Convict Apologizes to Plainfield
By Sarah Brubeck
Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, May 30, 2014
(Published in print: Saturday, May 31, 2014)
Plainfield — Seven years after Ed and Elaine Brown — the anti-government activists who refused to pay federal income taxes — took part in a nine-month standoff with federal authorities involving stockpiled explosives and weapons, Elaine Brown says she is sorry.
The apology was offered in a letter published in the June issue of PlainFacts, a monthly publication compiled by Plainfield residents.
Brown’s letter, which is dated April 20 and was hand addressed from a federal prison in Aliceville, Ala., is directed to the people of Plainfield. Brown says that she and her husband initiated an action seven years ago that they believed would advance the “cause of justice.” They wanted to “right a wrong in our government” that would benefit others who had been victimized by government, she wrote.
“Regrettably, our vision was narrowed to our ‘cause’ and failed to take into account the impact we were having on others in the town, especially our neighbors on Center of Town Road, and also to the Plainfield police and the town administrators. We failed to realize the fear, anxiety and impact we were causing these good people.
“Now, seven years later, I realize the wrong I have done to you all. One cannot do the wrong thing for the right reason.”
She asks for the town’s and God’s forgiveness.
Brown’s letter, which was placed in PlainFacts between an update about Plainfield’s non-flying raven, “Edgar,” and an article about a lilac photo contest, had already been seen by numerous Plainfield residents by Thursday afternoon.
The Browns gained notoriety well beyond Plainfield when they refused to pay income taxes and, when put on trial in 2007 for tax evasion, stopped showing up in court.
After walking out on the trial, they holed up inside their Plainfield home for nine months.
During that time, they stashed homemade bombs, weapons and ammunition and invited like-minded people who refused to recognize the authority of the federal government to join their resistance.
Among the neighbors the Browns inconvenienced was Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and his wife, Joanna, who have property across the street from the Browns’ driveway. The Breyers did not visit their Plainfield home during the summer of 2007 because of the standoff.
Town Administrator Steve Halleran said while the town has received letters from Ed Brown in prison — mostly criticizing the town for not providing needed services and blaming the town for not protecting the Browns from “unlawful due process and fraud” — the town had never heard from Elaine Brown.
“It doesn’t make a great deal of difference — Ed and Elaine are gone,” Halleran said. “They’re not coming back, but I think everybody has some capacity for forgiveness, and the fact that she took the time to write an apology letter and put it in PlainFacts, whatever her motivations might have been, I think it will be well received in town.”
Halleran said he doesn’t think Plainfield residents harbor ill will toward the Browns. Actually, he thinks a lot of people feel sorry about what happened to them.
The Browns, who are both in their early 70s, were convicted by a federal jury in 2009 of conspiracy to prevent government agents from discharging their duties, obstruction of justice, and illegal possession of firearms, among other charges. Ed Brown was sentenced to 37 years in prison and Elaine Brown was sentenced to 35 years, and their release dates are not until the early 2040s.
Halleran’s reading of Plainfield residents’ sentiments appeared to be accurate among the couple’s immediate neighbors, who said the Browns never caused them any trouble until federal agents took over their street and helicopters began to fly overhead.
Phyllis Aldrich lives on Center of Town Road and said the couple invited her and her husband to their house for coffee a couple of times and called the Browns “good neighbors.”
However, Aldrich acknowledged she became increasingly nervous when the Browns’ circle of like-minded supporters grew, and more and more strangers gathered on the Browns’ property.
Nevertheless, Aldrich said she was surprised and pleased to see the letter from Elaine Brown.
“It’s nice to have a remembrance of them,” Aldrich said. “I didn’t think we’d ever hear from them again.”
Mary Sweet, who lives at the bottom of Center of Town Road, said she also has fond memories of Ed Brown and remembers an occasion when he stopped at the house and complimented the home’s purple doors.
“When they lived here, they weren’t in any way a bother to us,” Sweet said. “They were very pleasant.”
But the Browns did keep neighbors on their toes. Sweet said she never expected to see a SWAT team on her road, and said when authorities closed the road off one day, her husband had a car full of groceries and was forced to go to a neighbor’s house to place items in a refrigerator.
And while Sweet said she doesn’t know if Elaine Brown’s apology will have much of an impact, she said she was sad to see how their story ended.
“I think it’s a dreadful shame that they gave up a life in public to live in jail,” Sweet said.
The federal government put the Browns’ Center of Town Road property up for sale last year, along with Elaine Brown’s dentist office on Glen Road. Plainfield’s attorney Barry Schuster said there is a tentative date for an auction on Aug. 15 at the U.S. District Court in Concord.
A federal judge set a minimum bid of $250,000 for the Plainfield home and a $507,5000 minimum bid for the Glen Road building, which is across the street from the Powerhouse Mall. Plainfield is owed about $150,000 in back taxes, while Lebanon is owed more than $210,000.