November 5, 1997 in Nation/World

2 Sentenced In Republic Of Texas Standoff

Eduardo Montes Associated Press

Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren was sentenced to 99 years in prison, and his top lieutenant got 50 years Tuesday for plotting an abduction that led to a weeklong standoff with police.

McLaren and Robert Otto, whose group believes Texas is not part of the United States, were the first of five Republic members to be tried in the April 27 abduction of Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe.

The kidnapping eventually brought some 300 state troopers and Texas Rangers to the remote west Texas resort where the Republic maintained its headquarters. They laid siege to the group’s so-called embassy until McLaren and others agreed to surrender May 3.

Judge Kenneth DeHart sentenced the separatists after hearing testimony during the punishment phase from several prosecution witnesses, including Texas Rangers and the Rowes, and three friends of Otto’s who appeared on his behalf. No one spoke for McLaren.

The Rowes testified that they remained frightened long after their captors left.

Joe Rowe told the court that he now carries a gun at all times. Margaret Ann recalled that as she watched the separatists finally leave, “I didn’t know that maybe they wouldn’t shoot us anyway.”

On Friday, a jury convicted McLaren and Otto of engaging in organized criminal activity for their role in the kidnapping. The couple lived near Republic members in the Davis Mountains Resort, a rural community 175 miles southeast of El Paso.

Republic members contend the U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845 was illegal and refuse to recognize Texas’ statehood and institutions, including the court system.

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