Standing gagged, chained and handcuffed, freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer was sentenced Thursday to 27 months in federal prison for failing to pay income taxes and refusing to appear for trial.
U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell also ordered Schweitzer, 52, to pay $200,000 in fines and $112,683 in back taxes. All the penalties are the maximum allowed under federal sentencing guidelines, as recommended by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Seykora.
When Lovell told U.S. marshals to lower the gag, Schweitzer cited familiar freemen dogma, claiming he is a citizen of “the country of Montana,” not of the United States, and that Lovell has no authority over him.
“I will not willingly participate in this fraud,’ he said.
But Schweitzer was oddly respectful in making his arguments and objections. He did not shout or otherwise disrupt the proceedings, as he has done in some court appearances, although he did claim to hold Lovell in contempt of court at one point.
“I am a justice of the Supreme Court of Justus Township …,” Schweitzer said. “I hold you in contempt for constructive treason.”
“Will you stand when you address the court, please?” Lovell said.
“I am the court,” Schweitzer said.
Schweitzer was leader of the Montana freemen, who held the FBI at bay for 81 days last year around Justus Township, their remote farm compound in Eastern Montana. But the charges Thursday are not related to the standoff. They involve unpaid taxes from 1984 through 1987 and his failure to appear for trial in 1992.
Schweitzer still is awaiting trial in Billings, Mont., on an array of charges related to the standoff, ranging from bank fraud to threatening to kill a federal judge.
Juries in Billings convicted him in September last year of failing to pay income taxes and of failing to appear for trial on those charges.
Prosecutors said his income, totaling $426,000, ranged from $179,795 in 1984 to $48,357 in 1987.
Schweitzer, of Belgrade, Mont., is former owner of a crop-dusting business and was a partner in a real estate company.
He was a fugitive until March 25, 1996, when an undercover FBI agent lured him and another freemen leader out of the compound northwest of Jordan, Mont. Their arrest launched the freemen’s 81-day standoff with FBI agents.
Lovell ordered U.S. marshals to restrain Schweitzer on Thursday after he refused to stand when the judge entered the courtroom and refused to respond when Lovell asked him to step to the podium.
The freeman was wearing an ankle chain when marshals first brought him into the courtroom, but when they brought him back, his hands were cuffed behind him and his lower face and throat were wrapped with an elastic bandage held in place with duct tape.
Schweitzer stood at the podium that way for the rest of the hourlong hearing, flanked by four marshals.
Chief federal defender Tony Gallagher, noting that Schweitzer had refused to confer with him - and, in fact, had filed a lawsuit against him - listed some reservations about the sentencing guidelines and asked the judge to consider imposing the lower end of the permissible sentencing range.
Gallagher also asked Lovell to consider that Schweitzer had acted out of his religious and political beliefs but without animosity toward the judge or the United States.
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