Long Standoff Ends for Tax-Protesting Couple

By Paul Lewis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 6, 2007

PLAINFIELD, N.H. -- The fugitive couple had been waiting on their porch for nearly eight months for law enforcement officials to make their move. "The word is 'poised,' " Ed Brown said recently, handgun wedged in his jeans, AK-47 assault rifle behind the door, as he stared at a yard of cut grass and bags of explosives hanging from trees. His wife, Elaine, kept her pistol inside a pouch with her reading glasses.

Ed Brown, 65, a retired exterminator who was involved in the "patriot" militia in the 1990s, and Elaine, 67, a dentist, do not believe that the federal government has the authority to tax income. In January, after a decade of not paying tax on nearly $1.9 million in earnings, a judge found them guilty of tax evasion and, four months later, they were sentenced in absentia to 63 months in prison.

Refusing to "surrender," in February they barricaded themselves in their estate in this New Hampshire town of 2,200, warning that any attempts to arrest them would end in bloodshed. They said they could sustain themselves "indefinitely" with solar and wind electricity generators, after federal agents cut their power and phone lines.

But, in the end the authorities got them, not by a full frontal assault but by trickery.

Late Thursday, U.S. marshals posing as supporters entered the Browns' property and arrested them on their porch without incident. "They invited us in, and we escorted them out," U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier told the Associated Press.

At a news conference, Monier said officials found booby traps in the woods on the 100-plus-acre property and weapons, ammunition and homemade bombs inside and outside the house. He said more charges are likely.

It was hardly surprising for the Browns to have considered the agents to be supporters. Through daily radio broadcasts and Internet postings, the couple had become a cause celebre for tax protesters, a disparate movement of people who say federal taxes are fraudulent. Over the summer, the Browns held dinner parties and fundraisers in their yard, hosting an array of supporters, from local families and spiritual gurus to hard-core militia members.

"Ultimately, this open-door policy they seemed to have, which allowed the Browns to have some supporters bring them supplies, welcome followers, even host a picnic, this proved to be their undoing," Monier told the wire service.

The Browns repeatedly compared their situation to the confrontations at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, and Waco, Tex., a year later. Recently, the couple held a news conference with Randy Weaver, whose wife and son were shot dead in the Ruby Ridge siege.

"The only way to leave here is free, or dead," Elaine Brown said to a Washington Post reporter who visited the compound several days before the arrest.

But, Waco and Ruby Ridge prompted the Justice Department to adapt its approach to prolonged sieges of this type, emphasizing patience. Federal authorities declined to move against the couple for months, even though leaders of this village near the Vermont border urged them to halt the flow of militia and anti-government advocates to the Browns' compound.

Before this week's arrest, Monier had "ratcheted up" pressure on the couple. Two weeks ago, simultaneous raids took place on the homes of Brown supporters across the country. Federal authorities charged four men with various counts of aiding and abetting the Browns.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company