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In Tennessee, a 'Patriot' Uprising Collapses

Members of antigovernment "Patriot" groups allegedly plotted to take over the Tennessee town of Madisonville recently. 

Up until April of this year, the Tennessee city of Madisonville was known simply as the hometown of Estes Kefauver, the U.S. senator who campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 in a coonskin cap, and who was Adlai Stevenson's running mate in the 1956 presidential election won by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kefauver was most famous for his role in leading a 1950 commission looking into organized crime.

That changed when members of antigovernment "Patriot" groups allegedly plotted to take over the town's courthouse, if not the entire town of 4,700 people. If not for Darren Wesley Huff's purported penchant for blabbing about the plot, there's no telling what might have happened, according to a federal complaint.

Walter Francis Fitzpatrick was arrested in Madisonville on April 2 after he tried to make a citizen's arrest of the foreman of the county grand jury. He was charged with inciting a riot and disrupting an official public meeting and posted bail later. The retired Navy commander is the leader of American Grand Jury, a Patriot outfit that goes around the country issuing meaningless documents calling for the indictment of President Obama for treason on the grounds that he is not a U.S. citizen. The documents are routinely disregarded by officials, but Fitzpatrick allegedly tried in this case to place the grand jury foreman under arrest for "official misconduct."

At his home in Dalton, Ga., Huff got wind of Fitzpatrick's plight and mentioned to a bank manager that he was a member of the Georgia Militia. He allegedly said that he and members of eight or nine other militia groups were planning to go to Madisonville on April 20 — when Fitzpatrick had a scheduled court appearance — to "take over the city." The bank official told the FBI, and agents questioned Huff at his home. Huff reportedly told them that yes, he and others were planning to help Fitzpatrick make citizen's arrests — not just of the grand jury foreman, but of 24 officials in all. Officials say that Huff added that he would be armed with his Colt .45 pistol and AK-47 rifle, but that there would be no violence unless the militiamen were provoked.

The FBI watched Huff as he left his home for Tennessee in his Sierra pickup, adorned with the logo of the Oath Keepers Patriot group. He was stopped in Tennessee and issued a warning for three traffic violations. He allegedly told officers that if he and others — including some he believed to be Oath Keepers — had enough armed people, they would take over the Madisonville courthouse that day and make arrests of people named in "arrest warrants" signed by Fitzpatrick. Otherwise, they would return in a week or two, Huff said, reportedly adding that he was ready to die for his rights and his beliefs.

Law enforcement officials observed Huff and more than a dozen others as they gathered outside the Madisonville courthouse, some of them openly displaying firearms. Several seemed to be conducting surveillance of the courthouse and the agents who were watching them. Courthouse employees had already been told to stay home in anticipation of the showdown, and Fitzpatrick's hearing was postponed. No citizen's arrests were attempted, and no militiamen were arrested.

The next day, Huff spoke on a radio show about his drive to Madisonville and the fact that he had his AK-47 and ammunition with him. A few days after that he was arrested and charged with traveling across state lines with intent to incite a riot, along with transporting a firearm in furtherance of a civil disorder. Huff pleaded not guilty and is free pending a trial. For now, those two dozen Madisonville officials have not been nabbed by militiamen making citizen's arrests.