Tax protester in 2007 armed standoff to remain in prison
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire man will face more time in prison, a judge decided Tuesday in a case resulting from a monthslong armed standoff with U.S. marshals in 2007 over a tax evasion conviction that led to the discovery of explosives and booby traps on his property.
A judge resentenced Edward Brown to 25 years in prison on charges resulting from the standoff. Brown has already served 13 years, five for the tax conviction, followed by eight from the standoff, resulting in about 17 additional years in prison.
“It’s a death sentence, is what it is,” Brown, 78, said to a friend as he was led away in handcuffs. His lawyer filed a notice of appeal.
Brown was originally sentenced to 37 years in prison after the standoff at his fortress-like home in Plainfield, New Hampshire. His wife, Elaine Brown, received a 35-year sentence. A judge decided in January she could be released after serving over 12 years. She is seeking a divorce.
One charge against the Browns that involved the use of explosives carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years. It was vacated following a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that found the provision of the law under which they were convicted was invalid.
Edward Brown had said resentencing him would be unconstitutional, violating the Fifth Amendment due process clause and the double jeopardy prohibition against multiple punishments for an offense.
He also cited his minimal history of criminal behavior, declining health, age and risk factors for complications from COVID-19, along with the fact that Elaine Brown and two other defendants were sentenced to time served.
U.S. District Judge George Singal rejected those arguments. He said he believed after talking to Elaine Brown and the others that they had expressed remorse and had learned something during the time they were in prison.
“They learned that what they had done was wrong; they learned that what they had done was a mistake,” Singal said. “I don’t see that in Mr. Brown.”
Brown’s lawyer, Benjamin Falkner, said Brown has long held beliefs challenging the government.
“The question isn’t what his beliefs are; the question is, what are his acts?” Falkner said, noting that Brown has been cooperative in prison, appeared in court and recognized that he would be under supervised release if allowed to leave prison.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Aframe said that he didn’t think anything about Brown had changed and that he remained a public safety risk.
“It wasn’t strength or muscle that led to this,” he said, “It was charisma, it was a set of beliefs and the ability to prepare weapons.”
Brown himself spoke for over an hour, talking about how he couldn’t get a fair trial on the tax charge and had walked out of court.
He also said that he would never hurt anyone, even though Singal noted 20 pipe bombs were found in Brown’s bedroom and explosive devices with nails taped around them were found in the home and hanging from trees. Tear gas canisters, ammunition and firearms also were found on the property.
Brown said the devices didn’t work. He also said he no longer has any need for guns. He said that friends were holding 33 guns that belonged to him and that he wants to sell them.
Elaine, a dentist, and Edward, an exterminator, were initially convicted of failing to pay taxes on $1.9 million of income over eight years. The couple said the federal income tax is unconstitutional.
Their argument, repeatedly rejected by courts, was that no law authorizes the federal income tax and that the 1913 constitutional amendment permitting it was never properly ratified.
The Browns had declined to appear in court and retreated to their home. Anti-tax crusaders and out-of-state militia groups rallied to their cause. Supporters waved “Don’t tread on me” flags and “Don’t Murder the Browns for Money” signs.
Among the visitors was Randy Weaver, whose wife and son were killed along with a deputy marshal during the infamous Ruby Ridge shootout with federal agents in North Idaho in 1992.
U.S. marshals posing as supporters eventually gained entry to the Browns’ home and arrested them. No one was hurt.