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Helpers in NH Standoff Handed Stiff Terms

Standoff abettors get stiff prison terms

While repeatedly threatening to kill any law enforcement agents who attempted to arrest them, radical-right tax protesters Ed and Elaine Brown attracted a steady stream of supporters during a nearly nine-month standoff with federal agents at their 103-acre compound in Plainfield, N.H., in 2007. Now, four of those supporters have been sentenced to prison for their roles in helping the couple — and three of them got longer prison terms than their heroes.

The much-watched standoff began after the Browns were sentenced to 63 months in prison following their January 2007 conviction for evading $1.9 million in taxes, much of it due on Elaine Brown's dentistry practice, between 1996 and 2003. Supporters brought weapons, ammunition, parts to build explosive devices and food to the couple at their fortress-like house, notable for its gun turret and concrete-reinforced walls. Being careful not to make martyrs of the Browns, federal agents waited them out, finally nabbing them with a ruse in October 2007.

A New Hampshire judge sentenced two of the Browns' allies to prison last July. He gave Robert Wolffe of Vermont a 30-month prison term for helping the Browns evade arrest and bringing weapons onto their property.

Wolffe helped himself by cooperating with and testifying for the government. Jason Gerhard of New York was less fortunate. The same judge imposed a 20-year sentence on him after Gerhard insisted he did nothing wrong and complained about the "kangaroo court" proceeding. Two witnesses said Gerhard has expressed to them his admiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Gerhard, who visited the Browns often during the impasse, bought bomb components, night-vision scopes and a .50-caliber rifle in order to assist the couple, the government said.

In September, Cirino Gonzalez of Texas was sentenced to eight years in prison following his conviction on charges of conspiracy and aiding and abetting the Browns. He lived for several months with the Browns during the standoff, carried guns on their property and bought a sniper rifle. A month after Gonzalez was sentenced, Daniel Riley of New York got the stiffest term of all: 36 years, including a mandatory 30 years for making and using a destructive device in a violent crime. Among other things, Riley made nine antipersonnel mines designed to fire shotgun shells from trees when approaching marshals hit tripwires, prosecutors said.