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A former blogger and self-described security expert for Plainfield tax protesters Ed and Elaine Brown was sentenced to eight years in prison yesterday for his role in the couple's prolonged standoff with federal agents.
That sentence exceeded what federal sentencing guidelines recommended and was handed down after a three-hour-long hearing that included a lengthy speech by the defendant on Constitutional law and accusations of perjury by the judge.
Cirino Gonzalez, 31, of Alice, Texas, lived for several months with the Browns, who holed up in their fortified concrete home for nearly nine months, evading prison sentences for tax evasion and promising violence if U.S. marshals tried to arrest them. During his stint with the couple, Gonzalez posted frequent updates about the case on the internet, carried guns on the property and purchased a .50-caliber sniper rifle, capable of shooting targets at distances greater than a mile.
Gonzalez was tried in March alongside two other men accused of conspiring to prevent marshals from arresting the Browns. Though he was convicted of conspiracy and aiding and abetting the Browns, the jury failed to reach a verdict on two other charges, including one that he had used guns to prolong the standoff. But in issuing his sentence, Judge George Singal said that he saw the .50-caliber rifle as a key to understanding Gonzalez's intentions, and as a sign of his dangerousness.
"I find that Mr. Gonzalez specifically went to the Brown residence prepared to intimidate, prevent, and if necessary, kill members of the United States Marshals Service," Singal said.
Like two of his fellow supporters who were sentenced this summer, Gonzalez used his opportunity to address the court to criticize the justice system. Gonzalez began his hour-long soliloquy by reading from the letter of a childhood friend. "I know you're the kind of person who can't keep his mouth shut, but I wish you would just shut up," the letter said.
Gonazlez did not heed its advice. During his speech, he variously read from more than 20 letters, the Bill of Rights and correspondence with the New Hampshire Secretary of State's office. At several points, he offered harsh words for marshals and prosecutors who had worked on the case, saying they had not sought the truth. He also criticized Singal, who he said violated his right to a fair trial.
"You want me to say I learned my lesson," Gonzalez said near the end of his remarks. "I did. The lesson is you don't f--- with the government."
"The Constitution and Bill of Rights mean nothing to you all, absolutely nothing," he continued, as he tore up the copy of the Bill of Rights he'd been reading from. "Because everything has a rule to get around it."
He closed his statement with a plea and a warning. Gonzalez said that he was ready to go home and hoped the judge would allow him to return to his family. But he also said that there would be consequences if Singal handed down a sentence longer than the time Gonzalez has already served in jail.
"You know me, and if you give me more time, I will bring more charges and more charges and more charges," he said.
The Browns were arrested in October 2007, by an undercover team of marshals disguised as supporters. When agents searched the house, they found it packed with bombs, guns and ammunition. Agents who testified at trial described dozens of improvised explosive devices, and assault rifles assembled with scopes near upstairs windows in the house. The Browns had solar power and well water, as well as dehydrated food that could have lasted them for months.
Gonzalez left the house months earlier, after an argument with Ed Brown about appropriate security measures, Gonzalez has said. Much of his defense at trial centered on changes in the Browns' outlook and supplies between June, when Gonzalez left, and October. During his testimony at trial, Gonzalez said that there were no bombs on the property, and any guns that were there were owned, and generally held by individual visitors. His own three guns, he said, were for his personal protection, and would not have been used to defend the Browns from any arrest attempt. When he left the Browns' home, he took his guns with him.
Probation officers, who had completed a pre-sentencing investigation, had recommended a sentence of 41 to 51 months under the federal sentencing guidelines. Singal found that Gonzalez qualified for a higher guideline sentence. But he opted to hand down a sentence exceeding even that 71- to 87-month range.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Huftalen had asked the judge to impose a 10-year prison sentence, arguing that Gonzalez was a dangerous and violent man who was still "in complete denial that he was involved in any criminal activity."

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