NH tax evaders’ convictions upheld by appeals court

Posted Jan. 19, 2012, at 9:09 p.m.

CONCORD, N.H. — A New Hampshire couple convicted of amassing an arsenal of weapons and holding marshals at bay for nine months after conviction for tax evasion will remain behind bars.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on Thursday upheld the convictions of Edward and Elaine Brown, who were found guilty of plotting to kill federal agents during the 2007 standoff at their Plainfield home.

Sixty-nine-year-old Edward Brown is serving a 37-year-sentence. Elaine Brown is serving a 35-year-sentence.

“It’s a sad day for Mr. and Mrs. Brown, who engaged in a misguided and misinformed attempt to resist the federal authorities,” said attorney Dean Stowers, who represents Edward Brown.

“They got huge sentences that seem way out of proportion to anything reasonable,” Stowers said. “They’re paying a price for resisting the government with the rest of their lives in prison.”

Elaine Brown’s attorney did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Browns were resisting marshals’ efforts to take them into custody after their January 2007 convictions for tax evasion. Neither of the Browns showed up for sentencing. Instead, they holed up in their fortress-like home on 100 acres of land, setting in motion marshals’ efforts to take them into custody.

After a botched attempt by marshals to take Edward Brown into custody on his daily trip — prompting Brown to tote a rifle to the top of a tower on his property — the standoff drew national attention.

“Supporters of the couple were flocking to their home,” Thursday’s ruling states. “The Browns themselves were hosting festival-type gatherings at their home publicizing their resistance. The Marshals planned to take advantage of this by posing undercover as supporters and accomplishing the arrests in this capacity.”

It worked.

The court noted that after the Browns were arrested, federal agents found “a vast supply of explosives, firearms, and ammunition, including rifles, armor piercing bullets, pipe bombs, and bombs nailed to trees.”

The Browns were convicted of conspiracy to prevent their arrests, conspiracy to forcibly resist arrest, possessing weapons and explosives “in furtherance of crimes of violence,” being felons in possession of firearms, obstruction of justice and failure to appear for sentencing. Ed Brown also was convicted of failure to appear at his tax evasion trial.

The Browns raised numerous challenges on appeal.

“We forge on,” Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson writes, midway through dispensing with them one by one.

The appeals court rejected Edward Brown’s argument that a New Hampshire federal judge should have held a hearing on whether he was competent to stand trial.

The court ruled the testimony by several marshals commanding efforts to apprehend the Browns was not hearsay, as the couple claimed.

And it rejected Elaine Brown’s contention that references to books federal agents seized from their home — including “The Anarchist Handbook,” “Guerilla Warfare and Special Forces Operations,” “Unconventional Warfare Devices and Techniques” and “Booby Traps” — were inflammatory and undermined her fair trial rights.

“At a minimum, the books and titles were relevant to show that Elaine had knowledge of how to conduct armed resistance against the government,” the court states.

Stowers said Thursday he hadn’t yet talked to Edward Brown and did not know if he will appeal Thursday’s ruling.

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