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“MY DEFENDER SAYS ‘THEY WANT MY GUNS'”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Nov. 11, 2010) — On April 30, 2010, Mr. Darren Huff of Georgia was arrested and charged with two federal firearms counts after a six-hour interrogation by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. He also faces three state charges from Monroe County, TN in connection with an April 1 citizen’s arrest conducted by LCDR Walter Fitzpatrick, who has been charged, arrested and is currently being held in the detention facility there.
While Mr. Huff’s case is separate and carries federal charges which were not brought against Fitzpatrick, they appeared in court together on October 5, 2010 where Huff pleaded “not guilty” to the charges brought against him and denies reports from the mainstream media that he had intended to “take over the Monroe County court house” on April 20, 2010.
A court document dated October 6, 2010 signed by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood states that it is Fitzpatrick who is being charged federally and makes no mention of Darren Huff. Fitzpatrick has stated that he believes that the judge committed a criminal act in inserting his name where Darren Huff’s should have been. He also maintains that Mr. Huff is being denied the due process which he was guaranteed during the court proceedings on October 5, 2010, when it was reportedly stated that the federal charges against Huff would be kept separate from actions within the Monroe County court.
On his Facebook page, Huff refers to Fitzpatrick as his “state level co-defendant.”
Huff is expecting to go to trial in Madisonville, TN on December 1 to assert his innocence. His public defender is Randy Rogers, who reportedly denied a copy of a June 28, 2010 transcript to Mr. Fitzpatrick after having promised it to him in a voice message left at Fitzpatrick’s home and in writing to Fitzpatrick’s then-attorney of record, Stephen Pidgeon.
MRS. RONDEAU: Thank you for taking the time to tell your story to The Post & Email, Mr. Huff. I understand that your case stems from that of Walter Fitzpatrick but that it is also very different. You had mentioned that one of the charges against you deals with “commerce.” What is that specific charge?
MR. HUFF: I believe I’m verbatim on it, but I may be a word or two off: “Whoever transports or manufactures in transport, in commerce, any firearm, explosive device or incendiary device, knowing or having reason to know or intending that the same would be used unlawfully in the furtherance of a civil unrest.”
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you think you did that?
MR. HUFF: I couldn’t have done anything in commerce, first-off, because I’m a private citizen.
MRS. RONDEAU: Does what you did meet any of those descriptors?
MR. HUFF: It meets none of those. In fact, I have dash-cam footage, I have every piece of audio and video that I have ever been a part of. The reports were that I was going to “take over” the courthouse.
MRS. RONDEAU: I read that. Where did they get that statement?
MR. HUFF: It’s from one of two places. Either a bank manager, who may or may not have read about it – his name is Shane Walmeier – he was an old-time friend. He did make the statement that I had said that; however, later on, he said that I never said anything about violence nor at any other time did I ever mention any violence.
MRS. RONDEAU: So he made one statement and then contradicted himself?
MR. HUFF: Yes, and signed it. The FBI statement, which is what you can see on Facebook: same thing. On one page, they say I’m going to do all this destructive behavior with violent intent, but then they turn around and say things like, “I don’t intend any violence unless I’m provoked,” which would constitute self-defense. In the audio and video that we have straight from the dash-cam, nothing like that ever was said. In fact, I repeatedly stated, “We have no violent intentions whatsoever.”
MRS. RONDEAU: So you have that on tape yourself?
MR. HUFF: Yes, that’s on the video. Now the funny thing is that even their statements concerning my traffic stop, which you may or may not have seen parts of – that’s what I was referring to as the dash-cam – from that traffic stop. The officers stated on the record that I said that I was going to take over the courthouse, yet the audio and video plainly show that that never was stated, nor was the intent ever stated, nor was a hint ever stated. It came either from the bank manager or it’s a flat-out fabrication from the FBI.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you have reason to believe that it could be someone at the FBI?
MR. HUFF: Oh, sure, absolutely; I’m as paranoid as they come anymore.
MRS. RONDEAU: But you don’t really know if it’s the FBI or the bank manager.
MR. HUFF: Correct.
MRS. RONDEAU: Regarding the charges that you’re facing, how many are there and from which levels of government?
MR. HUFF: I have two federal and three state charges.
MRS. RONDEAU: How do you intend to fight the charges in Monroe County, and are they connected to the federal charges?
MR. HUFF: When I originally stated that they had two charges and they dropped one and offered me a plea deal, what they offered was if I pleaded guilty, they would recommend no jail time, and I told them as politely as I could that they could forget it; I’m not interested in a plea deal because I didn’t do anything. From my defender’s own lips, apparently the prosecution told them that they want my guns. And that’s what this is all about, that they feel I’m a loose cannon even though I have no criminal record whatsoever. I’m a veteran as well. There’s no indication that I have any intentions other than being a calm, sane citizen.
MRS. RONDEAU: So you have no criminal record whatsoever.
MR. HUFF: None. But what he did say is if I did not take the plea deal, they would come up with another charge that had a minimum of five years, and that is what they did.
MRS. RONDEAU: And this was from the federal level?
MR. HUFF: Yes.
MRS. RONDEAU: Were there other people with you that day?
MR. HUFF: There was one young gentleman who rode up there with me on April 20, but in their statement, they say that I rode up in the company of another vehicle; there are all sorts of things that you’ll see on the Facebook pages that just don’t make sense. So what happened was they hit me with this other charge, and I told them, “I don’t care. Let’s go to trial. I haven’t done anything, and I’m not going to back down and take a plea deal for something that I didn’t do.”
The problem that they’re having is the civil unrest and then this new charge, and I can’t quote it, but it’s a “924 C1a,” and it revolves around using firearms in a crime of violence. The problem they have is there is no incident.
MRS. RONDEAU: Because you didn’t use it?
MR. HUFF: Yes, and there wasn’t an incident to begin with. On April 20, nothing happened. I had the traffic stop; we went into town, and I think Sher Zieve did an article on “Is Obama Planning his own Waco?” around that time.
When I was at this traffic stop, it was a 90-minute traffic stop for apparently running a stop sign and following too closely. However, we’ve got the dash-cam video and it shows neither one of those. It shows that mine was the only vehicle of three that actually did come to a complete stop. So they used that as a pretext for pulling me over. I had my Colt .45 on my side, and I’m permitted to do so according Georgia law, and they should have honored the permit. They disarmed me for officer safety; they went through all their checks and stuff for 90 minutes. When they handed me back my gun, the officer asked me if I wouldn’t mind, when I got to Madisonville, if I wouldn’t mind securing that .45. And I said, “Well, if you guys are going, I’ll put it away right now,” and I immediately put it in my toolbox. Everything shows that I put that gun away.
Here is the thought process: What do you think would have happened…when we got to Madisonville, there were snipers on the roof, there were helicopters; there were at least 250 different law enforcement agents there.
MRS. RONDEAU: And this is in a very small town in Monroe County, TN?
MR. HUFF: Yes, it is a really small town. Just about every third vehicle was law enforcement of some type. They were feds, and again, there were snipers up on the roof, state police, local police; it was a pretty big ordeal.
MRS. RONDEAU: Why would they have done that because somebody is on the way to a hearing?
MR. HUFF: They had heard that there was going to be this grand takeover of the courthouse. And the FBI, in fact, came to my house the evening prior to question me about it, and I told him, “Yeah, we’re going up there to support Walt and possibly help him in effecting the citizen’s arrest and whatever we need to do.” So he asked me, “We’ve heard about guns and possibly an AK-47,” and I told him, “I’m taking them. I’m legal, the guns are legal; I have a right to defend myself, so yeah, they’re going.” And he never arrested me.
On April 20, when they pulled me over, all of their statements presented as though it was a simple traffic stop that led to all of this stuff…however, if you’ve seen the video, they were ready. In fact, the dash-cam footage shows an FBI vehicle on the exit ramp that then pulled in right behind the trooper, and they pulled me over. So they planned to pull me over.
MRS. RONDEAU: Someone had emailed me an eyewitness report from the incident which I published. I recall that they said that you were driving lawfully.
MR. HUFF: The FBI statement says that they followed me from my home that morning. I know for a fact they called ahead; he pulled me over for running a stop sign and following too close, neither of which was done. He testified under oath that that’s why he stopped me, and he’s literally, while we’re all watching the video and seeing me come to a complete stop, saying that I ran the stop sign.
MRS. RONDEAU: So how could he get away with making that kind of a statement and not having his credibility impugned?
MR. HUFF: Well, that was at a motions hearing, and we’re still waiting to hear from the judge whether or not he’s going to suppress the entire traffic stop.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you feel that the federal charges are legitimate?
MR. HUFF: I know that it’s not legitimate because all of these are commerce laws. I went back and checked out the entire Section 231. It came about in 1968, back with the “hippie” movement. Basically, the way it was intended is if I, here in Georgia, manufacture a molotov cocktail and I hear that Walt wants to blow up the Monroe County courthouse and I drive that up to him and sell it to him and he goes and blows up the courthouse, then they can come after me. It would have been “in commerce” because I sold the items to him. But a private citizen does not conduct commerce. I went up in my personal vehicle; there was no type of transaction to speak of, and I’m permitted to carry these guns. So which is it? Am I allowed, as a private citizen, to carry my guns, or was I acting in commerce? And all of their statements say that they believe that I was acting in commerce.
MRS. RONDEAU: How many FBI agents submitted statements saying that you were engaged in commerce?
MR. HUFF: I know of two, and one specified repeatedly that he believes that I was involved in interstate commerce in three or four different places. He said that. Back to the article that Sher did, what do you think would have happened with all of these law enforcement officers and snipers everywhere prepared if I had listened to that officer who asked me, “When you get to Madisonville, would you mind securing that weapon?” and then I drive to Madisonville, put the .45 back on my side when we get to Madisonville, get out of my truck, and say, “Oh, wow, I forgot; I told that officer I would put my gun away,” and then reached down, put my hand on my .45 and take it out of the holster? I would have been dead.
So why did that officer ask me to put it away when I got to Madisonville? There is no reason whatsoever. So far, I’ve had the FBI visit me, and I told them exactly what we were doing. I didn’t get arrested. I got pulled over on the way to Madisonville for 90 minutes with them looking for any reason to arrest me, and they didn’t arrest me. Now, flash forward ten days later. We went to Madisonville, ate lunch and went home. Nothing happened. Ten days later, Carl, two other gentlemen and I really wanted to help out Walt the best that we could, and we thought it best that maybe we secure a law enforcement officer before we do anything else; find someone who was willing to assist. So the decision was made that I would go back up to Tennessee and spend a few days scouting around the entire state if necessary to find one law enforcement officer who would be willing to assist us.
MRS. RONDEAU: What would that have entailed?
MR. HUFF: When you make a citizen’s arrest, you are allowed by law to take them into custody; however, you assume 100% of the liability if anything goes wrong. By having a law enforcement officer there, I can place you under arrest and have him take you into custody.
MRS. RONDEAU: So the officer is literally assisting you to effect the citizen’s arrest?
MR. HUFF: Exactly.
MRS. RONDEAU: And whom were you planning on arresting?
MR. HUFF: We were just there. I had no capacity other than assisting Walt with whatever he needed.
MRS. RONDEAU: It was the grand jury foreman, correct?
MR. HUFF: Yes. As it turns out, the two times that I have been to Madisonville so far, I was in the same black pickup truck that you saw. However, my wife’s transmission went out in her vehicle, and the only other vehicle that we had was my militia truck. Now I’ll tell you, and there are pictures of it on “True Patriots,” it’s a camouflage truck with upside-down flags on it and things like that. At the time, I was a chaplain for the Georgia militia, and we would do outings once a month, and I was fortunate to have this vehicle because I could keep all of my militia gear in that truck ready at a moment’s notice.
MRS. RONDEAU: It sounds like the home improvement contractor who has a truck just for his business and he keeps all his tools in there.
MR. HUFF: That’s exactly right. So given that scenario, I figured, “Hey, I’m just going to stay in a motel and speak with sheriffs in outlying counties; my camouflage actually would kind-of be cool to them,” so, “Here, honey, take the black truck,” because she works at an office building; there’s no way she could drive a camo truck because there are a lot of minorities and they just get freaked out at a camo truck. So I figured, “Hey, you take the black truck and I will take the camo truck.” I had taken all the guns out that I recall that were in there, but I did have some militia-type items in there: camping gear and what-not.
I went up on April 28th, I believe, and on April 30, which was a Friday, I received a call from the same FBI agent who had come to my house on April the 19th. The conversation went such that he had convinced me to turn around and come back, because possibly he would take a look at all of this information and be the one to assist us. So I was thinking, “Hot ding! I may turn the truck around; I want to come home anyway.” So come to find out, that phone call was only so that they could triangulated on my location.
MRS. RONDEAU: So was it a trap of sorts?
MR. HUFF: Yes. I didn’t know at the time, but I turned the truck around, I was getting ready to come back home, and within an exit or two, I had a state trooper probably a third of a mile behind. After a few more exits, another state trooper was following him. The farther I went, and I finally got into the downtown Knoxville area, there were quite a few. The next thing I knew, I passed another entrance ramp and a sheriff’s deputy got behind me and turned the lights on, and it looked like K-Mart was going out of business. If I’m guessing, there were between 15 and 20 law enforcement vehicles pulling me over. They were ready for anything. I had assault rifles, shotguns, everything pointed at me.
MRS. RONDEAU: And you had done nothing wrong?
MR. HUFF: Nope. In fact, I even had in the truck a couple of business cards from sheriffs that I had already been in contact with. I had gone up there looking for law enforcement assistance.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you think all these people who were pointing guns at you knew that?
MR. HUFF: I think, given my conversation with the gentleman on the phone, I don’t think they cared about anything other than finding me. So as soon as they found my locations, the calls started going out across the agencies, and everybody started piling up in Knoxville.
I had no intentions of going to Madisonville on that trip. What we were going to do was find a law enforcement officer and set up something for some point in the future: a week, two weeks, a month, whatever. So there was no intention of going to Monroe County on that trip whatsoever.
MRS. RONDEAU: And a citizen’s arrest in legal throughout Tennessee, correct?
MR. HUFF: Absolutely.
MRS. RONDEAU: Is it legal in Georgia, where you live?
MR. HUFF: It is; it just never happens anymore. No one ever attempts a citizen’s arrest, so people aren’t familiar with the law.
MRS. RONDEAU: Perhaps it’s legal in most, if not all, states, and nobody knows it.
MR. HUFF: That’s right. Because we’re so dependent on the authorities instead of our civil servants. Anyway, so I had a six-hour interrogation and I was talkative; I had nothing to hide: “Y’all are the ones that ain’t doing your job; that’s why I’m up here.” In fact, in part of the interrogation, I was asked a question, and I think if there’s ever a movie, this has to be in there. I know where it came from, but it was an awesome line: “What would it take to make you go away?”
MRS. RONDEAU: Is that what they said to you?
MR. HUFF: Yes. And I said, “That’s easy: relieve me of my oath.” And they said, “Well, we can’t do that.” And I said, “Then I can’t go away.”
MRS. RONDEAU: Were you referring to your oath to the U.S. Constitution?
MR. HUFF: Yes, ma’am.
MRS. RONDEAU: Once you swear that oath, there’s technically no way that you’re ever released from it, correct?
MR. HUFF: That’s exactly right. I knew the answer to that.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you think they knew what you were talking about when you said that?
MR. HUFF: Oh, they absolutely knew. We had already been talking at length anyway about why I was up there; that I had taken an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, not just the ones in my home town, and the fact that they were neglecting their oath is what brought me up there in the first place.
MRS. RONDEAU: At that time, did they know that you were talking about a grand jury that had had a foreman serving over and over again in violation of law?
MR. HUFF: Oh, yes. I remember telling them, as far as him serving for that long, being reappointed repeatedly, not being eligible to serve, and they basically looked at me dumbfounded, because they don’t know the law.
MRS. RONDEAU: Other than being dumbfounded, what did they then say?
MR. HUFF: The only thing I can remember them saying was “I don’t know about that.” Nothing that I could take home and put in the bank, that’s for sure.
MRS. RONDEAU: After the six hours, what happened?
MR. HUFF: They actually took me to jail. By the time they got done, it was Friday afternoon, and I guess it was too late to see the judge, so I actually had to spend the weekend in the Blount County detention facility.
MRS. RONDEAU: Where were the people from who questioned you?
MR. HUFF: I had two primary interrogators. One was FBI; the other was Homeland Security.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you have any reason to believe that the Tennessee authorities called them?
MR. HUFF: This is just my thought, but the events of April 20 cost a lot of money. Somebody has to pay for it, and because I came from Georgia and went to Tennessee, it became a federal issue.
MRS. RONDEAU: So if a criminal or prison escapee went from one state to the other, this is how it would be handled?
MR. HUFF: Yes. Here’s the funny thing: to tie together some pieces up until this point, I was approached by the FBI on February 19; no arrest. I was accosted and stopped for 90 minutes by various agencies on April 20; no arrest. I went into Madisonville, had lunch, came home; no arrest. Yet they turned around and arrested me ten days later for events on April 20 that never happened.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Huff has posted a video on his Facebook page regarding his upcoming trials (on left column beneath “Photos”). The Post & Email will be publishing the remainder of Mr. Huff’s story in the near future and following the developments as he prepares for his trial on December 1, 2010, in Monroe County, TN.
An account from one of the local newspapers, the Advocate & Democrat, of the April 20 incident in which local officials questioned whether or not SWAT teams, state and local police, sheriff’s presence and other law enforcement at the courthouse were “an over reaction” is here.