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Behind the Walls

Far-right gun enthusiasts say they are planning to build a walled city in northern Idaho for “Patriots” who love the Constitution and hate “liberals, Marxists and blue voters.” But a convicted con man is the primary promoter of the fantastic scheme, and there’s little to suggest that it will ever become what its backers are promising.

They call it III Citadel, and they say they’ve already lined up “hundreds” of extreme-right gun lovers to join them in the walled city they’re planning for a lonely tract in northern Idaho. The end game, they say, is an ideologically pure settlement of 7,000 “Patriots” built around a huge arms factory.

But there’s no sign that the latest fantastic plans from antigovernment extremists will ever come to much. Dave Resser, the sheriff of sparsely populated Benewah County, calls the whole thing a “scam.”

They say they’re not racists and welcome any and all comers, so long as they promise to follow the rules and they’re devoted and well-armed defenders of the Constitution — “liberals, Marxists and blue voters” need not apply.

Backers of the III Citadel project have purchased 20 acres in Benewah County, in Idaho’s Panhandle. The area was long known for radical-right activity, especially before the Aryan Nations compound near Hayden Lake was sold to satisfy a 2000 civil court judgment.

They say their project is a serious one, not merely the latest windmill-tilting from hard-line extremists seeking to create an independent society divorced from the increasingly multicultural world around them. But outside of the purchase of the Benewah County tract and the pulling of a permit or two, there’s little to suggest the project could ever come close to the predictions its backers are making. Even other extreme rightists question the plan, some seeing it as the latest embarrassment from the fantasists among them. It hasn’t helped that the project’s chief backer is a convicted con man who, with his wife, has started a whole series of unsuccessful businesses and consulting services.

It’s hard to say if anything at all will come of the project described by its backers as a kind of extreme-right Disneyland — a destination for a certain type of tourist and a place where every person over 13 would own an assault rifle, and where the bulk of the population would work in an arms factory.

But even if it all comes to nothing, it won’t be for want of attention. In recent months, the latest talk of a major American right-wing compound has gotten attention around the country and even in the foreign press, despite the fact that its promoters won’t give interviews and rely on their websites instead. One thing does seem eminently clear. “The Citadel,” as its backers say on a website promoting their Alice in Wonderland plans, “is not the best housing solution for everyone.”

Housing for ‘Patriots’
The prime promoter of the Citadel project — ultimately pictured as a one-square-mile enclave — is Christian Allen Kerodin, who with his associates recently purchased 20 acres of a mountaintop south of St. Maries, Idaho, in Benewah County. Kerodin and the others say their purpose is to build a remote home and defendable redoubt for “3 percenters” — the minority of the population that they believe will be ready “in the event of a national economic implosion.” The site is 3,500 feet above sea level in an area known for heavy snow during frigid Idaho winters.

“This will become the initial factory location for our firearms company and will be developed into a Showcase for the larger Citadel concept,” the III Citadel website says. Improvements to the site, it adds, are slated for this summer.

A key part of the plan is that the city’s inhabitants will have to remain ideologically pure, and could face expulsion or even trials for treason if they do not. That’s why they won’t be allowed to own property, only to lease homes.

“One of the primary reasons for a lease paradigm versus private property inside our walls is our desire to make the community for Patriots only,” the Citadel website says. “[Our] model will be similar in many ways to that of Disneyland. It is a walled, gated private property with controlled access. People pay to enter and agree to the rules because they see value in doing so. It is all based on a voluntary agreement between the owners of the property and those who want to come inside.”

It’s unclear precisely who the “owners” would be, but public documents indicate that Kerodin and his wife are key players.

The “Patriot Agreement” that inhabitants will have to sign says the Citadel will be “a martial endeavor designed to protect Residents in times of peril (natural or man-made). The Citadel will be built as a fortified bastion of Liberty.”

It describes “able-bodied adults” as those 13 years old and older and says each must possess an AR-15 assault rifle, five magazines and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and pass annual firearms shooting tests with a pistol and a rifle.

Convicted con man Christian Allen Kerodin and other principles of the III Citadel project have created an “artist concept” of their planned walled city. But beyond that and their purchase of 20 remote acres south of St. Maries, Idaho, there is little to suggest their dreams will ever become a reality.

Kerodin and his crew already are accepting $208 “application fees” from people interested in moving to III Citadel and claim they are fielding hundreds of inquiries. If applicants are rejected, they will only get $175 refunded.

“We have many amazing folks who are just waiting for the last pieces to fall into place to head to Idaho,” a Citadel promoter identified only as “Vernon” posted in January. “Machinists, IT specialists, ex military, medical, education, farmers, a successful professional land developer — the list is awesome and growing daily,” he wrote. “The extensive knowledge and experience of those who are ready to go is impressive. We will have everything we need to make a thriving community.”

A Tangle of Companies
In January, at around the same time as the land was purchased, a federal firearms permit was issued to James L. Miller Jr. of Inwood, W. Va., for a company called III Arms, which is to be the owner of the planned firearms factory. Miller’s firm, Millerized LLC, applied for the license, doing business as III Arms Co., public records show. Kerodin’s wife, Holly Kerodin of Gaithersburg, Md., is listed in Idaho public records as the principle of III Arms.

On the III Arms website, Miller is depicted with the permit in one hand and a middle finger extending from the other. In October, Miller appeared at a Patriot gathering in Tarboro, N.C., and discussed III Arms’ plans to manufacture AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifles and 1911-style handguns.

“The III Arms Company, [with] current facilities located in West Virginia, was founded to act as the economic cornerstone of the Citadel,” the III Arms website says. “Forty-plus American Patriots pulled together to get this company off the ground to serve two purposes: To build solid fighting arms to defend our Liberty and our fellow Patriots, and to raise revenue to build the Citadel.”

III Arms isn’t the only firm related to the Citadel in a confusing array of corporate ties. The Kerodins, who still live in Maryland, have started a companion company, III Gear. The firm focuses on gun show and Internet sales and offers everything from T-shirts and coffee mugs to 30-round clips for AR-15 assault rifles and tomato seeds. Then there’s III Construction, owned by Jake and Elizabeth Marrujo of Mission Viejo, Calif., that apparently intends to build homes and other buildings inside the planned walled city. And, finally, Citadel Land Development LLC, controlled by Holly Kerodin and the Kerodins’ “Rightful Liberty Project.”

Who are all these people? In many cases, it’s not clear what their backgrounds are or how they relate to one another. But in the Kerodins’ case, some key background facts are known.

Christian Kerodin, who changed his name from Christian Hyman, is a three-time felon who served time in federal prison for extorting shopping centers near Washington, D.C., and possessing an illegal firearm about a decade ago. He and his wife have had a series of business ventures over the years that have fizzled — including furnace and air conditioner repair, rape safety counseling, publishing and charity consulting.

James L. Miller Jr. recently obtained a federal firearms permit for III Arms, a company that is supposed to be the owner of a gun factory at the heart of the III Citadel project. Miller, who wears a tattoo bearing the firm’s name, plans to manufacture AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifles and a “1911-style” semi-automatic pistol.

But not all others.

In various blog posts, while extolling the virtues of III Citadel, Kerodin says “blue voters” are Marxists and “active traitors” who are “seeking the violent overthrow” of the country and its constitution. He describes as “traitors” those who support Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, gun control and other social welfare programs. At the same time, Kerodin says, “Rightful Liberty,” which will be the cornerstone of III Citadel, gives him the right to take “preemptive action” or seek forced deportation of those who don’t agree with his views. “Any man or woman who deliberately infringes upon my Rightful Liberty immediately gets green-lighted on my Targeting Matrix,” he wrote last year in a blog post.

“It is MY Rightful Liberty. It is MY duty to defend it. If you try to take it, if you play any role in trying to take it, you are guilty of trying to deprive my Rightful Liberty given to me by Natural Law,” Kerodin wrote. Natural law is a term sometimes used by white supremacists and white separatists to justify racial superiority and separation, but III Citadel’s promotional material says “Rightful liberty knows no racial barriers. We care not from which part of the globe you or your ancestors originated. We care only that you adhere to the Patriot Agreement.”

When the “impending chaos” he predicts hits the United States, Kerodin expects bad things: “The Southwest will be purged of Latinos, and no one will be checking papers. Enclaves of Muslims such as in Detroit will be culled, one way or another. March north or die. There will be massive migrations as people flee judgment by fed-up Americans looking for some payback.”

Skepticism Abounds
Kerodin and his friends aren’t getting much support — even from those who might be expected to show some sympathy.

“I share some strong reservations about the Citadel community plan and the group’s leadership. (Namely, Mr. Kerodin),” survivalist and antigovernment “sovereign citizen” blogger James Wesley, Rawles wrote in February. (Rawles’ bizarre use of a comma in his name is typical of some sovereigns.) Credited with first promoting the idea of a fortified “American Redoubt” community for Patriots in the Pacific Northwest, Rawles made it clear he has nothing to do with Kerodin or the others promoting III Citadel.

“I don’t think that the current Citadel plan has much chance of success,” Rawles wrote on his blog. Other far-right criticism came from Patrice Lewis, a columnist for the conspiracy-minded WorldNetDaily “news” website. Lewis lives in Benewah County and describes herself as “a practical constitutional conservative stay-at-home gun-toting homeschooling cow-milking rural-living Christian mom.”

“Truth be told,” she said of III Citadel, “it’s something of a regional embarrassment, the nagging feeling that the rest of the nation will (as usual) regard Idaho as a collection of tinfoil-hat-wearing nut jobs holing up in the mountains against an economic collapse.”

One thing’s for sure, Lewis said, “There is no community-wide welcoming sign for the concept. While our county has reasonably relaxed building regulations, it’s not the place of anarchy some people would like to think, and the Citadel will find itself subject to all the rules and regulations everyone else must obey. If participants in the Citadel think they’re going to find the mythical western frontier where they are not bound by any laws except their own, they’re in for a surprise.”

Christina Crawford, president of the Benewah Human Rights Coalition, said that many in her community question if the Citadel backers can find enough land and meet necessary water-rights, sanitation and other environmental requirements.

Although the Citadel backers claim they already have several hundred families planning to move to their dream city, there’s zero evidence to back that up. In any event, Crawford said, reports of the planned project have “alerted — I won’t say alarmed — people who live here.”

Tony Stewart, a longtime human rights activist and political scientist who lives about 50 miles from the proposed Patriot fortress, said those attracted to the III Citadel concept appear to be driven by fear, anger and frustration — a brand of paranoia that pushes them to seek isolation from the larger society.

Richard King, chairman of the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at nearby Washington State University, told the Intelligence Report that III Citadel “fits a long pattern among Patriots, neo-Nazis, sovereigns and those with antigovernment agendas to prize the Pacific Northwest as an ideal location to escape from modern America.”

“On a deeper level, I think it reminds us of the breakdown of an older social order and anxieties associated with emergent patterns and relations – a black president, globalization, majority minority nation, concentration of wealth and class inequalities, shifting norms around gender and sexuality, and so forth.”

Those lured by III Citadel, King said, may be experiencing “a sense of an endangered way of life, anchored in a sense of imperiled whiteness, especially as inflected by class, gender and sexuality.” At the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, director David Adler also expressed doubts “the project will get off the ground.”

“In a larger frame, it’s difficult to imagine that the creation of a castle, really a medieval fortress, will find much appeal,” Adler told the Report.

But if the paranoia-fueled campaign is successful among Patriots who believe in the “inevitability of a violent clash with the government,” Adler said the “prospect of a small army living within a fortress will generate concerns about its intentions and purposes.”