Elaine Brown sentenced to 35 years in standoff
A New Hampshire dentist, tax protester and longtime militia activist who participated with her husband in a lengthy standoff with federal agents was sentenced to 35 years in prison Oct. 2 after being convicted of federal weapons and conspiracy charges.
The sentence amounts to a life term for 68-year-old Elaine Brown, who aided her husband, one-time militia leader Ed Brown, in accumulating a vast arsenal of explosives and weapons, including booby traps and .50-caliber sniper rifles, after they refused to surrender to serve prison time for their 2007 convictions for tax-related felonies.
The Browns avoided capture for almost nine months by holing up in their fortified concrete home in the town of Plainfield. They became celebrities in the antigovernment "Patriot" and tax-protest movements.
During the standoff, the Browns threatened violence if law enforcement agents tried to arrest them. They portrayed their resistance as a political protest against an unjust federal government and invalid tax laws. Supporters from across the country brought them food, walkie-talkies, guns, night-vision gear, ammunition and material to build improvised explosive devices.
The standoff ended with their arrest when a small team of U.S. marshals infiltrated the house-turned-compound by posing as admirers.
Although the sentence handed down by Judge George Singal was shorter than federal sentencing guidelines recommended, he condemned the Browns' conduct, which he said ruined the lives of several of their supporters and could have resulted in multiple deaths.
"Mr. and Mrs. Brown did not engage in a principled dissent against laws they felt to be unjust," Singal said. "Let us not be fooled. The conduct engaged in by Mrs. Brown was purely criminal."
Addressing the court at the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Huftalen accused Brown of recruiting and mentoring impressionable young supporters, four of whom are either serving lengthy prison terms or facing sentencing. For instance, Jason Gerhard, who was 20 years old when he met the Browns, is serving a 20-year sentence for aiding the Browns during the standoff. Another supporter, Daniel Riley, is serving 36 years.
"Her impact on other peoples' lives has been far-reaching, in a negative way," Huftalen said.
At the time of her arrest, Elaine Brown was carrying a Glock pistol with a high-capacity magazine. One of the undercover U.S. marshals who arrested Brown testified that she pointed that gun at members of his team while she debated whether she could trust them.
Huftalen emphasized the size — and deadliness — of the arsenal the Browns possessed by the end of the standoff. It included 22 pipe bombs, gunpowder grenades and exploding rifle targets, along with dozens of firearms and more than 50,000 rounds of ammunition stored in a hidden bunker.
"This is a house you could not believe unless you had been in there — this is a house where when you walk in, you say, 'Holy expletive deleted,'" Huftalen said. "This was her house."
Elaine Brown used her opportunity to address the court to compare herself to Moses and the authors of the U.S. Constitution. "I do not submit and I will never submit," she said.
Her statement drew a smattering of applause from a small group of supporters. One of them, Alan Kiser of Warren, Pa., wearing a necktie bearing the words of the Declaration of Independence, called the Browns heroes.
"They're our George Washingtons, our Thomas Jeffersons, our Benjamin Franklins, standing up for the American dream," he told the Concord Monitor.
Ed Brown's sentencing, originally scheduled for early October, was postponed so he could undergo psychological testing; his lawyer contended that Brown is "delusional." Like his wife, he faces what is an effective life sentence.