Courthouse takeover case goes to trial

Courthouse takeover case goes to trial

October 15th, 2011 by Associated Press in News

KNOXVILLE - A Georgia militia supporter goes on trial Tuesday charged in a bizarre plan to take over a rural Tennessee courthouse and serve a "citizens' arrest warrant" on local judges and law officers.

Records show Darren Wesley Huff, 41, of Dallas, Ga., traveled in April 2010 to the Monroe County Courthouse between Chattanooga and Knoxville with a handgun, an AK-47 and ammunition after telling FBI agents he was planning to join in making citizens' arrests.

The takeover threat was in support of a Monroe County activist who in a written warrant had declared the local officials and others, including President Barack Obama, to be "domestic enemies." The citizens' arrest warrant identified the officials as "domestic enemies" and described the president as an "illegal alien, infiltrator and impostor."

One official named in the so-called citizens' arrest warrant, District Attorney Steve Bebb, declined comment, saying he has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial.

An FBI agent's affidavit shows that Huff said he was in the Georgia militia and along with eight or nine other militia groups was "planning to travel to Madisonville on April 20 to take over the city." He said he was "ready to die for his rights" and predicted that afterward he would be on the television news.

Huff said there would be no violence unless it was provoked but that "he was ready to die for his rights and what he believed in," according to the affidavit.

Although there was no violence, law officers in Madisonville said Huff and several others "were in the possession of openly displayed and concealed firearms" outside the court building and some appeared to be conducting surveillance on officers.

Huff is charged with carrying a firearm in interstate commerce with the intent to use it in a civil disorder. A conviction carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison. He is also charged with using a firearm in relation to another felony, which on conviction carries a mandatory two-year minimum prison sentence.

Huff has identified himself as being involved with the Georgia militia and the anti-government OathKeepers group but in pretrial filings asked that the court prevent prosecutors from making any reference to those groups kicking him out after he was charged.

"This is a well-established statute that just hasn't been used that much but fits the circumstances of the events that happened in Madisonville that day," Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Mackie said in describing the case.

After granting a July request by Huff to stop using his appointed public defenders and describing them as "either incompetent or attempting to sell the defendant down the river," a judge at an Oct. 4 hearing talked him into sticking with their replacement, Knoxville attorney G. Scott Green, to prepare for the trial.

Green and Huff have since declined comment.

Huff's travel to Madisonville was in support of actions by anti-government activist Walter Fitzpatrick III, of Sweetwater, Tenn. Fitzpatrick, a Navy veteran, was convicted in state court of disrupting a meeting and resisting arrest and sentenced to 60 days in jail. Huff pleaded guilty to disrupting a meeting and avoided jail time.

The jury trial before U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan is expected to last several days.