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Four face charges in arming, aiding fugitive N.H. couple

(jim cole/associated press)

CONCORD, N.H. - Two men pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of providing guns or other supplies to a fugitive couple convicted of tax evasion, while two other supporters of Ed and Elaine Brown were awaiting extradition to face the charges.

Daniel Riley, 40, of Cohoes, N.Y., and Robert Wolffe, 50, of Randolph, Vt., made separate, brief appearances in a federal courtroom on charges of supporting the convicted couple during their self-imposed exile at their home in Plainfield. Lawyers for both were appointed for trials in November. Bail hearings were scheduled for Monday.

Meanwhile, authorities on eastern Long Island reported seizing a pipe bomb and rifles from the Brookhaven home of Jason Gerhard, 22, a supporter of the Browns and a recent Army recruit. Gerhard was arrested Wednesday at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

A fourth man, Cirino Gonzalez, 30, was arrested in Alice, Texas. Gerhard and Gonzalez are awaiting extradition hearings before they can be brought to New Hampshire to face the charges.

The Browns, who were convicted in January and have refused to turn themselves in to authorities, contend that the federal income tax is not legitimate. They have drawn supporters from across the country.

The hearings for Riley and Wolffe drew a handful of supporters to the federal courthouse, including a couple wearing T-shirts reading, "I support Ed and Elaine Brown, Show me the law" and one person holding a painted sign with the slogan, "Free the Ed Brown Supporters."

Wolffe's wife also was present.

Stephen Monier, the US marshal for New Hampshire, warned yesterday that anyone helping the Browns could face prosecution and that the Browns face more extensive criminal charges as they continue their monthslong refusal to report to prison.

"This was a tax case, but the Browns have allegedly engaged with others and encouraged others to assist them in their ongoing obstruction of justice," Monier said.

He refused to elaborate on more arrests of supporters or charges against the Browns, the location of guns purchased for the Browns, or plans to arrest them.

"Their support has begun to diminish . . . and we hope this sends a strong message to anybody who may be considering going there," Monier said.

Authorities have cut phone lines and power to the house, which is outfitted to produce and run on wind and solar power, but Monier said his office is still hoping the Browns will surrender.

"We have said from the beginning that we are going to take a slow, deliberate, and methodical approach to convincing the Browns that they need to do the right thing and surrender to authorities as they are legally obligated to do," Monier said. "So far, that hasn't happened, but we're going to continue taking that careful and deliberate approach. At the same time, we're going to be looking at others who may be aiding and abetting them in their obstruction of justice."

A jury found the Browns guilty of avoiding taxes on $1.9 million of income - mostly earned by Elaine Brown, a dentist - between 1996 and 2003. They each were sentenced to more than five years in prison, and authorities seized property they owned in Lebanon.

Since abandoning his trial and retreating to his home, Ed Brown has repeatedly said that any attempt to arrest him would result in a violent confrontation.

Indictments against Riley, Gerhard, and Gonzalez contain similar allegations, that the men provided weapons to the Browns, interfered with attempts to arrest the couple, and publicly declared their intention to stage an armed resistance. Authorities allege that the three men purchased at least nine guns, eight rifles and one shotgun, for the Browns, according to the documents.

Riley, Gonzalez, and Gerhard each are charged with conspiracy against federal officers, conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, firearms possession, and being an accessory after the fact. Gerhard faces four extra weapons charges.

Wolffe faces one felony count of being an accessory after the fact. He is accused of providing a car to the Browns that supporters used to run errands and gather supplies, of arranging deliveries of food and supplies, of providing armed security on the Plainfield property, and of conducting surveillance of US marshals.

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