N.H. tax evader gets 35 years for standoff

Elaine Brown and her husband, Ed Brown, met the press at their home in Plainfield, N.H., in 2007. Elaine Brown and her husband, Ed Brown, met the press at their home in Plainfield, N.H., in 2007. (Jim Cole/Associated Press/File)
By Holly Ramer
Associated Press / October 3, 2009

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CONCORD, N.H. - A New Hampshire woman sentenced to 35 years in prison yesterday for plotting to kill federal agents during a nine-month standoff at her fortress-like home said she will continue to fight government corruption from behind bars.

At her sentencing hearing, Elaine Brown said the judge’s decision mattered little to her, given her age and beliefs.

“I’m 68 years old. I don’t have much time left on this earth. But I have no doubt I will spend eternity with my husband and a myriad of others who have fought tyranny and oppression,’’ she said, pausing several times to clear her throat but maintaining a defiant tone.

She and her husband, Ed, holed up in their 110-acre compound in Plainfield in early 2007 after being sentenced to five years in prison for tax evasion. They were arrested nine months later by federal agents posing as supporters and were convicted in July on a variety of weapons and conspiracy charges.

Brown insisted that she and her husband were being punished for nothing more than civil disobedience and “daring to challenge and question this massive government.’’

“Our state motto is ‘Live free or Die,’ which is what we proclaimed over and over during our resistance,’’ she said. “I will always resist.’’

The sentence fell between the 30 years plus one month the defense requested and the 41-44 years the prosecution sought.

Judge George Singal rejected Brown’s civil disobedience argument, saying she was not engaged in principled dissent to laws she believed to be unjust.

One of the charges - possession of destructive devices - carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison. Defense attorney Bjorne Lange argued that adding just one more month to that sentence would have been sufficient, saying there was no evidence Brown handled any of the weapons or explosives, other than the handgun she was holding when arrested. Lange also urged the judge to take into account Brown’s past: she worked her way through dental school, raised two children, and had no brushes with the law until her arrest on the tax evasion charges.

“They want you to look at what happened at the time of the offense and say that’s the sum of Elaine Brown,’’ said Lange, who also requested the lower sentence in part because no one was hurt during the standoff.

Assistant US Attorney Arnold Huftalen countered that the only reason no one was hurt was because the US Marshals Service was so patient.

The prosecutor described the weapons strewn about the couple’s home: 22 pipe bombs and a .50-caliber rifle in the bedroom alongside Elaine Brown’s stuffed animal collection, bulletproof vests and ammunition in the closet with the jigsaw puzzles, an explosive device on the jelly cupboard in the kitchen.

The handgun Brown carried was capable of killing 17 people without reloading, Huftalen said, and there was a fanny pack full of extra bullets on the kitchen table.

During the couple’s second trial, Ed Brown testified that the weapons were for self-defense and that explosives in the woods around the home were to scare intruders, not harm them. But in a radio interview during the standoff, he said if authorities came in to kill him or arrest him “the chief of police in this town, the sheriff, the sheriff himself will die. This is war now, folks.’’

His sentencing has been delayed while he undergoes a psychiatric evaluation to determine his competency.