The U.S. government presents its case against Jan 6. defendant Jeremy Brown
He says feds targeted him after he refused to inform on right-wingers
Screenshot of Jeremy Brown from banthis.tv taken in March of 2021.
Government lawyers are emphasizing the danger posed by weapons and U.S. Department of Defense documents labeled “secret” that a search of self-professed Oath Keeper Jeremy Brown’s property turned up as his trial progresses in a federal courthouse in Tampa.
As the Phoenix has reported, Brown initially was charged with trespassing at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but the case the government is prosecuting against the retired Green Beret from Tampa centers on is the illegally registered guns, explosives, and documents that law enforcement officers found immediately after they arrested him.
At the heart of Brown’s legal defense is that federal agents planted the explosives — specifically, two hand-grenades — in retaliation for Brown going public with an accusation that the FBI asked him to serve as an informant on right-wing paramilitary groups, in his case the Oath Keepers.
The Anti-Defamation League lists the Oath Keepers as “a large but loosely organized collection of right-wing anti-government extremists.” A federal jury in Washington, D.C., convicted Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs of seditious conspiracy for their hands in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In a trial that opened Monday, the government has presented a trio of FBI agents and one ATF agent to discuss how they discovered the guns, grenades, and secret documents in their search of Brown’s home and RV on Sept. 30, 2021.
FBI Special Agent Christopher Franck served as the “arrest team leader” on that date. His job was to ensure when it was safe for the various law enforcement agencies to arrest Brown and then go in to search his home and RV.
Roger Futerman, Brown’s defense attorney, questioned Franck about why all of the agents’ recording devices were turned off during the search of Brown’s property. Franck replied that it was “to protect internal and external tactics.” He then said that, once the arrest had been made, his job was done and he left to catch a plane.
But when Franck couldn’t answer whether his flight was for business or pleasure, Futerman attempted to make that an issue, saying it had only been a little over a year ago. Franck insisted he’d turned over responsibility for overseeing the search to another agent and had no qualms about leaving the scene.
Futerman asked whether Franck was aware of an internet interview that Brown gave in March 2021 in which he said two Homeland Security agents asked Brown whether he would be willing to work for the FBI. Franck said he hadn’t heard the interview but was familiar with it.
Futerman asked Franck: Did his FBI colleagues voice “disdain” about that interview?
“I would not say that,” Franck responded.
The government’s first witness late Monday afternoon was Belvin Sanchez, a narcotics detective with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for 27 years and a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a multi-agency partnership between federal, state, and local enforcement agencies. He was the agent who found the two guns, two hand grenades, and classified documents while searching Brown’s RV.
Sanchez testified that he discovered a “chest-rig” in the bedroom of Brown’s RV — a type of military vest used to carry firearm magazines and other items. He found grenades in two pouches and promptly “notified our bomb technicians on the scene,” Sanchez said.
Government attorney Daniel Marcet questioned Sanchez extensively about the documents that Sanchez found on a CD and in a separate computer file folder. While at times the testimony was tedious, the government was intent on reviewing a multitude of the documents marked “Secret No Forn” because it’s the heart of their case.
In his opening statement on Monday afternoon, Futerman told the jury that Brown has not denied that the two guns found in his RV — a shotgun and Palmetto Armory rifle — are his. But he does deny that the grenades and the Department of Defense documents were his and, in fact, asserts that law enforcement officers planted them.
Futerman argued that there was a “whole series of oddities” in the search at Brown’s home and RV, noting that the agents turned off all of the recording cameras in Brown’s home and that none of them used functioning body cameras or recording devices.
The attorney added that he can prove the government retaliated against Brown after he refused to cooperate against the Oath Keepers (who he says he helped provide security for on Jan. 6 at the Capitol) and discussed that publicly, embarrassing federal law enforcement officials.
In the opening statement for the prosecution, government attorney Menno Goedman emphasized the seriousness of the charges against Brown. He said that the short-barrel rifle and sawed-off shotgun discovered were easier for Brown to conceal and hadn’t been legally registered.
‘Ready to be used’
He argued that the discovery of the hand grenades was significant — “they were ready to be used,” he said.
Goedman added that the discovery of the secret documents was also significant.
“They could seriously harm national security,” he said.
Inside the courtroom, Brown cuts a different image than photos have depicted him over the past year — he has shaved his beard and adopted a crew cut. When Marcet asked Sanchez whether Brown was in the courtroom, he pointed towards him, noting that he appeared to have lost weight since he saw him during the Sept. 2021 arrest.
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