Saturday, April 5, 2008

Trial - Day 9

"One of the luxuries of blogging is you don't have to worry about deadlines", I said kiddingly to Margot Sanger-Katz, the Concord Monitor reporter covering this case. She had asked me that morning before court began if I was "slacking" on my blog because I hadn't updated it from the day before. The last 2 days of the trial have been very draining emotionally and physically for me and blogging was not a priority. It has been my faith that has carried me through this ordeal and the thoughts and prayers expressed by so many kind strangers that, in some case, I've only met in the last 2 weeks.

Trial - day 9 events:

Jose and Romeo Gonzalez (Reno's father and brother respectively) both took lawyers and plead the 5th. An open hearing on Jose's status as a witness was held and Jose mentioned he had asked for immunity. His lawyer was fully briefed by all the parties on what type of questions Jose would be asked. Based on that information, Jose's lawyer advised taking the 5th and Jose's decision was to take the advice of his lawyer and exercised his 5th amendment right. This jury did not hear any testimony from Jose or Romeo.

The Jury was brought in and David Bownes, the lawyer for Reno, continue presenting his case. He called to the stand Lauren Canario. Lauren had been at the Brown's many times between January and September of 2007. When Lauren walked into the court room it was as if Lady Liberty herself had walked in. Here is a women small in stature, humble in demeanor but strong in principle and a firm believer in the power of civil disobedience. While all the other witnesses were taking the 5th, here comes Lauren, who refused to present an ID to the court house security and only gave her name (and got in after a brief wait while security checked with their superiors). She refused to take a lawyer, refused to take the 5th and refused to be intimidated. She testified in a forthright and credible manor. If ever there was a portrait of Lady Liberty, Lauren Canario would be it. She testified that she had started going to the Brown's in mid January 2007 shortly after Ed began boycotting his trial. She had figured they would need "cheering up" considering the situation they were in. She said that she had gone there just about every 2 weeks from January to September of 2007. She mentioned that Ed was always carrying a pistol and she had seen a military type weapon with a "tripod" at the top of the stairs. She saw Reno with a military rifle on one occasion. She never saw plastic bags of Tannerite or any booby traps of any kind. She said they weren't told by authorities they they couldn't go there until the September 15th road block at the Brown's. She described her incident at the road block it which she wanted to call the "bluff" of the Marshals and began to walk up the road towards Ed and Elaine's. She described how the Marshals arrested her, roughed her up and put her in a jail cell at the Lebanon police station for several hours without charge. One of the most interesting pieces of her testimony was that she would often go on short hikes in the woods on Ed and Elaine's property, even on here last visit in late August or early September. She indicated that she didn't see any booby traps, trip wires, plastic bags in the trees or anything "artificial" in the woods on any of her hikes. On defense cross examination she note how she was at the jamboree in July and had seen the helicopter circling and that it had come to within about 75 yards of the property (I guess the pilots must have wanted a burger but couldn't find a place to land). She never saw any weapons used in a threatening manor of any kind. The prosecution did not cross examine Lauren.

The next witness called was James Johnson, Laurens husband. Who exhibited the same courage as his wife. He said he had been at the Brown's on several occasions and had been there on the day of the July Jamboree. He described how that event was peaceful and enjoyable with the only exception being that the "Fed helicopter destroyed the music" He mentioned he saw a pistol and a rifle outside for target shooting.

The next witness was Karina Copper from North Hollywood, California. She had attended the Gun Stock Free State Project festival and heard about the Ed and Elaine Brown situation there. She attended the press conference and the first jamboree in June 2007. She said nobody impeded her entry onto the property, everyone was pleasant and everyone "talked about the war and government in our lives." She didn't notice Reno with a gun or any bags in the trees or wires on trees. She briefly met Jason and Danny and that there were no threatening items or actions of any kind. The prosecution did not cross examine Ms. Cooper.

The Jury was excused for a brief recess and the Judge conducted an open hearing in which Jason and Danny exercised their 5th amendment right not to testify. Reno did not take the 5th and chose to testify. The Jury was brought back in and Reno was sworn in. On direct examination Reno described his family and career background. He described his farther as a military man that caused the family to move frequently. He was an only child and his parents split when he was a toddler. He fought against joining a gang and was kicked out of school. He got his GED by age 16. He went to community college and majored in criminal justice and minored in law enforcement. He worked in the court house in Alice, Texas as a court records assistant. He was hired by the Jim Wells County Sheriffs department as a criminal records specialist. He joined the Navy at age 17 and became a Gunners Mate, he attained the rank of Petty Officer Second Class (E5). He was stationed on the USS Peterson, a Navy destroyer, during the time when the ship was the flag ship for the NATO mission to Kosovo (wikipedia).

USS Peterson

He was trained on all the weapons on the destroyer including missile systems, 5 inch guns, small arms etc. He was married after boot camp and has 4 children ages 11, 9, 7 and 5. He left the Navy after the 9/11 incident and held several jobs including working as a correction officer at a half way house for just under a year. He had a falling out with management and left. He said the problem they had with him was that he "cared more about individual rights than his fellow officers." He then became a bouncer and at a dance club worked a short time in a liquor store and as a security guard at a hospital. He ended up taking a position as a weapons mechanic with an independent contractor working for the Department of Defense in Iraq, he was able to get that position because of the secret clearance he had obtained while in the Navy. He spent 6 months in Iraq. He became disillusioned with the poor quality control that resulted in sub standard weaponry being sent back to troops in the field. He had experienced the realities of the war in Iraq. He described how after he voiced his concern with quality control he received death threats. He was told you should shut up because mortars were falling all around and one may fall on you. He quit the job because "he didn't want a mortar to fall on him." He left Iraq in July 2006. He than conducted research on the "truth movement" and "depleted uranium". He described depleted uranium armor piercing ammunition as basically a "dirty bomb". He was asked why he bought a 50 caliber weapon. He described it as an investment because the prices were going up and the wait to obtain one in Texas was long. He also described how he felt the government was trying to outlaw them and that he believed in exercising his 2nd amendment rights. He had a concealed carry license from Texas. He described how he was working on a project with Mr. Al-Oboudi to go back to Iraq and that he gave all his weapons to his brother because he "didn't expect to make it back". He described how he first saw Tannerite at the Stone Eagle gun shop and that he was interested in 50 caliber shooting competitions because the prize money was good.

Reno said there was no talk of intimidating the US Marshals at the first jamboree, he never left any ammunition at the Brown's. He had no knowledge of any of the weapons purchased after May. Never saw any pipe bomb parts. He described an incident where Ed showed him a zip gun and asked if he make them, he said he wouldn't because he felt they would be like a mine and could kill indiscriminately, were illegal, and it was a "bad idea". Never saw any wire for zip guns, never saw Tannerite packages in the trees. He mentioned that pipe bombs were brought up jokingly in conversations with some of the guest of the Brown's. He did see cans of gun powder in the basement but that they had not been modified or had nails taped to them. He mention that Ed bragged about getting the gun powder by the government. he described the events on 6/7/2007 which was the day of the aborted arrest attempt by the Marshals. He described that he was woke up by Ed telling him that Zoey the dog came back without Danny and he thought he heard shots in the woods (Government video showed that shots were indeed fired at Danny). He then described how he and Ed went searching around the property for Danny thinking that he could be dead. He then described how Danny showed up later that same day and how Danny was beat up, scared, upset and crying. Reno said how Ed didn't trust him and Ed would ask him "why are you here?" Reno said, "it was because of the cause that we are slaves to the government." He said shortly after that he felt there was no longer any value to being at the Brown's and that it was a "waste of time". He described the falling out he had with Ed shortly after Ed met his father Jose. He said that Reno's father was a "soulless, godless communist" and that he was his seed and had to leave. Reno responded that sometimes "Ed was a Jerk". He left with Lisa Mullenex and spent some time traveling from hotel to hotel in Vermont and Pennsylvania and he urged Lisa not to go back to the Brown's. He described how several other supporters had contacted him and tried to get him to return but to no avail. He didn't respond to the "Red Alert" email that Danny had sent out because by the time he read the email it was already old. He ended up back in Texas where he ended up associating with Cindy Sheehan and the Iraq peace movement. He was asked by Cindy Sheehan to be part of her security for a trip back to Iraq with Mr. Al-Oboudi.

End of day 9.

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