By JJ MacNab | June 30, 2009
Greetings, all ye red crayon fans!
Iâ€™m back in the land of Dunkinâ€™ Donuts, minimum speed limits, and lily white jurors.
Itâ€™s June 30, 2009 and New Hampshire tax deniers Ed and Elaine Brown are finally having their day in court. Over the next two weeks, theyâ€™ll learn what fate awaits them as a result of their nine-month standoff with the US Marshals.
Hereâ€™s a quick and dirty review for those of you who donâ€™t know or remember the Browns. Elaine is a rich, well-educated, and successful dentist who married Ed, a high school drop-out, retired cockroach exterminator with a violent criminal history. While Elaine financially supported the family, Ed ran a militia group called the US Constitution Rangers and generally made a name for himself (granted, it was â€œassholeâ€) among the angry, gun-guy clique.
As a result of Edâ€™s not-so-learned â€œresearchâ€ into federal income tax laws, they stopped paying federal and state taxes roughly 15 years ago and spent considerable time and effort making sure they never, ever read Section 1 of the Internal Revenue Code. A search warrant for their books and records was executed in 2004, they were indicted on tax-related charges in 2006, and they were convicted on all 17 counts in 2007.
Ed went home half-way through the tax trial, while Elaine stuck it out alone in front of the jury. Despite the guilty verdict, Elaine was released to live with her son pending sentencing but, a few weeks later, she violated the conditions of her release and returned to live with Ed in their Plainfield, NH home.
Supporters brought guns, Ed built bombs, and Ed and Elaine made dozens of explicit threats against two judges, a federal prosecutor, the US Marshal, an IRS employee, the Plainfield Chief of Police , and anyone else they thought they could blame for their predicament. It was ugly.
They threw three large concert/barbeque events called Jamborees over the nine-month standoff, their website generated as many as 7,500 hits per day, and their official MySpace page topped off at 5,400 supporters. They found religion in a kook from Hawaii named â€œBody of the Lordâ€ and then found it again in a commercial law scam called â€œRedemption.â€
By September, 2007, the party started winding down. Supporters were getting bored with the fading press coverage, the US Marshals set up a road block to stop Jamboree #3 (rumors of bombs in trees and trip wires in the woods tend to make Marshals a little grumpy), and four of the key supporters were arrested and indicted.
Finally, on October 4th, four undercover Marshals bearing pizza and beer arrested Ed and Elaine without any violence or injury (yea, Marshals!)
The Trial:Â Jury Selection
I did not attend jury selection on June 29th. Frankly, Iâ€™d rather eat a bug. A big bug, with gooey innards â€“ because jury selection is just that dull.
Margot Sanger-Katzâ€™ article from the Concord Monitor describes the day well:
June 30th: Opening Arguments + two prosecution witnesses
While Elaine dressed nicely for her day before the jury (dark blazer and slacks), Ed took a different approach to courtroom fashion â€“ khaki prison jumpsuit, long-sleeve white undershirt, and navy deck shoes, apparently in some misguided form of protest.
Before the proceedings started, Ed and Elaine sat together in the courtroom and whispered in agitated terms. Words like â€œUCCâ€ and â€œstrawmanâ€ (part of that commercial law scam they bought into) escaped from their tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte.
When the judge came in, Edâ€™s lawyer announced his withdrawal from the case, and Ed gave a lengthy monologue complaining about his lawyer, his and Elaineâ€™s inability to formulate an appeal in their prior case (he doesnâ€™t seem to understand that the deadline for that passed two years ago), the prosecutors, the judicial system, the press, and even the jury. By Edâ€™s estimate, 80% of theÂ jurors haveÂ already made up their minds about his guilt.
According to Ed, the court simply canâ€™t understand the â€œcommercial remedy processâ€ (and boy, is that an understatement – judges don’t speak gibberish) and that everything heâ€™s done up to today has been for a reason.
Ed: No one can re-present me. This all started because I made statements exposing the criminal elements of this government. Remember, I am a member of an organization called the US Constitution Rangers.
The judge denied the attorneyâ€™s request to leave the case, told Ed to â€œBe quiet,â€ and the jury was brought in.
There areÂ ten men and four women. There had been one additional female juror chosen the day before but she became ill. All are white, most are between the ages of 40 and 55.
Ed became extremely agitated during jury instructions, leaning over to talk to his lawyer, and then turning back to talk to Elaine when his lawyer ignored him. When the judge told the jury that Ed is represented by Mr. Iacopino, Ed loudly interrupted:
Ed: I object!
Judge: Be quiet, Mr. Brown. The jury will disregard that last statement.
Ed wriggled, he squirmed, he rocked in his chair, he smirked, he said things like â€œThatâ€™s a lieâ€ to his lawyer, he wrote angry things on his yellow pad, he turned to glare – twice – at a reporter in the audience, and then he smirked and wriggled some more. Elaine sat quietly and listened to the proceedings.
Prosecutor Opening Argument
The main thesis of the 45-minuteÂ speech was two-fold:
1) What may have started as a peaceful tax protest turned into a “training camp for something else”
2) Despite ample opportunity to kill Ed and Elaine, the Marshals went above and beyond to ensure that the arrest would be non-violent
The original plan had been to arrest Ed when he picked up his mail at the end of the driveway on June 6th but someone else got the mail that day. They tried again on June 7th but this time Danny the Dogwalker Riley stumbled on to their plan. Riley was shot at with non-lethal rounds, tasered,Â taken into custody, and released. Meanwhile, the Marshals had several men in the woods in close range to Ed but none took the shot. Instead, through their surveillance, the Marshals learned that day that Ed had acquired a .50 cal high-powered rifle and was pointing it into the woods from his watchtower.
On another occasion, there was a Marshal so close to Ed that when Ed drove by in his lawnmower, the rocks spit up by the mower hit the Marshal. He also did not shoot.
On October 4th, the Browns were arrested by undercover marshals with the assistance of a confidential informant.
Elaineâ€™s Lawyerâ€™s Opening Argument
Itâ€™s gottaâ€™ be tough to defend a client who not only bragged about her crimes to others, but also audio and video taped all the best bits to post on the internet.
Mr. Langeâ€™s presentation was brief and at times, so contentious that the judge stopped him. His basic premise? â€œIt isnâ€™t about what happened, but why.â€ Elaine believed she had been unlawfully convicted in the first trial, she had suffered emotionally and physically when she was separated from Ed, and she had only obtainedÂ a firearm after the infamous June 7th Dogwalker Day.
He also claimed that Elaine had never threatened anyone (which the prosecutors will likely easily disprove) but that she had a right to defend herself.
Edâ€™s Lawyerâ€™s Opening Argument
Mr. Iocopino claimed that the events on June 7th â€œscared the living daylights out of the defendants.â€
Mr. Iocapino: Give my client a fair shake. Youâ€™ll learn that he is passionate in his beliefs and his principles. His beliefs and principles are unusual, and youâ€™ll hear that there are others who share those beliefs, although they are a minority. The visions that are etched in his mind are the killing of Randy Weaverâ€™s wife and the flames of Waco.
Considering what he had to work with, the attorney was doing a very competent job, but then he wandered off into the weeds:
Mr. Iacopino: If you listen carefully, between January and June of 2007, youâ€™ll hear that there are really no threats. When you listen to [Edâ€™s] statements, you wonâ€™t hear threats against individuals, youâ€™ll hear him expressing his opinion that the country is doomed.
He claimed that Ed had told supporters not to come to the house, because â€œthey didnâ€™t want to ratchet things up.â€Â Â Hmmm.
Mr . Iacopino: Ed Brown had a right to defend himselfâ€¦ He maintained the peace the entire time.
Â Well, I don’t envy the lawyer his job.
Witness: US Marshal Stephen Monier
Marshal Monier set the time line for the entire case. He outlined the search warrant, first case indictment and arrest, trial, and standoff.
He described the numerous attempts to talk the Browns into surrendering while simultaneously developing a plan â€“ a â€œruseâ€ â€“ to arrest the Browns peaceably. The Marshals didnâ€™t stop supporters from going to the home because it gave them the opportunity to go in themselves, posing as supporters.
Witness: Chief Deputy Marshal Gary DiMartino
Much of DiMartinoâ€™s testimony was a repeat of what Marshal Monier had said earlier on the stand. DiMartinoâ€™s role was more directly involved with Ed since he was the one who spoke with the Browns on a regular basis in the early months of the standoff.
Cross examination of this witness will take place tomorrow.
- The Special Operations Group set up a mock driveway/mailbox/Ed-on-his-ATV scenario in Louisiana so they could practice the arrest.
- The secret word used by the Marshals as a signal to arrest the Browns was â€œparty.â€
- When Elaine was arrested on the tax charges on her way to her dental office in 2006, she was armed.
- I have a US Constitution Ranger mousepad