Tax evaders Ed and Elaine Brown were convicted Thursday of amassing weapons, explosives and booby traps and plotting to kill federal agents during a nine-month standoff in 2007 at their fort-like home in rural New Hampshire.
The couple, who do not recognize the federal government's authority to tax its citizens, held hands and looked straight ahead as the verdict was read. They refused to stand when the jury and judge left the courtroom.
The jury convicted them of stockpiling weapons at their Plainfield home to commit violent crimes and conspiring to use deadly force to prevent their arrest on tax evasion convictions from January 2007. Combined, the maximum penalty for Brown, 66, and his wife, 68, are two life sentences.
After the verdicts, their separate lawyers declined to comment. A sentencing date was set for Sept. 3.
Holed up in their hilltop home
From January to October 2007, the Browns holed up in their hilltop home behind 8-inch concrete walls to avoid arrest and 63-month prison sentences on convictions of conspiring to evade taxes on Elaine Brown's nearly $2 million from her dental practice.
During the standoff, the Browns welcomed a parade of anti-tax, anti-government sympathizers, four of whom have been convicted of helping them stockpile weapons and sent to prison. One visitor was Randy Weaver, whose wife and son were killed along with a deputy U.S. marshal at a 1992 shootout in Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
In one media interview, Ed Brown said: "The chief should know, along with the U.S. marshals, along with the local county sheriff — especially the county sheriff, local police and local state police — if they come in here to do us in, they kill my wife, myself or both or try to arrest us, I said the chief of police in this town, the sheriff, the sheriff himself will die. This is war now, folks."
The two were arrested in October 2007 — no shots fired — by U.S. marshals pretending to be supporters who pounced on the couple while sharing pizza with them on their front porch.
During the trial, Ed Brown testified the weapons were for self-defense, saying he believed the government planned to kill him and his wife. He said he didn't start building the bombs until after federal agents made a failed attempt to arrest him. Prosecutors said many weapons were there already. He also said the property was booby trapped to scare intruders, not harm them.
'Their conduct has no place'
Elaine Brown did not testify. Her lawyer, Bjorn Lang, said that aside from a pistol she was carrying when she was arrested, there was no proof she had ever possessed any of the weapons strewn about her house.
The two were also convicted of conspiracy to prevent their arrests, conspiracy to forcibly resist arrest, being felons in possession of firearms, obstruction of justice, failure to appear for sentencing and (for Mr. Brown only) failure to appear at trial.
The verdict came after seven hours of deliberation over two days.
Afterward, the prosecution denounced the couples.
"By rejecting the rule of the law and substituting a personal code involving weapons, explosives and threats, the defendants committed increasingly serious crimes," acting U.S. Attorney Michael Gunnison said. "Their conduct has no place in a civil society."
U.S. Marshal Steven Monier said the standoff went on longer then authorities would have liked but it had a successful outcome.
"To do it the way we ended up doing it, and that is introducing the undercover team and essentially driving up the driveway to make the arrest, we think it was the right way to go," he said.