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Freemen Standoff Figure Not Praising Fbi Now

Mon., Sept. 30, 1996

Colorado state Sen. Charles Duke, who tried to end the Montana freemen standoff in May, has ended his honeymoon with the FBI.

Duke, who brought federal agents and freemen to the negotiating table during the 81-day standoff, on Saturday questioned the FBI’s presence at the anti-government group’s ranch near Jordan, in eastern Montana.

During standoff negotiations, Duke praised the FBI’s efforts.

While addressing the Colorado Bar Association, Duke said one of the frustrations of the freemen, now jailed in Billings, Mont., is their inability in court to raise questions about the legality of the FBI’s operation.

Duke, a Republican from Monument, also blasted the Colorado attorney general’s office for its recent involvement in the state grand jury probe that resulted in the indictments of a score of people accused of trying to pass bad checks signed by freemen leaders.

“I’m not willing to say (the checks) are bogus,” said Duke. “A lot of people believe what they are doing is quite legitimate.”

The checks, signed by LeRoy Schweitzer, Dale Jacobi and Rodney Skurdal, were presented to auto dealerships, credit unions and judges. Some carried threats that liens would be filed against those refusing to cash them.

Two weeks ago, Schweitzer’s associates were accused of trying to use bogus checks to buy eight Humvees from a Denver-area car dealership for use on the ranch they called “Justus Township.”

Duke warned the Colorado Bar Association that others would follow the lead of so-called patriot groups such as the freemen.

The state lawmaker, whose strongly anti-government views have earned him national attention, said 5 million to 10 million people “are prepared to take action to restore constitutional government.”

Groups advocating such views believe the U.S. Constitution, which originally advocated slavery and limited voting rights to white male landowners, is absolute and not open to judicial or legislative review.

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