25)SHAC (10)Stormfront (12)The Order (34)WCOTC (49)Westboro Baptist Church (50)

Specific Events

'Unabomber' Attacks (43)1949 Peekskill Riots (3)1992 Ruby Ridge Standoff (5)1993 Branch Davidian Siege (7)1995 Oklahoma City Bombing (442)2001 Anthrax Attacks (39)2009 Health Care Protests (23)2009 Holocaust Museum Shooting (4)Death of Robert Jay Mathews (5)Eric Rudolph Bombings (15)FACE Law (3)Freemen/FBI Standoff (37)Killing Spree by John Salvi (3)Murder of Alan Berg (3)Murder of Dr. Barnard Slepian (6)Murder of Dr. David Gunn (2)Murder of Dr. George Tiller (17)Murder of Dr. John Britton (4)Shepard/Byrd Hate Crimes Act (7)

Types of Violence

Arson (62)Beatings/Mobs (36)Bioweapon Attacks (43)Bombs and Explosives (328)Harassment and Threats (95)Kidnapping (5)Other Violence (41)Rhetoric from National Figures (45)Rhetorical Violence (218)Robberies, Larcenies, Fraud, Etc. (71)Shooting/Guns (115)Vandalism (19)
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