Browns’ Compound for Sale
Ed Brown looks out a window of his Plainfield home yesterday afternoon. Valley News - Ikuru Kuwajima Purchase photo reprints »
Plainfield — For sale: Spacious, well-fortified home sitting on 100 hilltop acres with commanding views of enemies approaching by land or air. This historic estate comes complete with a sniper tower to provide a tactical advantage over advancing government agents, solar panels enabling the occupants to cut ties with “society,” and enough storage space to amass an arsenal that would make some Third World dictators envious. Seller not liable for improvised explosive devices left on property. For more information, contact Uncle Sam.
That’s right, prospective homeowners, the federal government is finally ready to auction off Ed and Elaine Brown’s compound on Center of Town Road in Plainfield, four years after they received lengthy prison sentences for their armed standoff with government agents. Elaine Brown’s former dental office on Glen Road in West Lebanon, currently shrouded by weeds that have grown taller than a kindergartner, will also be made available to the highest bidder.
Federal Judge George Singal recently set a minimum bid of $250,000 for the Plainfield property and $507,500 for the Glen Road dental office, which is directly across the street from the Powerhouse Mall.
The auction, which has not been scheduled, will be held in the U.S. District Court building in Concord .
Along with being among the final notes in a bizarre chapter in Upper Valley history, the sale will be a financial windfall to Lebanon and Plainfield. Both communities are owed sizable sums in back taxes on the respective properties, which have been off the tax rolls since being seized by federal authorities.
Lebanon is owed more than $210,000, and Plainfield around $155,000, lawyers and officials said.
“The city is very pleased that we are finally moving forward, and we will receive what we are owed,” said Lebanon’s attorney, Shawn Tanguay. “That’s a prime retail area. We hope a new business will go in there and flourish.”
Plainfield Town Administrator Steve Halleran said he hoped a family would move into the Brown’s fortress and establish roots in the community.
“It’s a huge deal for us to get paid and to have that money we can count on,” Halleran said. “We have waited patiently. It’s a big deal for a little town.”
The Browns, longtime anti-government activists who refused to pay income taxes, fled their trial on tax evasion charges in January 2007 and holed up inside their fortified home. During the next nine months, the Browns built an arsenal of high-powered rifles, homemade bombs and 60,000 rounds of ammunition.
They also hosted a motley crew of like-minded supporters from across the country.
The couple pledged to violently resist any arrest attempt, but they were taken into custody without incident in October 2007 during a ruse by undercover agents .
A federal jury convicted them in 2009 of conspiracy to prevent government agents from discharging their duties, obstruction of justice, illegal possession of firearms and other charges, and sentenced them both to more than 30 years in prison.
The sale was delayed in part by the need to navigate through a web of “sham trusts” that the Browns established , according to federal court documents.
Moreover, the U.S. Marshal’s Service had to insure that the property was safe — the Browns’ fortifications included homemade bombs hanging from trees and obscured at other strategic locations.
Officials said the property is thought to be cleared of explosives, but with 100 wooded acres, no one can say for sure.
According to Singal’s ruling, the proceeds from the auction will first go to the federal government, to repay minor maintenance costs and the expense of the auction.
The Lebanon and Plainfield tax bills are next in line to be repaid . Any leftover money will go back to the federal government, to repay the Browns multi-million dollar back tax bills.
Both Tanguay, the city’s attorney, and Plainfield’s attorney, Barry Schuster, said the towns expects to be paid back in full.
“We’re in a very good position,” Tanguay said.
Of course, there was one individual who did his best to protest the auction.
“My lord and savior the Christ Jesus advised me that I shall not comply to your requests because (of) my moral principles of light and caring as mandated by the United States Constitution for the United States of America and its bylaws and statutes,” Ed Brown, 71 wrote the court from his federal prison cell in Illinois. (Elaine Brown, 72, is being held in a West Virginia prison.)
Along with his letter of protest, Brown included several drawings of ghost-like figures stabbing a man labeled “Taxpayer” and a large bonfire in which “democracy,” “habeas corps” and “honor” were burning.
Brown also has tried to keep in touch with his former hometown.
He has mailed one letter a year — usually around Valentine’s Day — to Halleran, who has kept the rambling screeds for safekeeping.
Brown’s missive from 2012 included an illustration of a hummingbird on the envelope, but his time in federal prison may be wearing on him.
This year’s letter featured a drawing with a darker theme: A storm trooper, pointing a handgun at an unarmed woman.
He has also sent the town a handwritten ‘IOU’ for his back taxes, which he said is redeemable at the U.S. Treasury.
“It was kind of cute,” Halleran said. “Brings back memories.”
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3304.