5.9k Share this
A recent decision by the First Circuit appears to have left Edward Brown with a virtual life sentence. After speaking with the Commander of the Constitution Rangers, I am not so sure. Edward Brown currently at the Federal Correctional Institute in Glenville WV is 79 and has a release date in 2034. When I spoke to him he sounded very upbeat as I tried to get him to explain his worldview. It was a bit like plunging into a Dan Brown novel. Brown is a very common name, so it is unlikely they are related. For Part I we will review the legal story.
The appeal in the Frist Circuit was about Commander Brown’s sentence for a dramatic standoff that he and his then wife Elaine engaged in with US Marshals and other law enforcement in 2007. They had been convicted on tax related charges on January 18, 2007. Rather than surrender, Ed and Elaine hunkered down at their home and became minor celebrities among right wing extremists.
They had support from Ron Paul, who compared them to Gandhi.
After five months marshals took the Browns into custody without any violence by posing as supporters coming to meet with them.
MORE FOR YOU
Charges From The Standoff
A decade or so of tax resistance had given the Browns five year sentences which would have been done around 2012 or so. The standoff was another matter. As the opinion recites the jury convicted them on quite a few charges:
Count I charged conspiracy to prevent officers of the United States from discharging their duties, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 372. Count II. — conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 111(a) & (b). Count III charged him with carrying and possessing a firearm in connection with a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). Count V — being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Count VII — obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 1503. Count IX charged Edward with failing to appear for his tax-fraud trial, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146. And Count X — failing to appear for sentencing in the tax-fraud case, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146.
In arriving at a sentence judges will generally follow guidelines. It is fairly complicated process. You can read about it here if you are interested. Count III was special though. It had a mandatory minimum of 360 months. Taking into account the severity of Ed’s offenses the judge ended up with 84 months on the other counts making for a total of 37 years. This was in 2009 and Ed was born in 1942. I will let you do the math.
The Supreme Court
Then in 2019 the Supreme Court ruled that section 924(c)(3)(B), which was the basis of the mandatory minimum is unconstitutionally vague. Considered alone, that would mean Ed Brown should go free, since he had already served the sentence. That is not how it works. Sentencing is a package based on the guidelines and all the circumstances. The judges took the thirty year mandatory minimum into account when figuring out how long the sentence should be on the other counts.
Elaine Brown, who had been sentenced to 35 years, was released from prison in February 2020 as Judge George Singal, finding that she had repented and rehabilitated herself, resentenced her to time served. That is not how it went for Ed.
In the end, the district judge imposed a 300-month sentence — that is, 144 months below the prior sentence and 60 months below the Guidelines range. The court explained that sentence was warranted due to the nature and seriousness of the crime, the characteristics of Edward, the need to deter Edward and others from committing the same crime, the need for just punishment and to promote respect for the law, and the need to protect the public from any further crimes committed by Edward. Specifically, the judge focused on the fact that Edward not only harbors his beliefs about the validity of the government and the laws, but he went further, acting on those avowals and putting others in danger. Edward, he observed, was the ringleader of the standoff, recruiting others and “brainwash[ing]” one, leading them to incur lengthy prison sentences. Finally, the judge emphasized that Edward did not appear to show remorse for his actions. Rather, he continues to believe that he never did anything wrong.
When I looked at the docket for the appeal I found it rather confusing. It included hand written documents like this one, that gave the appearance of Brown being pro se. There was an attorney, though, Benjamin Falkner of Krasnoo, Klehm & Falkner of Andover MA. Attorney Falkner declined to comment.
Attorney Peter Goldberger helped me sort it out. Brown did not complete the form that indicated whether he wanted to represent himself or be represented by counsel. So it defaulted to being represented by counsel. Anything that he filed was not considered by the court, but rather sent to his counsel. Attorney Falkner filed a brief, that was, you know, typed and everything.
There were three arguments. One was that since he had completed the sentence on the counts that were still valid resentencing him on those counts amounted to double jeopardy violating the Fifth Amendment. The other arguments were that the district court had expressly relied on Brown’s political views in sentencing him more harshly than others involved in the incident and that the sentence was unreasonably harsh given his advanced age.
The constitutional argument went nowhere. Basically the original sentence was a package. The sentencing on the other counts was low because of the mandatory minimum on the charge that was dismissed. Without that the whole thing needs to be redone. For what it is worth the reduction from the previous sentence was nearly a third.
When it came to Ed’s political views, the problem is that his statements go “beyond simply his beliefs”. Rather the judge saw that his beliefs were a “recipe for trouble”. The beliefs reflected that Ed did not intend to obey the law.
The problem is that he acts on his beliefs, and, by acting on his beliefs, he put in danger multiple individuals.
Among the factors in considering a sentence are the need to promote respect for the law, the need for deterrence and the need to protect the public. Attorney Goldberger, who considerers himself a staunch civil libertarian agreed with the court’s analysis.
Regardless of *why* Brown rejects the legitimate authority of the U.S. government, the fact that he does makes him undeniably a higher risk of recidivism. And given his past history of how he acts upon his beliefs, a greater risk of committing violence against others, including law enforcement personnel. This justifies a harsher sentence than otherwise, without violating the First Amendment.
There was also an issue about the sentence being reasonable in light of Ed’s age. He will be 91 when released if he lives that long. Attorney Goldberger noted:
The court concluded that while being elderly is generally a mitigating circumstance for sentencing, that is because it typically reduces a person’s dangerousness and risk of recidivism. But Brown’s history and current statements and behavior belie those statistics in his particular case. As a result, while the judge might well have imposed a lesser sentence at resentencing, it was not unreasonable that he chose not to. I will mention here that Brown, like anyone else in federal prison, remains eligible at any time — now, or in the future — to seek “compassionate release” from the sentencing court, that is, a future further sentence reduction based on a combination of age and health, or any other “extraordinary and compelling reasons” that may arise.
There Is More
Difficult as it is, given the content of his expressed beliefs, I have to conclude that Edward Brown is sincere. Rudy and Erin Davis run a ministry for people they consider to be political prisoners. Ed Brown is among them. When I started working on this Rudy passed a message on to Ed. Erin told him about it referring to me in this call as “this tax pig over at Forbes”. If you can spare fifteen minutes you can get a taste of Ed’s overall worldview. There is a deep state, a deeper state and another group that is really at the top in control of everything. You can listen to find out who they are. I heard from Ed shortly after and have been trying to piece things together.
So Part 2 will be about what it means to be a Constitution Ranger and maybe what the rest of us need to reflect on. Here is my previous coverage of Ed Brown.
Ed Brown Thinks I Have A Staff – Go Figure – 12/7/2016