Rooting out homegrown terror
Home to 40 anti-government groups, state must be vigilant of crackpots, deadly extremists
Updated 7:19 am, Sunday, November 20, 2016
An orthodontist. A pharmacist. A mechanic.
They came from the rural fringes of the Capital Region but landed in Albany federal court for the same reason: They lived on the fringes of domestic terrorism.
Glenn Richard Unger, Martin S. Kimber and Glendon Scott Crawford, are local examples of a larger world of homegrown militias, Patriot movements and “sovereign citizens” under constant scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice, which lists its top goal as the prevention of terrorist attacks.
It is a world with varying levels of anti-government extremism: Unger, a Columbia County orthodontist and “elder” in the sovereign citizen movement, evaded taxes. Kimber, a retired pharmacist and Nazi sympathizer, drove from his Ulster County home to repeatedly sprinkle mercury around Albany Medical Center Hospital. Crawford, a former General Electric mechanic and Klansman from Saratoga County, sought to use deadly radiation on Muslims, the Executive Mansion in Albany and the White House.
It is a world that grew significantly during the tenure of President Barack Obama — and a world federal authorities say continues to threaten America from within as the nation prepares for Thanksgiving, a time of extra alert.
In 2015, New York state was home to 40 anti-government Patriot groups to rank sixth nationwide behind Pennsylvania (60), California (55), Texas (54), Virginia (41) and Missouri (41), according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization.
The list included the 3 Percenters, American Patriot Party, Oath Keepers, John Birch Society, Constitution Party of New York and Get Out Of Our House or www.goooh.com. The SPLC said “generally, such groups define themselves as opposed to the ‘New World Order,’ engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines.”
“Factors fueling the anti-government movement in recent years include changing demographics driven by immigration, the struggling economy and the election of the first African-American president,” the SPLC noted on its website.
…when Unger was stopped by State Police in 2012, he refused to give his name and identified himself as a ”1922 silver dollar coin,” a reference to the United States going off the gold standard to back currency, which “sovereign citizens” believe destroyed the country.
The case sounds like comedy but court papers showed Unger kept assault rifles and an Uzi 9 mm handgun in his former home in St. Lawrence County. He kept documents in a Rensselaer County storage facility about armor-piercing ammunition, grenade launching devices, and chlorine, pipe and envelope bombs.
A look at courtroom testimony
The language of “sovereign citizens” can be maddening — even to judges.
The anti-tax activists, considered a subset of the anti-government militia and Patriot movements, have annoyed more than one Albany judge in recent years with arcane ramblings, bizarre references and replies that almost sound comical.
In 2013, sovereign citizen Gregory Foland enraged Albany County Judge Stephen Herrick by refusing to identify himself in court.
“Were you given the name Gregory Foland by your parents when you were born?” the judge asked.
“I don’t recall. I was a baby,” Foland responded.
“Is this your picture from the Department of Motor Vehicles?” the judge asked.
“It’s in your hand that would make it yours, wouldn’t it?” Foland answered.
In 2008, Daniel J. Riley, a Cohoes electrician, was equally confusing when he appeared before a federal judge in Maine for a hearing to change lawyers. Riley was charged and later convicted of assisting anti-tax extremists Edward and Elaine Brown hole up in a fortress in New Hampshire.
Riley bought guns, explosives, lethal perimeter devices and, according to the judge, “indicated on multiple occasions that he would resist the United States marshal in enforcing a court order to arrest Mr. and Mrs. Brown with force.”
“My attorney doesn’t represent me,” Riley told Judge George Singal in U.S. District Court in New Hampshire.
“Pardon me?” the judge responded.
“He’s not my attorney,” Riley said. “He keeps saying he’s for Mr. Riley. I know he represents the legal fiction which the U.S. government created, but he doesn’t represent Daniel Jonathan, Family of Riley, that live in Maynard.”
“Thank you, Mr. Riley. You may be seated. The record will note Mr. Riley is in the courtroom. I have earlier found that the defendant is competent to be sentenced,” the judge said.
Riley replied, “I’m not the defendant.”
The most bizarre example might be convicted tax evader Glenn Richard Unger, a former orthodontist who once referred to himself to police as a 1932 silver dollar coin as well as referred to himself as “deceased.”