A father and his son who share extremist views, a dislike for the law and a love of illegal firearms were arraigned today in Phoenix on a seven-count federal indictment that could send them back to federal prison for 10 years.
Trial was set for Jan. 7 before U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow.
Kirby K. Kehoe, 65, and Cheyne C. Kehoe, 37, were arrested Oct. 14 after heavily armed federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) raided what they now describe as an “off-the-grid compound” 140 miles north of Phoenix. What they found, court documents disclose, was a commercial-grade marijuana operation.
Cheyne Kehoe was part of a major white supremacist group, the Aryan Peoples Republic, that his brother Chevie led and that worked in the 1990s to carve an all-white nation out of the United States. Cheyne, who was convicted of lesser charges in that plot, was released in 2008. Chevie is still serving a life sentence in connection with the murder of an entire Arkansas family, including an 8-year-old girl, the killing of a romantic rival, and other charges. Their father, Kirby Kehoe, was convicted of related weapons charges in the case.
In the new Arizona case against Cheyne and Kirby Kehoe, authorities say the pot growers protected themselves and their drug operation with firearms they couldn’t legally possess because of their prior crimes.
On Nov. 6, a grand jury in Phoenix indicted Kirby Kehoe on five federal charges: being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition; being a violent felon in possession of body armor; possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; possession with intent to distribute marijuana and conspiracy.
His son was indicted on four counts: being a felon in possession of firearms; being a violent felon in possession of body armor; aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute marijuana and conspiracy.
Both defendants — with past ties to Christian Identity groups espousing a hatred of Jews and minorities — face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted.
The marijuana farm they are accused of operating was set up on a 40-acre rural site near Ash Fork, Ariz., where a series of large, metal railroad shipping containers — dotting the landscape — apparently were used to grow, process and store the marijuana. Camouflage netting was used in an attempt to conceal the operation, including marijuana plants planted outdoors, from the air.
Kirby Kehoe, with his array of firearms and body armor, lived in a small one-bedroom trailer on the property. There also was a truck-camper shell on the property, court documents say.
ATF agents seized 16,891 rounds of ammunition, 17 firearms, body armor and about 15 pounds of marijuana, both processed and growing plants, court records say. Prosecutors are now seeking forfeiture of those items as part of the criminal case.
If they know, federal authorities aren’t saying where the defendants were selling their marijuana or if the operation was tied in any way to extremist groups or individuals.
“The occupants were growing marijuana for commercial sale and multiple loaded firearms, along with ammunition, were found at the compound,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark E. Aspey wrote in ordering the defendants detained without bond.
“It is reasonable to conclude that the firearms, including those found in the defendant’s [Kirby Kehoe’s] bedroom in his trailer, were present to aid in guarding the illegal drug operation,” the judge’s order said. Those weapons included a 9mm Glock pistol, a shotgun and an AR-15 military-style assault rifle, court documents say.
One of Kirby Kehoe’s sons questioned by federal agents but not identified in court documents said his father “has extreme antigovernment views, was unstable and would act on those views,” the order said.
Kirby Kehoe refused to answer questions from a pre-trial services probation officer, so, to gain background information, the court obtained a 1999 pre-sentence report from a prior conviction in the Eastern District of Washington. That report says he had “significant federal convictions for possession of unregistered firearms, possession of a machine gun, transportation of firearms while under indictment and a racketeering charge linked to a murder.” He served 95 months in prison — almost eight years — for those crimes.
“At the time of his arrest [last month], defendant [Kirby Kehoe] was living in a compound near Ash Fork, Arizona, off the grid with several of his adult sons,” the judge said, agreeing with prosecutors that the defendant would pose both a flight risk and a danger to the community if released prior to trial. Other than Cheyne, Kehoe’s sons who reportedly were living at the compound aren’t identified in court documents.
Kirby Kehoe and his large family, who have had itinerant lifestyles, have past ties to various white supremacist and Christian Identity groups and churches in Idaho, northeastern Washington state, northwestern Montana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and elsewhere.
In 1997, Cheyne Kehoe and his older brother Chevie, now serving a life term for his involvement in a triple murder and other crimes, were involved in two shootouts with police in Wilmington, Ohio. The shootout was captured on a police dash-camera and the video was widely broadcast during a nationwide manhunt leading to the arrests of the Kehoe brothers.
Kirby Kehoe was released from federal prison in February 2005 and, sometime thereafter, moved to Arizona. How or where he got the funds to buy the arsenal of firearms, ammunition, body armor, the rural property and large railroad containers hasn’t been disclosed.
At a detention hearing, a court-appointed attorney sought Kirby Kehoe’s pre-trial release from jail, saying he was Vietnam veteran and a father, and not a flight risk or danger to others.
But federal prosecutors told the court that while it’s true the elder Kehoe served briefly in the U.S. military, he was on a Navy ship stationed in the Mediterranean and not in Vietnam.
Furthermore, they said, about a year after he enlisted, the elder Kehoe twice went “absent without leave” and ultimately was discharged as “unsuitable for military service.” A military psychiatric evaluation showed Kirby Kehoe has a “passive aggressive personality,” said prosecutors who later filed supporting documents.
The documents cite Kehoe, showing perhaps his first antigovernment sentiments, writing in 1966: “I will accept an administrative discharge under unsuitability because I am totaly [sic] unsuited for milatary [sic] life as far as I’m concerned. I believe I have had too much freedom and have had my own way too long to change to milatary [sic] life in just 4 years.”