By JJ MacNab | July 2, 2009
In a nutshell, today really sucked for Ed and Elaine Brown.
The prosecutionâ€™s case didnâ€™t just take shape, it sprouted wings and flew.
The jury learned that:
- The marshals bent over backwards to ensure a peaceful end to the standoff
- Zoe the dog is an nice puppy and a thief
- The undercover marshals who eventually arrested the Browns must have titanium bits in their tool drawers
- 50 caliber rifles are uber-scary
- Ed learned that on June 7th, he came powerfully close to being a notch on a sniperâ€™s rifle
Witness Ken Erickson (Continued)
It must be fun to have the coolest job ever.
The day began with the introduction of the remaining pipe bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) into evidence. Many mediumâ€“sized white boxes were place in front of the witness and it was like Christmas Day at the Malboro Man house. One by one he opened all his presents and peaked expectantly inside.
Cross examination was minimal; the only point made was that the components used to make the various IEDs were legal when they were purchased. I doubt the jury will be confused by the option that purchasing a pipe is ok, but making a pipe bomb out of it isnâ€™t.
Witness David Robertson
Mr. Robertson is the head of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the US Marshals, an elite tactical team that was brought in to assist in the arrest of the Browns. He joined the Marshals in 1987, moved toÂ SOG in 1990, and became the commander ofÂ SOG in 2006.
In 2007, SOG worked with Chief Deputy DiMartino to formulate a plan to arrest the Browns. Since Ed was in the habit of riding his ATV to the end of his quarter-mile driveway each morning to collect the mail, they decided that the safest place to arrest Ed would be at the end of the driveway.
The SOG team recreated the driveway at their headquarters in Louisiana and trained for five days in preparation for the June 6th date. Four two-man sniper teams would encircle the home, an arrest team would wait near the mailbox, and a blocking team would be positioned 50 yards up the driveway.Â After Ed was arrested, they would further surround the home and use a bullhorn to talk Elaine into surrendering.
At 2:30 am on June 6th, they allÂ moved inÂ to take their positions, but Ed never came down that day to pick up the mail. Instead, a supporter drove in and stopped at the mailbox on his way to the Brown house.
At 2:30 am on June 7th, they tried again. This time, Danny Riley walked Zoe the Dog down to the mailbox area and stumbled upon the arrest team hidden there. The arrest team told Danny to stop, but he took off running, yelling that the Marshals had arrived. Two members of the arrest team fired plastic â€œless than lethalâ€ rounds at Danny but missed, and he was finally stopped by the members of the blocking team waiting further up the drive (kind of like a pickle situation in a baseball game.)
After Danny was arrested, there was movement at the Brown house. Someone used a vehicle to block the driveway, and Ed was seen moving around. When the sniper /observers saw that Ed had a 50 cal rifle, they called for significant backup at that time, including armored personnel carriers.
Prosecutor: What would happen to an armored personnel carrier if itâ€™s hit by a 50 cal armor piercing round?
Witness: It would puncture right through it.
The SOG teams withdrew over several hours on June 7th and went home.
SOG was called back in October to support the undercover Marshals in the next and final arrest attempt.Â Immediately after the arrest, they swept the residence to make sure it was empty and set up a perimeter for the next two and a half to three weeks.
The jury was shown a video of the SOG team going through the Brown home. Their job was to render every weapon safe and to secure the house. Poor Zoe the Dog looked very nervous and very eager to please her new Marshal friends.
Cross examination of this witness focused on the enormous number of people and equipment involved in the June 6th/7th arrest attempt. The defense attorneys also tried to imply that SOG team members had had the opportunity to tamper with evidence in the home.
Edâ€™s lawyer has a recurring theme that heâ€™s hitting too often: the only shot fired in the 9 month standoff was by the Marshals, but theyâ€™re quick to point out that they only shot plastic non-lethal rounds.
Witness Leigh Marchegiana
Mr. Marchegiana has been a US Marshal for 21 years and was with the Secret Service before that. Heâ€™s been a member of the SOG team for the last eight years. He and wasÂ part of the four two-man sniper teams stationed near the Brown home on June 6th and 7th and his post was lying prone behind an 8 inch rock wall next the carriage house.
The first morning that he was there, Ed walked around the driveway and came towards him. The witness had a handgun in his hand but his rifle was collapsed because it was too tall to hide behind the small rock wall.Â Ed had a rifle on his shoulder and a pistol in his waistband andÂ was trying to coach the poor dog into exploring the woods but she wasnâ€™t interested.Â When the dog did see something in the woods,Â Ed took out his gun.
Witness: If heâ€™d fired into the woods, weâ€™d have stayed still. If heâ€™d fired at us, weâ€™d have fired back.
Prosecutor: Why didnâ€™t you just shoot him when he was at 30 yards?
Witness: That wasnâ€™t our plan.
Witness Edward Recor
Mr. Recor has been with SOG since 1998. He too was in one of the two-man sniper teams in June 6th and 7th. He started out to the left of the home, but it turned out to be an active streambed and he was literally lying in water while the outside temperature was in the high 30s/low 40s. So he moved.
On the morning of the 6th, Ed was mowing the lawn just six feet away from where the witness was lying prone. He was so close that the small rocks kicked up by the lawnmower were hitting him.
When the arrest didnâ€™t happen on the 6th, he returned to his position before dawn on the 7th. From hisÂ hiding place,Â he had a clear view of the homeâ€™s watchtower. He heard noises from Dannyâ€™s encounter with the arrest and blocking teams further down the driveway, followed by the sound of car doors and voices closer to the home.
5 or 10 minutes later, Ed appeared in the watchtower holding a 50 cal rifle and aimed it towards the driveway.
Prosecutor: What is the effective range of a 50 caliber rifle?
Witness: About 1 mile.
Prosecutor: And what effect does a 50 caliber round have on a human body at 70 yards?
Witness: It will effectively blow a human body apart. It would remove limbs.
As if that informationÂ wasnâ€™tÂ graphic enough, the jury then heard the most chilling words in the trial so far.
When Ed pointed his rifle at the driveway, the sniper aimed at Edâ€™s left temple with the safety off, and pulled the trigger back part way. He waited for Ed to make a â€œcheek weldâ€ (move the rifle up to his cheek to aim) at which time he would have fired and killed Ed.Â Ed never made the move.
Hearing this testimony put Ed into a highly agitated state that lasted the rest of the day. Elaine, in comparison, looked battered. Her posture was slumped, she avoided Edâ€™s eye contact, and she ignored his overly loudÂ commentary toÂ his lawyer.
Cross examination focused on the fact that no one ever fired a 50 caliber rifle during the standoff.
Defense Attorney: No one put a 50 caliber up to his cheek?
Witness: No. If he had, Iâ€™d have fired.
Witness Jeffrey Mertes
Mr. Mertes has been with the US Marshals for 24 years, and with SOG for 22 of those years. The guy is extremely likeable in a kind of Buzz Lightyear kind of way, and both jurors and audience members alike were smiling while he testified. That kind of charisma must be devastating with the ladies!
Mr. Mertes was the leader of the arrest team during the June arrest attempt and was the Marshal who stood up and confronted Danny when he was walking Zoe the Dog. He was also one of two SOG team members to shoot a less than lethal plastic round at Dannyâ€™s legs to keep him from running toward the house.
Witness Michael Allen
Mr. Allen has been with the SOG for 5 years. He was on the same arrest team as Buzz Lightyear and was the second person to fire a plastic round at Dannyâ€™s legs. He also missed.
Witness Joseph Buchanan
Mr. Buchanan is a former SOG member. He was on the blocking team that stopped Danny from running back to the house and telling Ed about the Marshalsâ€™ presence. He told Danny twice to show his hands and get down. When Danny refused, he tasered him.
When Elaineâ€™s lawyer started to ask questions about the pain and suffering and fatality rates involved in using a taser, the judge grew impatient.
By this time, Ed was so agitated that he was talking loudly to his lawyer and the judge asked him to keep it toÂ a whisper.
Witness William Robertson
Mr. Robertson works for the US Marshals as the supervisor of the regional task force in Georgia. His job is to seek out and arrest fugitives.
In October of 2007, Mr. Robertson worked with a confidential informant who went by the name â€œDutchâ€ to infiltrate the Brown house as a supporter. The plan was fairly simple.
Elaine and Ed wanted some of the dental supplies and a refrigerator from the West Lebanon dental practice brought to the home. Since the property had been seized by the US Treasury in June, Dutch and his four friends (undercover Marshals) would have to break in and steal it.
Three of them rode in the pickup truck and Mr. Robertson rode in the bed of the truck to hold on to the refrigerator since they had no straps. They left one Marshal behind at the dental practice.
When they got to the Brown home, Ed â€“ wearing a pistol in his waistband – had them pull around to the garage to unload. When Ed opened the garage doors from inside, the team found him holding an AK47 at elbow height pointed directly at them. He told them he didnâ€™t trust them and they unloaded the truck into the garage at gunpoint.
Ed went back into the house and they met him again at the front door. Ed noticed that they were missing one person and told two of the Marshals to go back to West Lebanon to pick him up.
Ed: You canâ€™t leave him behind. You donâ€™t ever leave a soldier behind. Bring him here and weâ€™ll celebrate.
Throughout all of this, Mr. Robertson, Dutch, and one other Marshal were all unarmed. The third had a pistol and the fourth, a taser.
Elaine appeared in the doorway holding a Glock pistol aimed at the Marshals. She went back inside and returned with both the Glock and a cellphone. Dutch and one MarshalÂ arrived back from Plainfield with pizza and the person whoâ€™d been left behind and they all sat on the porch, ate pizza, and drank Sam Adams Light.
The witness asked Ed why he hadnâ€™t been arrested.
Ed: Theyâ€™re afraid to arrest me. If they try, a lot of people are going to die. The Marshals, the Chief of Police, the Sheriff are all going to die.
Zoe the Dog was on the porch as well and the witness was feeding her pizza. Once he felt that they were positioned appropriately (he sat between Ed and Elaine close to Edâ€™s gun arm), he used theÂ code word â€œpartyâ€ in conversation and both of the Browns were grabbed, tasered, and handcuffed.
Ed put up a fight and warned the Marshals, â€œYou donâ€™t know what youâ€™ve done.â€ Elaine became very animated and was yelling profanities.
The jury was then shown a brief video of the scene taken just after the arrest. Dutchâ€™s face is blurred out, and Zoe the Dog darts into the house in fear when Ed tries to talk her while heâ€™s standing handcuffed. A minute later, sheâ€™s seen stealing a pizza slice and running.
The video shows Ed from behind, standing in handcuffs. His right hand is squeezing his left index finger, and he looks exhausted and disheveled. He sits down and grimaces when they put ankle restraints on him, so they adjust the restraints for him.
The end of the video has a moment that, if the jury watched carefully, says a lot about this standoff. Ed is standing between two Marshals and his nose is running. He leans over and wipes it on the Marshals shoulder. The Marshal says something (thereâ€™s no audio for the footage), takes a Kleenex out of his pocket, and wipes Edâ€™s face for him.
Cross examination was brief and contained anÂ unintentional funny.
Defense attorney: You rode in the bed of the pickup on the way back from Lebanon?
Witness: Yes, I did. There were no straps to hold the fridge.
Defense attorney: Did you know that was illegal in NH?
Witness: No, I did not.