Two anti-government terrorists who say they follow only God’s law will spend the rest of their lives in federal prison or Satan’s pit, as they call it.
Charles H. Barbee and Robert S. Berry were each given two mandatory life terms Tuesday for three bombings and two bank robberies in the Spokane Valley.
U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen said he had no choice because the law requires tough penalties for use of firearms or bombs during violent crimes.
Although the two men and codefendant Verne Jay Merrell - who on Thursday was ordered to two life terms without parole - maintain they’re innocent, the judge said 23 of 24 jurors in two trials believe otherwise.
“It’s sheer luck and by the grace of God that people were not seriously injured or killed because of these destructive devices that were set off,” Nielsen said.
A pipe bomb exploded April 1, 1996, at the Valley office of The Spokesman-Review. Moments later, another bomb exploded during a robbery at U.S. Bank at Sprague and Mullan.
On July 12, a third pipe bomb heavily damaged a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Valley before the same bank was robbed again.
Bomb damage and bank robbery losses totaled $213,000. The judge said the three are responsible for paying the money back, but the trio is penniless and any restitution is unlikely.
Barbee, Berry and Merrell were arrested Oct. 8, 1996, after an informant provided the FBI with information and collected a $130,000 reward.
A fourth man, Brian Ratigan, was arrested March 13 and awaits sentencing in December.
The men call themselves Phineas priests and follow Christian Identity, a white-separatist religion.
On Tuesday, Barbee called Nielsen a “shyster tyrant” who presided over an unfair trial. “We follow Yahweh’s laws exclusively,” he told the judge.
“We are easy to dislike because of our candor to espouse anti-government views,” Barbee said.
The former AT&T supervisor said he and the others were convicted with “insinuations and supposition” and because “we couldn’t prove our innocence.”
“The government tailored the testimony of its witnesses to match us,” Barbee said. “Justice is not blind, but biased.”
He added: “People don’t create militias, judge. People like you do.”
Barbee’s wife, Carolyn, accused the judge, the FBI and the ATF of administering corrupt justice. “Your alphabet troops did a good job of railroading my husband, but Yahweh will remember,” she told the judge.
Earlier, Berry smiled and waved at his wife, Judy, and two children as he was led into court.
His court-appointed attorney, John Rodgers, filed a list of objections Berry had to a background report prepared by U.S. Parole and Probation officers.
Berry, like Barbee, refused to cooperate in the preparation of their reports.
Berry objected to being called a U.S. citizen and wouldn’t cooperate because of “his heartfelt religious belief” that God’s laws supercede man’s, Rodgers said.
Instead of talking about his sentence, Berry grabbed his Bible and launched into a 30-minute sermon.
“I am not a citizen of the United States,” Berry told the judge. He said he’s an ambassador and servant of Yahweh.
He referred to U.S. District Court as a “temple of Satan,” and said he’d “refrain from casting Yahweh’s pearls before you. There is one God, and it isn’t you and it isn’t your master.”
Berry said there are counterfeit gods, governments and religions. Then he opened his Bible to the book of Ezekiel.
“I can answer as Paul did to his accusers,” he said. “I’ve lived in all good conscience before my God until this day.”
At one point, he read a Bible passage so quickly that the court reporter asked him to slow down.
When he finished, he attempted to leave the courtroom, but was forced to return to his chair by four deputy U.S. marshals.
He smiled and waved one last time to his family as he was led from the courtroom.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.