CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Elaine Brown, who took part in a monthslong armed standoff against U.S. marshals in 2007 to protest a tax evasion conviction, can be released after serving over 12 years in prison, a federal judge ruled Friday.
Brown, 78, was re-sentenced in federal court in New Hampshire after a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year affected her case. One charge that carried a mandatory minimum 30-year sentence was vacated. She is scheduled to be released Feb. 28.
When Brown, who appeared by video from a prison medical center in Texas, heard the decision, she put her hands to her mouth and began to cry. So did her daughter, who pleaded for her mother’s release.
“Her true self has come out,” Bethany Hatch said in court before her mother was resentenced. “She’s apologized profusely to my family. … It takes a lot of courage to realize when you have done something wrong, and how many people it has affected.”
Brown, who was originally sentenced to a 35-year term on conspiracy, weapons and obstruction of justice charges, could have served at least another decade, which was the recommendation of the U.S. attorney’s office. Judge George Singal, who presided over the Browns’ case years ago, recalled how the couple showed disrespect for the law in comments made at press conferences from their Plainfield home.
But Singal said he believed that Brown, who worked as a library clerk in prison and took many classes, including a faith-based program, was deeply repentant, had rehabilitated herself and would not be a risk to the public. He mentioned how she had written an apology to her local paper in 2014, years before she had any hope of a sentence reduction. In sentencing her to time served, Singal said the strength of the system is that it can provide mercy, as well as punishment.
“I wish you all the best in your remaining years,” he told her.
Brown, her voice breaking at times, told the court the faith-based program compels participants to look back on their lives and take responsibility for their actions and realize there’s no such thing as a victimless crime.
Brown said she didn’t think about how her family would be affected by her choices.
“I am ashamed and embarrassed by my actions,” she said.
Brown is seeking a divorce from Edward Brown, who awaits resentencing. She said he has refused to sign any government document and that she should just consider herself divorced.
When released, her plan is to live with her son in Massachusetts.
Brown and her first husband, Hatch’s father, had divorced. Hatch said when when her mother met Edward Brown, she became isolated and lost friends and clients at her dental practice. She said Edward Brown, who often spoke out against the government and had guns, manipulated her.
The Browns were initially convicted of failing to pay taxes on $1.9 million of income over eight years. The couple argued the federal income tax is unconstitutional. Their argument, repeatedly rejected by the courts, was that no law authorized the federal income tax, and that the 1913 constitutional amendment permitting it was never properly ratified.
The Browns declined to appear in court and retreated to their fortress-like home. They were sentenced in absentia to five years in prison. Anti-tax crusaders and out-of-state militia groups rallied to their cause. Among the visitors was Randy Weaver, whose wife and son and a deputy U.S. marshal were killed during the infamous Ruby Ridge shootout with federal agents in North Idaho in 1992. Supporters waved “Don’t tread on me” flags and “Don’t Murder the Browns for Money” signs.
In October 2007, U.S. marshals posing as supporters gained entry to their home and arrested them. The marshals discovered weapons, explosives and booby traps.
When the home was auctioned off years later, federal agencies couldn’t ensure the entire property was free of booby traps. It has changed hands several times, most recently bought by a couple from Maine, who are renovating it.