CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnMontanarnby Uri DowbenkornThe Freemen TrialrnEcr heard of the Federal Protecti’ernSer’ice? Like the commercial says —rnyou will. I was taking a photo of thernfederal courthouse in Billings, Montana,rnwhen the police pulled up andrnstopped me. They asked me for my I.D.rnW’lien I looked more closely at the cop’srnbadge, I realized it wasn’t the Billings Police.rnIt wasn’t the Montana State Police.rnIt wasn’t the Montana Highway Patrol.rnIt wasn’t the FBI or the United StatesrnMarshals. It was—surprise! —the FederalrnProtective Service. Th’rnread “GSA.”rnThe General Services Administrationrnhas a police force that stops people onrnAmerican city streets? You could justrnsay, “Bad Cop—No Donut,” and let it gornat that. But I was bold. I called Bill Bearden,rnmedia spokesman for the GSA. Herndefended the FPS: “The Federal Protectirne Service provides physical security,rnlaw enforcement and other services inrnfederal buildings, U.S. courthouses, andrnGSA-controlled leased space. Thev arernthe federal police force. If they didn’trnknow you were a reporter and they justrnsaw ou taking pictures of a federal building,rnit would send a flag to them to be securit}’rnconscious enough to at least checkrnout who ou were.” For “if they didn’t dornthings like that, you could have the recurrencernof the Oklahoma City bombing.rnIt sounds like they were simply doingrntiieir job.”rn”You know what the spin on this storvrne cop’s badgernis^’ I asked him. “It’s kinder, gentlerrnNazis in Billings, Montana.” “Ha, ha,rnha,” Bill laughed. “You laugh there inrnWashington D.G.,” I said, “but this is absoluteh-rnoutrageous.”rnJust’like back in the U.S.S.R., boy.rnUnder the Soviet dictatorship, peoplernwere forbidden to photograph certainrnpublic buildings. I shouldn’t complain.rnthough. Unlike the KGB, the GSA copsrndid not confiscate my camera or club mernwith nightsticks.rnLiving in a police state can make yournparanoid. There’s no doubt about it—rnthe federal government does targetrngroups like the Republic of Texas andrnthe so-called Montana Freemen, whornare on trial here in Billings. The MontanarnFreemen are a mixed bag of individualsrnwho can best be characterized byrnbeing in the wrong place at the wrongrntime with the wrong “friends.” EdwinrnClark was a rancher and farmer in northeasternrnMontana. Elwin Ward happenedrnto arrive just as the feds decided torncreate a “standoff.” Jon Barry Nelsonrnand Stewart Waterhouse were apparent-rn1- “idealistic members of the militia whornsnuck onto the Clark ranch in order tornhelp prevent the FBI from creating anotherrnWaco-type massacre,” according tornlegal investigator Phillip Hoag. Steven,rnJohn, and James Hance were not “MontanarnFreemen” either, but evidenth’ fugitivesrnfrom criminal charges in NorthrnCarolina.rnThe Freemen were each charged withrnseven counts, ranging from accessory afterrnthe fact, bank fraud, and false claim tornthe IRS to illegal possession of firearms.rnThere were seven defendants: StevenrnCharles Hance, John Richard Hance,rnJames Edward Hance, Jon Barry Nelson,rnElwin Ward, Stewart Waterhouse, andrnEdwin Clark. And this is just the first trial;rnthe defendants were accused of beingrn”accessories after the fact” because theyrndidn’t roll over and testify against the “bigrnfish,” Leroy Schweitzer.rnLike the proverbial revolution, thernMontana Freemen Trial will not be televised.rnYou can’t get it on Court TV. Yourncan’t get it on C-SPAN. You have to gornthere in person, or read the AP—AssociatedrnPropaganda—to get the story.rnThe scene is Billings, a squalid greasespotrnof a town in eastern Montana. Earlierrnin the century, it had a reputation asrnthe place where mobsters would la’ lowrnwhen things got too hot in Chicago. Todayrnif s a haggard-looking burg. Pedestriansrnlook like they’re waiting to get theirrnnext dose of crystal meth. Ifs a sleazyrntown with undercurrents of crime andrncorruption. The feds in their cheap bluernsuits somehow fit in perfectly.rnIt was a long, strange trip to Billings.rnComing into town, you see billboards forrn”K-BULL Non Stop Country” and “OstrichrnFarm Investors Welcome,” then atrnleast four used car lots for mobile homes.rnIt’s an overcast winter sky—and a bleakrnforecast for freedom in America.rnInside the courthouse, you sit on hardrnwooden benches like church pews.rnWatching the spectacle of justice requiresrnpenitence, patience, and a hardrnrear end. U.S. District Judge John C.rnCoughenour from Seattle is presiding.rnThe chief prosecutor is Assistant U.S. AttorneyrnJim Seykora, an overbearing, arrogant,rnmiddle-aged white man who acts asrnif he has all the power and resources ofrnthe federal government behind him.rnDon’t kid yourself—he does.rnFive of the defendants are not in therncourthouse. The tiial itself is staged likernperformance art or maybe a scene out ofrnKafka. Men are carried out of the courtroomrnfor swearing. Someone else yellsrnthat the judge is under arrest. Like thernMarx Brothers in A Day at the Courthouse,rnthe Freemen claim they are beyondrnthe prosecutors’ jurisdiction. Onlyrntwo of the defendants remain — EdwinrnClark, 47, and Elwin Ward, 57. Fromrnthe timely and speedy trial department—rnthey had been in prison for more thanrn600 days for refusing to recognize the jurisdictionrnof the court.rn”For Elwin Ward, this case is aboutrnhis family,” says attorney David A. Dukernin his opening statement. He shows thernjur)’ photos of Ward’s wife and childrenrnas well as a map of the United Statesrnwhich marks Ward’s cross-country journeyrnto retrieve his children, kidnappedrnby his wife’s disgruntied ex-husband.rnAnd how did the Wards get involvedrnwith Leroy Schweitzer, the kingpin Freeman?rn”They were seeking a legal way tornget Steve Magnum [ihe ex] out of theirrnlives,” continues Duke. “Thev took thernclass [which Schweitzer offered on commonrnlaw practices] and the proof packet,rnproof and evidence from Schweitzer thatrnthings were working. Thev were not motivatedrnby money, but resolving their custodyrnproblem.”rn”They showed up in Justus Townshiprnin the 17th montii of the 1 S-month investigationrnby the government, onrnMarch 25, 1996, starting the 81-dayrnAUGUST 1998/35rnrnrn