Saturday, March 29, 2008

Trial - Day 5

Trial – day 5 events:

The day started with a fresh blanket of pure, white, beautiful New Hampshire snow. About 2 to 4 inches of snow had fallen during the night and was continuing to fall. A quick check of the court’s web site confirmed that the trial was still on for the day. The Judge then noted when the Jury entered the court room that “New Hampshire folks are very hardy”. As a native upstate New Yorker I would have to concur, a little snow doesn’t stop much activity, if any. The majestic beauty and splendor of this small slice of creation that is New Hampshire and Vermont was so graciously laid out before me as I drove back to Albany over the higher elevations between Concord, Keene and Bennington. The fresh white snow, clinging to the trees of the wide vistas of rugged landscape, produced in me feelings of awe and humility as I retraced in my mind the week’s events at trial as the prosecution’s case marched on towards its eventual close.

Cross examination of ATF EOD expert, Mr. Erickson, recommenced. The Defense played the Tannerite promotional DVD that was found with the box at the Brown’s. The video displayed a demonstration of mixing a single 1 lb. Tannerite target. The video also displayed the uniquely robust stability aspects of the substance. A mixed target of Tannerite had a lit fuse pass completely through it with no effect. A propane blow torch was used to melt and burn a fully mixed target again with no effect. Next the video moved to the shooting range demos with the music of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” cranking on the court room speakers. The demo showed failed attempts at getting targets to detonate with smaller caliber weapons including hitting targets with fully automatic burst of tracer rounds from 5.56 caliber weapons and then actual detonations of targets with a high powered rifle as shown in the video in my previous post. Mr. Erickson played up the effects of the detonation, he noted that flying debris and heat and pressure effects would damage hearing, internal organs and could potentially be lethal. On recross Mr. Erickson conceded that Tannerite is perfectly legal and noted that the Brown’s had a shooting range on the property and that he did not search for any Tannerite targets or residue on that shooting range. It was also noted that none of the “zip guns” were found actually deployed in the woods, all of them were located still in boxes and baskets in the house. One thing that struck me about Mr. Erickson’s testimony over these last several days is that he is a cold testifying machine, a professional government witness and employee, well practiced on the witness stand, with no hesitation, robotically reciting “destructive device”, “bomb” and “firearm”, like a seasoned actor reciting William Shakespeare.

The next witness was Alfred Lindquist and employee of the Alstead gun shop. Several ATF 4473 forms were introduced into evidence, Jason Gerhard was the purchaser on all the forms. One from 7/20/07 showed the purchased a Ruger 77 223 and a Ruger 308. He attempted to pay with American Express but it was reject because the shop didn’t accept it. Another from 7/31/07 showed the purchased a Ruger 22 caliber rifle. Another from 7/25/07 showed the purchase of a Serbu BMG 50 caliber rifle. On cross examination it was noted that the 223 and the Serbu had no iron sights or a scope and that all guns purchased were perfectly legal. It was also noted that secondary sales of guns are legal and that no records are kept when such sales are made.

The next witness was John Dibernardo also of the Alstead gun shop. More ATF 4473 forms were introduced, all for Jason Gerhard. One form from 1/21/07 for a Bushmaster carbon 15 223 caliber and another form from 4/2/07 for a M44 7.62 bolt action rifle. On cross it was noted that all purchases were perfectly legal.

The next witness was Richard Taylor, the sole proprietor of the Stone Eagle gun shop in Newport, NH. The prosecution introduce into evidence an ATF 4473 form showing Daniel Riley purchased a Serbu BMG 50 caliber rifle on 5/23/2007 and it was delivered on 6/5/2007. The sales receipt was introduced that showed it was paid for with cash. It was noted that the BMG 50 caliber rifle found at the Brown’s had its serial number obliterated. The witness noted that Reno arrived at the store a short time after Danny on 5/23/2007. Another ATF 4473 form was introduced showing Cireno Gonzales purchased a Serbu BFG 50 caliber rifle on 5/23/2007 and it was delivered on 6/1/2007 and he paid by check.

The next witness was Daniel Tanner, owner of the Tannerite Company. He viewed the pictures of the Tannerite nailed to the trees and the carriage house at the Browns and stated that the detonation would “destroy the tree” and if you were standing close it would “at a minimum damage your hearing”. His sales records were entered into evidence that showed that Daniel Riley had purchased 5 cases of twenty 1/2lb targets in late May 2007. He noted that Riley called him a few days later requesting a tracking number for the shipment and he mentioned that he was staying at the Brown’s house in New Hampshire and he actually put Ed Brown on the phone to speak with Tanner. An email sent from Riley to Tanner on 6/7 was introduced into evidence. The email requested that Tanner abort the shipment of Tannerite because the Marshals had shot at, tasered and interrogated Riley that day. The Marshals had told Riley to cancel the shipment of Tannerite. On cross examination Tanner conceded that “many variables” were involved that would effect how much damage a Tannerite target would do to a tree, including if it was alive or dead, if it was soft or hard wood and the size of the tree. He also noted that no warning label was given about hanging the product in trees or buildings. He also stated that he was aware of the principle behind the Brown’s stand, he understood that they had asked the federal government to “show the law” requiring them to pay income taxes and that “there is now law” making them liable for the income tax and that the had the money and would gladly pay if they were shown the law. He also noted that the targets were mainly used to create a Hollywood flash bang type effect and that the plastic container would most likely vaporize and produce no fragmentation on detonation. He also mentioned that he was put on a distribution list and would receive emails from Riley with links to articles regarding the Brown’s situation.

The next witness was Michael Powell, an ATF firearms expert. His experience was with homemade firearms. He stated that he was able to test fire all of the zip guns found at the Brown’s. He stated that the spring was destroyed by the detonation of the shotgun shell. He explained how the device was constructed and how it was loaded with a shotgun shell. In his opinion the devices were fire arms. On cross examination it was noted that assembling and loading the devices required extensive handling and that the devices could be loaded with a blank shell to effectively become a noise maker. Also the devices would only work once because the spring would be destroyed by the shot.

End of day 5.

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