Nation - New Hampshire Supporters of tax evaders appeal convictions Men say prosecutors charged them excessively

By Denise Lavoie

AP Legal Affairs Writer

BOSTON (AP) -- Three men convicted of helping a New Hampshire couple escape capture on tax evasion charges asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn their convictions, arguing that prosecutors charged them excessively for their roles.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in appeals brought by supporters of Ed and Elaine Brown.

After being convicted on tax evasion charges, the Browns refused to turn themselves in and remained holed up for months in an armed standoff at their fortress-like home in Plainfield, N.H. The Browns, who claimed that no law authorizes the federal income tax, hosted a variety of supporters, including militiamen and other anti-government groups.

The Browns were finally taken into custody in October 2007 by a small team of U.S. marshals posing as supporters. When agents searched their home, they found it stuffed with bombs and guns.

Jason Gerhard, of Brookhaven, N.Y., Daniel Riley, of Cohoes, N.Y., and Cirino Gonzalez, of Alice, Texas, are appealing their convictions and sentences on several charges, including conspiring to prevent marshals from arresting the Browns.

Lawyers for the men argued that prosecutors unfairly charged them with two similar conspiracy counts for the same conduct.

"To me, they're precisely the same," said Paul Glickman, Gerhard's attorney.

Riley's attorney, Sven Wiberg, said Riley's defense was hurt because he was deprived of his right to act as his own attorney after he repeatedly told several lawyers appointed to represent him that he didn't want their services.

"The prejudice is ... he has a lawyer who he's said, 'I don't want,' " Wiberg said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Aframe said Riley was initially unhappy with his lawyer, then represented himself for a time, then changed his mind and asked the court to appoint an attorney for him. He said the trial judge decided Riley had had enough time to prepare for his trial.

The appeals court did not indicate when it would rule.

Gerhard was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of bringing the Browns guns to prolong their standoff with authorities. He was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to impede federal agents, accessory after the fact and possessing or carrying weapons in connection with a crime of violence.

Riley received a 36-year prison term that includes a mandatory 30 years for making and using a destructive device in a crime of violence. Gonzalez received an 8-year sentence.

A fourth man, Robert Wolffe, of Randolph, Vt., was sentenced to 2? years after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy and being an accessory after the fact. He cooperated with prosecutors and testified against the other three men.

Defense lawyers argued that while the men visited the Browns and shared some of their views, they did not conspire together.

Published: Thu, May 6, 2010