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Feds keep close eye on Browns

Concord Monitor | September 17, 2007
Margot Sanger-Katz

Before arresting four supporters of Ed and Elaine Brown last week, U.S. marshals conducted extensive surveillance on the tax protesting couple who are holed up in their Plainfield home, court documents show.

While the marshals have said little about their investigation of the Browns and their allies over the past eight months, recently unsealed affidavits reveal that they have quietly been interrogating some of the Browns' supporters, conducting aerial surveillance and intercepting mailed packages for the couple. That information helped lead to the arrest last week of four core supporters of the couple. The court documents also outline facts that could form the basis for new charges against the Browns themselves.

The affidavits, which were submitted by marshals as a basis for three of the four arrest warrants, detail some of those surveillance findings, including intelligence about the layout of the Browns' property, explosives, and security measures employed to protect Ed and Elaine Brown.

The Browns were convicted in January of a series of tax-related crimes and have remained in their hilltop home for months, threatening violence if marshals come to arrest them. They have called repeatedly for supporters to come and guard the property and to send military-style supplies and provisions.

Stephen Monier, the U.S. Marshal for New Hampshire, has said little about the marshals' plans for the Browns or their supporters and has declined to describe evidence discovered by his agents. Since the Browns' sentencing in April, Monier has repeated that supporters may face criminal sanctions for aiding the Browns and that he has no plans to raid the Brown home.

"We've said from the beginning that we're going to take a slow, deliberate and methodical approach," Monier said at a press briefing Thursday.
The recently unsealed documents give the fullest picture yet of the marshals' techniques and findings.

According to the documents, one of the Browns' supporters, Daniel Riley, of Cohoes, N.Y., gave investigators a detailed account of weapons and explosive devices on the Browns' property after he was detained by marshals in June. Riley was walking the Browns' dog when he stumbled upon a surveillance team in the woods near the driveway. On a video Riley posted on the internet that night, he described his capture and interrogation, but did not say that he provided the marshals with information.

But according to one of the affidavits, Riley described how he came to visit the Browns, what weapons he brought into the house and what weapons he saw while he was there. He told investigators that he had seen several rifles, handguns and two black powder explosive devices in the house that were designed to be used as grenades. Ed Brown said there were 10 to 20 similar explosive devices on the property, Riley told marshals.

Riley also told investigators that he had brought a number of supplies to the house that Ed Brown requested, including 25 fire extinguishers, and a .50-caliber rifle, and that he had ordered 12 pounds of Tannerite, a chemical agent for an explosive device, the document says.

The documents describe aerial surveillance of the Brown house on the day Riley was detained. According to another of the affidavits, a marshal was watching the house from a plane that day with a telephoto lens. That marshal was able to observe Cirino Gonzalez of Alice, Texas, another recently arrested Brown supporter, walking the property with a high-powered rifle and Ed Brown using vehicles to block his driveway.

"As Brown drove the cars, Gonzalez walked within several feet of Brown and paid careful attention to what was happening on the property while carrying a high-powered rifle," the affidavit says.

According to the third affidavit, supporters sent the Browns camouflage outfits, fishing weights, fishing line, flashlights, solar powered security lights and more than 500 pounds of dehydrated food. The document used to secure an arrest warrant for Robert Wolffe of Randolph, Vt., describes many of the packages mailed to Wolffe after he offered his address as the site of a "Liberty Defense Project" and said he'd deliver any mailings to the Browns.

An affidavit supporting the arrest warrant of Jason Gerhard, the Brown supporter charged with the most crimes last week, has not been made public. Marshals also found a pipe bomb and other weapons at Gerhard's Brookhaven, N.Y., home last week, according to the local police.

Two Brown supporters who have not been arrested were also mentioned in the documents. Rob Jacobs of Allenstown, who moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project, and James Hobbs of Phoenix, who lived in a trailer on the Brown property for several weeks this summer, are both described as helping the arrested supporters.

On Saturday, marshals continued to ratchet up pressure on the couple, when they established a checkpoint near their home to prevent visitors from attending a planned "Fall Freedom Fest" party. One supporter, Lauren Canairo, was arrested after she refused to follow the marshals' instructions, Monier said Saturday.

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