Anti-Government Activist Goes on Trial in Firearms Case

William Krisstofer Wolf, who ran a weekly webcast, "The Montana Republic," prior to his March arrest

By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

BILLINGS – A Montana man on trial for federal weapons charges spoke of burning down a courthouse and targeting law enforcement officers as he sought out high-powered weapons ahead of an anticipated war between the citizens of the United States and its government, an FBI agent testified Monday.

FBI Special Agent Matthew Deurmeier said he grew increasingly concerned over the comments from anti-government activist William Krisstofer Wolf, who ran a weekly webcast, “The Montana Republic,” prior to his March arrest.

Authorities say Wolf bought an illegal, automatic, sawed-off shotgun from an undercover agent for $725. The 52-year-old Gallatin County man is charged with possession of a machine gun and failing to register a weapon as required under federal law.

His attorney said Wolf did not realize the weapon was illegal and bought it for self-protection.

On his webcast, Wolf railed against government corruption and advocated for direct action to restore the Constitution, according to excerpts played by federal prosecutors for the 12-member jury. As part of those efforts, Wolf advocated citizen arrests of judges by militia-like “safety committees.”

“When the war starts, there won’t be anyone who is safe. Just because you have a badge or a black robe is not going to protect you,” he said in a July 2014 webcast.

A turning point came two months later, according to Deurmeier and prosecutors, after the Bozeman Police Department acquired an armored vehicle known as a “Bearcat.” Wolf allegedly talked about the need to destroy the vehicle and said the most effective method would be “cooking it from the inside” by using a flamethrower, according to the agent.

Deputy Federal Defender Mark Werner argued that his client was induced by a paid informant and an undercover FBI agent nicknamed “Dirty” into buying what Wolf believed to be a legal weapon. That amounts to entrapment, Werner said.

“He wanted it for home defense,” the defense attorney added. “He didn’t feel that safe anymore because of his outgoing criticism of the government.”

Wolf had ideas about how to make government more accountable by recalling elected officials and dissolving government, Werner said. And while he didn’t shy away from violence, it was only after the paid informant started “greasing the skids” that Wolf began pursuing the shotgun, Werner said.

At his arraignment in April, Wolf said he did not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and refused to enter a plea on the charges against him. A magistrate judge entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

Prosecutors said it wasn’t Wolf’s beliefs that were on trial. Rather it was his deliberate attempt to attain the shotgun.

In the weeks leading up to the purchase, Wolf had opportunities to get out of the deal but did not, said Danya Atiyeh, a trial attorney with the U.S. Justice Department’s counterterrorism section.

She said the undercover federal agent produced a video for Wolf that showed the agent shooting the weapon to demonstrate it had fully-automatic capabilities. With each pull of the trigger, the shotgun emptied its 10-round magazine in less than two seconds, Atiyeh said.

Buying the gun was Wolf’s idea, she said. He was the first to bring it up, after being introduced to the undercover agent by the paid informant, she said. The informant was a man who had befriended Wolf and, like the defendant worked in construction.

That informant was paid $9,000 for his work on Wolf’s case, Deurmeier testified.

The trial before U.S. District Court Judge Susan Watters was expected to continue for at least two more days. Wolf faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the machine gun possession charge.