BILLINGS — A member of the anti-government Montana Freemen who took part in the extremist group’s 81-day armed standoff with FBI agents 25 years ago has died in prison.
Russell Dean Landers, 69, died April 10 while in custody at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terre Haute, Indiana, federal officials said. No cause was provided.
His death was first reported by the Independent Record in Helena.
The Freemen were accused of organizing an assault on the nation’s banking system through the circulation of bogus financial instruments. After their leader was arrested in 1996 on fraud and conspiracy charges, Landers and others barricaded themselves into the group’s ranch in a remote area of eastern Montana.
They held the FBI at bay for almost three months before surrendering. No shots were fired in the standoff, but FBI agent Kevin Kramer died after his vehicle rolled over along a dirt road leading to the group’s ranch.
Landers was sentenced to 11 years, three months for conspiracy, bank fraud, threatening a federal judge and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm. During his sentencing hearing, Landers continued to claim the U.S. court system had no jurisdiction over him.
He had 15 years added to his sentence in 2008 when he and two other inmates at the federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma, demanded millions from officials for the use of their names, which they said were “copyrighted.” They were found guilty of “conspiring to impede the duties of federal prison officials” and extortion.
Another member of the Freeman who served time in prison and is now living in Billings told the newspaper that when Landers “said ‘no’ he meant ‘no.’”
“He was a family man and a Christian man who looked out for the welfare of others,” said Dan Petersen, who also served time in prison following the standoff.
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