The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
A federal appeals court this week upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a civil damages lawsuit brought against the FBI by three members of a southern Michigan militia group arrested on criminal charges in 2010.
The courts held that three members of the Hutaree Militia, also known as the Hutaree Christian Warriors, had failed to timely file administrative claims for damages and that there was insufficient legal jurisdiction for the civil suit.
Nine members of the Hutaree Militia were indicted on federal charges in March 2010 in a high-profile case that drew worldwide attention. The militia group, which formed in 2006 and conducted live-fire military exercise in southern Michigan and northwestern Indiana, was accused of planning a revolution against the U.S. government and plotting to kill law enforcement officers.
A grand jury indicted the nine on charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.
But after federal prosecutors presented their case to a jury in March 2012, U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts dismissed all charges against seven of the defendants, declaring the government’s case was “built largely of circumstantial evidence.” Federal firearms charges against two of the defendants weren’t dismissed.
The case centered on whether the heavily armed Christian militia group was really embarking on an armed confrontation with the federal government or merely living in a fantasy world of “recreation” and protected free speech.
In dismissing the criminal charges before the case went to a jury, the judge said while it appeared that “something fishy was going on,” the government had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendants “reached a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the United States Government.”
Only two members of the group, David Brian Stone, also known as “Captain Hutaree,” and one of his sons, Joshua Matthew Stone, were both found guilty of possession of a machine gun. They both were sentenced in August 2012 to 24 months in prison, with credit for time they had served after their arrests in 2010.
Meanwhile, in 2013, Hutaree members Mike Meeks, Thomas Piatek and David Stone Jr. filed a civil damages suit in the Eastern District of Michigan, claiming FBI agents violated their constitutional rights during the investigation.
The plaintiffs claimed the FBI search warrants used to seize a large cache of weapons were defective and lacked probable cause, which violated each plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights. They also argued the seizure of their firearms constituted a Second Amendment violation, that seizure of their Bibles was a First Amendment violation, and the initiation of criminal proceedings violated their Fifth Amendment rights.
But in February 2014, U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain of Detroit tossed out the civil suit, ruling that the three militia members had failed to come forward with “substantial evidence,” such as proof of perjured grand jury testimony, to rebut the presumption of probable cause established by the indictment.
The judge overseeing the civil case also ruled the plaintiffs’ contention that the search warrant used in their arrests was defective and they were targets of “malicious prosecution” were ruled on in the criminal case and, therefore, couldn’t be re-litigated.
Those rulings were essentially upheld this week when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal from the three men.
It wasn’t exactly a black helicopter, but it was close enough to spook the Oath Keepers keeping watch on the Sugar Pine Mine in southern Oregon.
Someone flew a private helicopter over a tract of land near the mine north of Grants Pass last week and set off a panic among the assembled “Patriots” – Oath Keepers, so-called “III Percenters,” and various other militiamen. And somehow, in militialand, this translated into a certainty that not one, but three helicopters were circling the mine and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was bringing in “troops.”
The militia gathered issued a coded call to arms, bringing the entire collection of would-be defenders rushing to the armed encampment’s staging area near the town of Merlin, bristling with guns and ready for action.
“THIS IS NOT A DRILL. CODE WORDS HAVE JUST BEEN GIVEN THAT OR MINE IS IN DISTRESS. ANY PATRIOTS IN THE AREA. ROLL OUT. ANYONE WHO CAN GO BETTER” read the callout on Facebook.
But according to Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel, it was all a false alarm. The helicopter did not belong to the BLM or any government agency, but instead was privately owned. It was landing on a mountain far from the Sugar Pine Mine. ( continue to full post… )
Perturbed by the influx of armed militiamen bristling with guns and angry rhetoric into their normally quiet little town, residents of rural Josephine County, Oregon, are fighting back, asking the assorted “Oath Keepers” and other “Patriots” who have arrived recently to ostensibly defend a local miner to pack their bags and leave.
As if to prove their point, a number of Oath Keepers showed up on the scene last week and heckled local residents, intimidating them into retreating through the courthouse where they had stood to hold a news conference on Friday.
The community residents – who included a sporting-goods business owner, a former dean at the local community college, and several local church leaders, each of whom read a prepared statement – spoke to reporters outside the Josephine County Courthouse in Grants Pass.
“Certainly the miners are entitled to get their fair day in court and not have anything done to them until after the legal process, but they don’t need gun toting people coming around, threatening the whole community,” said Jerry Reid, a former dean of Rogue Community College. ( continue to full post… )
So much for a repeat of the Bundy Ranch standoff.
A collection of antigovernment “Patriots” gathered Thursday in the parking lot of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in Medford, OR, to protest what they believe was the federal government’s “tyrannical” treatment of miners in the region.
But the organizers of the affair were adamant they were uninterested in a standoff with federal authorities similar to the confrontation between BLM agents and hundreds of heavily armed “Patriots” a year ago at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada. All they wanted, organizers claimed, was to defend ordinary citizens from federal abuses.
“You have untrained people, uneducated people, throwing around their weight, abusing people who are trying to earn a living, and they think it’s OK,” Joseph Rice, coordinator for the Josephine County chapter of Oath Keepers, told about 50 people gathered. “I took an oath to uphold the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic, and a domestic enemy is anyone who will abuse someone’s rights within that Constitution.” ( continue to full post… )
They gathered on a sandy wash not far from the site of where an angry standoff took place one year ago when the radical right came to the aid of Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy in his fight with the federal government. Bundy’s supporters, militiamen and antigovernment “Patriots,” spent this past weekend near his ranch celebrating, as their T-shirts printed for the occasion proclaimed, “Victory Over Oppression.”
Designed to be a “Liberty Celebration,” cowboy poets, musicians and speakers from as far away as Florida spent the weekend playing in the Virgin River, eating hamburgers made with Bundy beef and camping on public lands once heavily patrolled by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents.
But not anymore.
Authorities say a Michigan couple – both school bus drivers – face assorted felony charges after they allegedly embezzled money to purchase an arsenal of weapons that included a machine gun and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Steve Nick, 33, and his wife, Sarah, 32, of Davison Township, both belong to the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. Steven Nick is a gunner for the militia and Sarah Nick is as a medic and grenadier, WNEM-TV in Saginaw reported.
The couple was arrested on March 27 on a combined total of 15 felony charges, including embezzlement, larceny by conversation, unlawful use of a credit card and possession of an illegally shortened firearm. The arrests came after an 8-month investigation that started when law enforcement received a tip about the abuse of an elder.
The Nicks were released on bond and are scheduled to appear tomorrow at a probable cause hearing.
“In all my 16 years this is probably the most unusual case we’ve had,” the sheriff told the Saginaw television station. “If they were going to attack they would have been well armed and would have out manned any police agency in Genesee County.”
The sheriff said the couple allegedly embezzled more than $50,000 from Sarah Nick’s 67-year-old mother to buy the arsenal they stored in a bunker in the basement of their home. The arsenal included a 50-caliber machine gun, a sniper rifle with a suppressor, 17,000 rounds of ammunition, various firearm accessories and bulletproof vests, including one for their 9-year-old daughter.
The sheriff’s office investigating the couple began in August 2014 after an elder abuse task force discovered that the suspects allegedly were writing checks to themselves drawn on accounts belonging to Sarah Nick’s mother, who was ill.
Pickell said detectives discovered the weapons in a bunker, accessible through a wall in the basement, and a Gadsden “Liberty or Die” flag hanging in their bedroom.
The suspects worked as school bus drivers for Davison and Flint school districts.
After her arrest, Sarah Nick was fired from her job. Steven Nick’s current status with the Davison school district is unknown, according to media reports.
While most militia organizers in the United States focus their energies on combating what they see as domestic enemies — particularly the federal government and other alleged participants in a nefarious “New World Order” scheme to enslave Americans — in recent weeks there have been a handful of so-called “Patriots” who have decided it’s more worthwhile to focus their attention overseas. They say they are organizing to fight Islamic State (ISIS) radicals in the Middle East.
The men behind of these efforts — one based in Arkansas, one in Florida — claim to be forming armed squads of militiamen to fly into ISIS hotspots in Iraq and Syria and combat the enemy on the ground. Neither, however, appear to be anything more than a fundraising operation built around pure fantasies.
Their grandiose claims verge on the utterly ridiculous. One promoter, a man who will only identify himself by the alias Swandog, says he’s building a multi-billion dollar operation, will soon have a force of 7,000 specialized military and intelligence operators, and will pay each of them more than $100,000. There is not a shred of known evidence to suggest there’s anything real behind the swaggering talk.
Swandog, a “commander” so brave he refuses to identify himself by name, described for a credulous local Arkansas TV news report his plans for assembling a multi-billion-dollar effort to combat ISIS with volunteers to his “private militia.” With a straight face, the TV station asserted that Swandog “reportedly already has men on the ground in the Middle East” and has raised “tens of millions of dollars.” It even presented a local “expert” who said the effort “seems to be genuine” and could work. In the report, the designated expert, a local criminology professor and former Green Beret, offers no evidence at all for his belief.
“Team Swandog currently numbers just under 500. We are recruiting actively,” Swandog told KTHV-TV reporters from nearby Little Rock. “Right now we do have six advance teams in the theater of operation; they’re in non-combat roles just doing prep work for our arrival.”
He told the reporter that he is recruiting former Special Operations and intelligence personnel, as well as snipers, medics and support staff. He also claimed that he was offering them a base annual salary of $120,000.
Swandog makes some big claims about money: “Most of our funding comes from businesses and churches, we don’t do very much individual fundraising at all. Depending on how fast we want to do this operation, we can do it in the course of two years on about $10 billion, now that’s going to be a fraction of the cost of a full-fledged military operation.”
Without a hint of irony, he also claimed that the team was being selective about just who could sign up. “The challenge is: we deal with a lot of posers, we deal with a lot of people who claim to be a former Navy SEAL or former CIA and we can weed them out just through the interview process,” he said.
Swandog could be describing himself. After a little sleuthing, Hatewatch learned that Swandog’s real name is David Paul Brennan, and he is a Searcy, Ark., man who has at various times in his career has described himself as a “professional badass” and boasted about his supposedly high intelligence-test scores, but who has in fact never served in the military, and has never worked for any intelligence-gathering service.
Brennan acknowledged all this in an interview with Hatewatch. “I do not have a military background,” he said. “About all I’m willing to put out there is having ties to the intelligence community.”
He claimed that he actually represents a team of more than two dozen people who have worked together to formulate a citizens’ strategy for defeating ISIS overseas. “We kind of all met a few years back. We didn’t even know each other until a few years ago; we met at a tattoo shop — the core group — and then kind of added to our little group since then. And when we noticed what was going on with the Islamic State, and we started to research it and realize that everything America does plays into exactly what it is that radicalizes these people and makes more of them, we felt like we needed to try to do something about it.”
Brennan claimed that the group has so far assembled more than $40 million in support from his network, and has already deployed some of its team into the “theater of operations” in the Middle East.
“We are putting together an actual combatant force, which is going to be 3,000 strong, and we’ll have 2,000 in reserve here plus a support element, for a total of 7,000 paid positions for us. And when you get an operation that large, it does take a lot of funding.
“We have raised a considerable amount of money that is funding our advance teams that are in the theater now. And they’re pretty well getting the lay of the land for us. … It’s a pretty robust human-intelligence operation. And that is ongoing. That has funding through the end of April.”
Brennan said these advance-team members are all American citizens. “Most of them come from either the intelligence community, whether it’s defense intelligence agencies, Central Intelligence Agency, or one of the other agencies, or they come from a private security background,” he told Hatewatch.Brennan has created a “Team Swandog” website that lays out their strategy. In a video posted to the site, he described the grand strategy in greater detail.
“We are rising up to destroy the Islamic State and eradicate radical fundamentalist Islam from the face of the planet and we have a strategy to do it with a relative handful of guys compared to a full-scale military invasion. We’re going to do it with a strategy of unconventional warfare, guerrilla tactics,” he boasts.
“Now how do we destroy the Islamic State? We do it by using guerrilla tactics—by unconventional warfare. That’s how we do it. We go in with very inferior numbers as to what is on the ground there to the number of Islamic State fighters there are. But we use superior tactics and superior training. Now our strategy will result in the destruction of the Islamic State by three avenues. One, by tactical victories on the ground; two, by eroding the morale of the Islamic State; and three, by undermining the legitimacy of the Islamic State.”
Calling the fight against ISIS a “religious war,” he continued: “I’m asking you to help Team Swandog on behalf of the United States of America, on behalf of a people who have lost faith in their government to protect them. I’m asking you to help us destroy the Islamic State now. Sooner rather than later, and eradicate this evil ideology of radical fundamentalist Islam from the face of the earth.”
He made a plea for volunteers, too: “Even if you’re just a good old boy who happens to be really good with a high-power rifle, I need you. I can put you to work as a sniper, killing these Islamic State douchebags.” ( continue to full post… )
In early March, a package filled with grief and pride was left on the doorstep of Tracy Jahr and her spouse, Jacquie Gilmore. Wrapped in cardboard and plastic, the package weighed nearly 20 pounds. The women had been waiting for it for years.
Inside was a bronze grave marker that read: “Michael Brett Roark US Army Dec 23 1991 + Dec 6 2011 Cavalry Scout.”
“At first I was angry when I saw it,” Jahr told Hatewatch last week from her home in Washington State. “I was flabbergasted. I felt, really, after all this time. The Army has been dragging its feet from the beginning. That’s why the kids are dead. But at least the marker is some recognition, recognition that Michael was a soldier. He wanted to be a one since he was a little boy.”
Roark was Jahr’s son and, like any parent, she worried she might never see him alive again when he joined the Army. The war on terror was raging overseas.
Her worst fears were realized two and a half weeks shy of her son’s 20th birthday when he was lured into an ambush, forced to his knees and shot in the head by terrorists. But he was not killed in the dusty streets of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan. Roark was killed in the Georgia woods, along with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York, by a group of domestic terrorists, a renegade band of American soldiers, jacked up on drugs, PTSD nightmares and delusional plans to overthrow the government of the United States.
The killer soldiers have all been held to account, the ringleaders sentenced to life in prison for murdering the young sweethearts to keep the group’s plans secret. But Jahr and the family of York say it is time – past time – for the Army to also be held to account for allowing the homegrown terrorists to organize and grow right before its eyes, on the Fort Stewart military base, into a deadly antigovernment militia called FEAR. The group was led by a troubled but charismatic 19-year-old Pvt. Isaac Aguigui.
The families are suing the United States, arguing that Army commanders should have – and could have on numerous occasions – intervened in FEAR’s activities long before their children were killed in what the suit describes as “a heartbreakingly preventable tragedy.”
A few days after her son’s grave marker arrived, Jahr learned that a federal judge in Seattle had set a July 2016 trial date for the civil wrongful death lawsuit, which, in chilling detail, claims that “Army officials recklessly allowed FEAR to form and fester within its ranks at Fort Stewart, Georgia, despite abundant signs that Pvt. Aguigui and his cohorts were dangerous and mentally unstable soldiers in desperate need of arrest and treatment.”
In court papers, lawyers for the government replied to the suit, maintaining, “[T]he United States denies said allegations and puts the Plaintiffs to their proof.”
A First Murder Missed
Jahr and her ex-husband, Brett Roark, with the parents of York, Brenda Thomas and Thomas’ ex-husband, Timothy York, allege in their lawsuit that the most significant failure by the Army in preventing the wrongful death of their children “was also the most shocking.”
On July 17, 2011 – almost six months before Roark and York were killed – Aguigui murdered his wife, Sgt. Deirdre Aguigui, who was six months pregnant at the time. He strangled her in their home on Fort Stewart. Even before her death, the suit contends, “The Army was aware that Isaac and Deirdre Aguigui had a violent and troubled marriage.” Just three months before she died, according to the lawsuit, the sergeant went to see Fort Stewart’s lead advocate for victims of domestic violence and reported that she was “the victim of physical and verbal abuse by her husband, Pvt. Aguigui.”
“Like the murders of Roark and York,” the suit claims, “this was a preventable tragedy that should not have occurred.”
At the time of her death, the lawsuit says, “Sgt. Aguigui’s body showed signs of a struggle, including more than twenty bruises and scrapes on her wrists, arms, head, back and inside her mouth, as well as signs of a sexual assault.”
Army investigators initially suspected foul play. But when an autopsy, conducted by what the suit characterizes as an inexperienced military medical examiner, proved inconclusive as to the cause of death, Aguigui was not charged and the Army soon paid him more than $500,000 in military death benefits.
Aguigui used the money to fund FEAR, which stands for, “Forever Enduring, Always Ready.” ( continue to full post… )
With cries of “Second Amendment remedies” to “government tyranny” ringing in their ears, a crowd of several hundred people gathered near the state Capitol in Olympia, Wa., on Saturday, to voice their defiance of Initiative 594, the new state law requiring background checks on most gun sales.
Most people in the gathering carried firearms of one kind or another, and a number of them openly exchanged weapons as a way to make a statement supporting the “We Will Not Comply” rally. There was even a table marked “I-594 Violation Station,” where attendees could openly swap or sell firearms.
The focus of the event, though, was the parade of speakers who encouraged the audience to defy the new law on the grounds that it violated the Constitution. Many of them were longstanding antigovernment figures, including former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, whose fame on the radical right has much to do with his own challenge of federal gun laws and “III Percent” movement provocateur Mike Vanderboegh.
Accordingly, many of them referenced violent action in defense of their gun rights as the ultimate response to what they see as tyranny.
“Make no mistake: If we do not stand up, America, our children and our grandchildren will take back liberty at the price of blood!” intoned Gavin Seim, the Ephrata, Wa.-based “liberty speaker” and chief organizer of the event.
Vanderboegh was even more explicit: “When democracy turns to tyranny, the armed citizenry still gets to vote!” he told the crowd, to loud cheers. “So be careful what you wish for. You may get it.”
Vanderboegh blamed the passage of I-594 last month, with nearly 60 percent of the vote, on internecine bickering between gun rights organizations, notably the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation. He warned the groups that they needed to work together now to prevent the law from being fully enacted.
“[W]e are here today to remind them, and to remind the enemies of liberty in this state, that if they fail, there are always Second Amendment remedies,” he said. “And like that determined minority of colonists, that original three percent who fought the forces of the greatest empire on the planet to a standstill, we will not be intimidated, we will not compromise, we will not back down, and we will be heard, one way or the other!”
Even more chilling were the demands that were quietly read by an Oath Keepers representative from Washington, Scott Bannister, who demanded that current office holders in the state step down from their positions, or face violent consequences.
“We the people demand that our current government, and their many crimes of treason against the Constitution, breaking the oath they swore to uphold … we are asking them to step back and surrender their position or office they hold, or be arrested by the sheriff of their local state,” he read from a prepared statement. “By their failure to uphold their oath that they swore, they are committing treason and high crimes against our country, and I don’t think any of us want to stand for that. These tyrannical acts and criminal acts toward us American people are out of control.”
Bannister explained further: “Every once in awhile, the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed, and the blood of tyrants needs to flow. If they don’t do it quietly, and resign, sad to say it, maybe that’s what’s gonna happen, I hope not. But we will stand our ground, and no comply.”
Bannister also indulged in a moment of unintended irony when he told the crowd: “I wish more people would realize what’s going on with our country. Because we are all told so many lies, and so many people believe it. It’s really sad that we’ve all been brainwashed.”
Most of the speakers, including state Rep. Elizabeth Scott, who declared “Molon Labe!” (Come and Take Them) to the idea of gun registration, argued that both the Second Amendment, as well as provisions in the state constitution, prohibited such laws as I-594. Several, including Seim, argued that these constitutions prohibited any regulations of any weapons whatsoever.
“We need to draw the line,” Seim said. “Read my lips: The people should be armed equal to government! Because when the people are armed, there is liberty, and when there is liberty, there is safety, and there is security. We must stop trading away our children’s birthright for false promises of security and trade for liberty, because that, my friends, is not liberty, and that’s why we stand here today.”
Richard Mack argued along similar lines. “I don’t care if it’s state level, county level, whatever—the only way a background check before you can get a gun is lawful is if you voluntarily do it,” he told the crowd. “If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. Because you’re not a criminal, you’re an American, and you don’t have to go through that. Because your government has no authority, no right, no power, no business ever saying to you, ‘Unless you submit and unless you subject yourself to my background check, you can’t have your Second Amendment.’
“That’s not the way our government works. We don’t need your permission! We don’t need your permission to be here, or to exercise our Second Amendment rights, but you need our permission to exist. You got it all backwards!” he said. “And we will not comply, we will not disarm, we will not be slaves, and we will not subject ourselves to you, in any way!”
Seim demonstrated how deeply he embraced this idea at the end of the four-hour-long program by burning his state concealed-carry permit, claiming that the government didn’t have the power to control his gun rights.
“You do not need a permit to exercise your rights,” he said. “If you, my friends, want a tank in your front yard, then buy one, and I for one may want to live next door, because your house will be the safest on the block.
“I was on a radio interview a little while ago, as we were planning this rally,” he continued. “He suggested that I was too radical. And he said, ‘If you stood up before all those people and said you ought to be able to own bazookas, they would not stand with you.’ And I said, ‘Well, challenge accepted,’ or something along those lines. So I say, if you want to own a bazooka, you can own a bazooka! Although an AR-15 might actually be a more effective weapon.”
The crowd cheered loudly, and a number of them came up to toss their concealed-carry permits into the fire as well.
Local authorities have intervened and demanded that the Oath Keepers, an antigovernment group comprised of former military and law enforcement personnel, cease providing security for several Ferguson, Mo., businesses in the aftermath of a grand jury decision not to indict the white police officer who killed Michael Brown.
In a public statement, the St. Louis County Police Department confirmed that the Oath Keepers had travelled to Ferguson and begun “walking the rooftops of businesses” with “semi-automatic rifles” “for the purported reason of providing security to local business during the civil unrest in the area.” In so doing, police say, they broke the law.
“[T]he individuals from the group did not adhere to St. Louis County ordinance regulating security officers, couriers, and guard,” a statement the St. Louis Police Department provided Hatewatch said. The ordinance “prohibits anyone from providing security without first obtaining a license.”