March 27, 1996 in Nation/World

Freemen Disruptive At Hearing Arraignment Postponed After Court Outbursts

Associated Press
 

Chained but not gagged, two leaders of the anti-government freemen shouted down a federal magistrate during their arraignment Tuesday on charges of threatening public officials and of bank, financial and mail fraud.

U.S. Magistrate Richard Anderson postponed the proceeding because of constant objections and outbursts from LeRoy Schweitzer and Daniel Petersen Jr.

“That’s justice folks,” Petersen yelled as he was led from a courtroom full of reporters and a handful of supporters.

“This is a sham proceeding,” Schweitzer shouted.

Schweitzer, 57, and Petersen, 53, were arrested Monday at the freemen enclave called Justus Township near Jordan, Mont.

They are facing federal charges of being involved in a conspiracy of writing bad checks and bogus money orders.

The men also are accused of threatening to kidnap and murder U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom of Billings.

Brought into the heavily guarded federal courtroom with their hands and legs chained, Schweitzer and Petersen immediately began shouting objections and protests to everything said by the magistrate or U.S. attorney.

Petersen called the proceeding a “kangaroo court.”

“I don’t care what you do,” he told Anderson when threatened with contempt. “I don’t have to listen to the court.”

“I object to any arraignment,” Schweitzer shouted. “This court lacks jurisdiction. You’re without power to go on.”

They objected to the way their names were written on the indictments and refused court-oppointed attorneys

When some of their supporters offered words of encouragemnt, U.S. marshals removed them from the courtroom.

U.S. Attorney Sherry Scheel Matteucci said the arraignment will be conducted at another time when arrangements are made so the men cannot disrupt the proceeding. She said they may be put in a separate courtroom where they can watch the proceedings on television.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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