Edward Brown, the man who led a months-long standoff at his Plainfield home in 2007, will remain in prison for the time being, after a judge rejected his attempt to be freed over coronavirus concerns.
However, lawyers for Brown continue to pursue efforts to have him released. His wife, Elaine Brown, and two others have been freed after the state Supreme Court struck down weapons crimes that they were convicted on because of minimum-mandatory sentences that accompanied the convictions.
Brown was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Concord on March 24, where his lawyers were expected to argue for his release. But his hearing was canceled during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal has ordered it to be rescheduled once court operations resume.
In earlier filings, Brown requested that he be returned to New Hampshire for the sentencing hearing.
Brown became a prominent figure in the anti-government militia movement in the 2000s when he and his wife holed up in their Plainfield compound after their convictions for tax evasion charges.
They amassed an arsenal of sniper rifles, booby traps and explosives and threatened to kill any federal agents who tried to apprehend them. They were taken into custody after deputy U.S. Marshals, acting undercover, entered the compound posing as sympathizers.
Singal initially sentenced Brown to 37 years in prison, but last June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that carried a mandatory minimum sentence for weapons crimes.
Brown had been sentenced to 30 years on weapons charges and his lawyers have said he has already served more than his time on the remaining charges and should be freed. Prosecutors disagree.
Singal has yet to rule on their legal arguments. He has allowed Brown’s defense lawyers to share his normally confidential pre-sentencing investigation with a forensic psychologist.
The expert would “better inform the Court about whether (Brown’s) mental status causes him to be, or to remain, a threat to public safety, and, if so, what conditions, other than continued incarceration, could assist in mitigating any such threat,” Brown’s lawyer, Benjamin Falkner of Andover, Mass., wrote in court papers.
Falkner also wrote that his client is a member of two at-risk groups for COVID-19. He is elderly — 77 — and he has a longstanding history of poorly controlled high blood pressure.
“As further grounds for his release, Brown notes that jails are particularly problematic vectors for the spread of COVID-19,” Falkner wrote.
Singal — who normally sits in Portland, Maine, and was the judge who initially sentenced Brown on the Plainfield-related crimes — gave no written reason for denying the emergency release.