Until their arrests in the summer of 1996, the Montana Freemen managed to spread their doctrines from one end of the nation to the other. They were the hub of a wheel whose spokes extended to Florida, Texas, California, New York and elsewhere.

Giving class upon class at their ranches in Roundup and Jordan, Mont., the Freemen's leaders propogated their peculiar combination of common-law ideology and break-the-bank schemes, ultimately resulting in the arrests of followers around the nation. People who studied with the Freemen are still facing trials today.

Examples of the Freemen's tentacles are many. A common-law propagandist named Ron Griesacker — now under indictment for fraud — said he attended "a school of learning" with Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer before setting up common-law courts in Kansas.

Republic of Texas guru Richard McLaren, convicted in April of 26 counts of fraud and conspiracy, reportedly studied with Griesacker. Others around the country who studied with Schweitzer were inspired to set up their own common-law courts.

Perhaps the most important Freeman collaborator was the United Sovereigns of America (USA), an Oklahoma group once led by anti-Semite Gerald Henson, who is now serving an eight-year prison term. In 1995, USA joined with Coloradan Eugene Schroder to convene a national common-law convention in Wichita, Kan., and its tracts still are widely circulated in the movement.

The Freemen, one USA leader gushed, "get it right."

Even in jail, the Freemen spouted on. Perplexed officials reported that in the months after their arrests, the common criminals who were the Freemen's jailmates unleashed a flood of their own bizarre, Freemen-esque "legal" documents.