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Freemen issue legal challenge

Fugitives will surrender if constitutionality of FBI, IRS is proved

FBI agents search Bo Gritz before the ex-Green Beret is allowed to drive onto the farm where the Freemen group is isolated. Gritz returned after seven hours of what he called "verbal judo" with the Freemen.

The Billings Gazette JORDAN (AP) -

Former Green Beret colonel James "Bo" Gritz concluded a second round of talks with the Freemen on Sunday as the FBI kept watch on the anti-government group's remote compound for the 35th day.

Gritz spent more than seven hours with the anti-government group Saturday and again Sunday. He was accompanied on both visits to the 960-acre ranch by retired Phoenix police officer Jack McLamb.

FBI agents thoroughly searched the two men and their car after they left the compound.

Gritz emerged with a 26-page document from the Freemen that uses legal cases, common law rulings and other sources to challenge the constitutionality of the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies.

"Every man, woman and child agreed they will walk out - right now - IF the United States government can prove that the documents which I'm going to give you are not the law," Gritz said at a news conference.

"To me, that sounds like quite a challenge."

The Freemen also sent out a videotape in which they attempt to explain themselves. Gritz gave the tape to FBI agents, who said they would allow the media to make copies. Gritz said he had not watched the tape.

Gritz described Sunday's negotiations as "verbal judo all day," a reference to what he called the "legal mumbo-jumbo" spoken by the Freemen. He said he would return to the compound Monday.

Gritz helped end a 1992 standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, between the FBI and white separatist Randy Weaver, whom he persuaded to surrender.

Gritz said he had given up trying to persuade the FBI to let Weaver go onto the compound with him. He said FBI officials had assured him Saturday night that Weaver would be allowed in, but the decision was reversed in Washington, D.C. FBI agents have refused to comment throughout the standoff.

There were some indications Sunday that Weaver had left the area, but he turned up in Jordan later in the day.

Gritz, who gave the first public report of life on the compound Saturday, said the Freemen appear to be running low on food. He also said that all of the adult men he saw wore pistols and that there were numerous rifles in their farmhouse.

He saw 16 people in the main house on the Freemen's ranch, but was told there were 22 people on the property. The FBI has estimated 18 people to be on the compound.

Gritz has publicly urged the Freemen to surrender and face trial in federal court. He said the Freemen seem especially interested in having lawyer Gerry Spence defend them if they come out. Spence was Weaver's lawyer.

On Saturday, one of the men holed up at the complex surrendered to the FBI. Stewart Douglas Waterhouse, 37, is believed to have run a roadblock to enter the compound a day after the standoff began.

Waterhouse faces charges of being an accessory after the fact for entering the compound and joining the standoff, U.S. Attorney Sherry Scheel Matteucci said. He was to appear before a judge Monday.

Waterhouse's surrender was the first since Ebert W. Stanton, 23, and his mother, Agnes B. Stanton, 52, left the farm April 11.

Gritz said a man named Barry Nelson from Kansas had entered the compound with Waterhouse and remains inside. Gritz said Nelson is afraid to leave for fear of being arrested. No other information about Nelson was immediately available.

The Freemen contend they are not subject to federal or state laws, but are sovereign citizens of their own country and are governed only by common law.

Like Weaver, whose wife and son and a U.S. marshal were shot to death in the 1992 confrontation, the Freemen ascribe to the white-supremacist Christian Identity movement, which holds that white people from northern Europe are God's chosen, while Jews are the offspring of Satan and blacks are subhuman "mud people."

Weaver, 48, of Grand Junction, Iowa, was acquitted in 1993 in the marshal's death. But he received an 18-month prison sentence for failure to appear at a trial on federal charges of selling a sawed-off shotgun to a federal agent. He was released with no probation.

"Randy has a testimony that none of the rest of us can deliver," Gritz told reporters Saturday night.

FBI agents have surrounded the Freemen complex since March 25, when they arrested two leaders of the group in a sting operation. Some of the Freemen are wanted on federal and state charges ranging from writing millions of dollars in worthless checks to threatening to murder a federal judge.

The only outside negotiators allowed to talk to the Freemen before Gritz and McLamb were state officials, including four legislators, who have met with them several times. Relatives of the Freemen have also been allowed to visit.

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