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Jury Begins Deciding Fate Of Six Montana Freemen

Tue., March 31, 1998

Jurors began deciding Monday whether “an avalanche of evidence” proved six Montana freemen were accomplices in crime, as prosecutors said, or victims of circumstance as defense lawyers argued.

“All the freemen had was fake, phony documents, a twisted interpretation of the law and the financial system and our Constitution,” federal prosecutor George Z. Toscas told the federal court jury in closing arguments.

The freemen may claim to be sovereign and above the law, he said, but “what kind of government is organized by a gang of criminals, … uses threats, creates its own courts, and on top of it all, prints its own funny money?”

Court-appointed lawyers for the six defendants painted them Monday as victims of circumstance who turned to the freemen in desperation.

But Toscas said “an avalanche of evidence” - literally “a truckload of evidence” seized after the standoff - showed beyond any doubt that all six helped keep the FBI at bay.

The six defendants are charged with being accomplices by helping nine wanted persons in the freeman compound avoid arrest during their 81-day armed standoff with the FBI in the spring of 1996.

Toscas said evidence showed the six had to know that freeman leader LeRoy Schweitzer and others in the remote farm stronghold of eastern Montana were fugitives.

The FBI faxed such a notice into the compound immediately after capturing Schweitzer on March 25, 1996, Toscas said. Multiple copies of the notice were found in a Ryder truck filled with freeman documents.

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