The Strange Case Of The Birther OathKeeper — Who Tried To Take Over A Courthouse — Heads To Trial

On Tuesday, Georgia OathKeeper Darren Huff will begin his trial for an alleged attempt to take over a Tennessee courthouse and conduct citizens arrests on local judges and officers.Huff’s troubles began in April 2010, when Walter Francis Fitzpatrick was arrested in Madisonville, Tennessee for attempting to conduct a citizens’ arrest on Monroe County Grand Jury Foreman Gary Pettway. “I’m charging you with official misconduct,” Fitzpatrick told Pettway. “I’m placing you under arrest. You must now come with me.” Fitzpatrick was charged with inciting a riot, disrupting an official public meeting, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Beforehand, Fitzpatrick, who is a leader of the birther and Patriot group American Grand Jury, had written up 24 citizens’ arrest warrants for officials at the federal, state and local levels, calling them “domestic enemies” and describing President Obama as an “illegal alien, infiltrator and impostor.” His grievance with Pettway, it seems, was that Pettway would not agree to convene a grand jury to investigate the AGC’s belief that Obama is not a natural-born citizen.

Fitzpatrick’s allies called for supporters to storm the courthouse and conduct their own citizens’ arrests in retaliation for Fitzpatrick’s arrest, and Huff — carrying a Colt .45 and an AK-47 — responded to the request.

Huff, a former U.S. Naval officer from Georgia and a member of the OathKeepers, made his way to the courthouse on April 20, 2010, the day Fitzpatrick was supposed to stand trial.

As TPM wrote at the time:

Huff was already being monitored by the FBI, a local TV station has reported, and after reaching Tennessee he was quickly stopped by state troopers. They told reporters that Huff made clear that he was armed and that he planned to go to the courthouse and arrest county officials — who he called “domestic enemies of the United States engaged in treason”– in order to turn them over to state police to put in jail. The troopers eventually let Huff proceed to the courthouse, and no violence seems to have ensued that day — though Huff and his allies did not succeed in having county officials arrested.

Huff told the troopers that he was was not planning in resorting to violence unless provoked, but he was ready to die for his rights and what he believed in, according to court documents. He was arrested a few days after, and was eventually indicted knowingly “carrying a firearm in interstate commerce with the intent to use it in a civil disorder” and “using a firearm in relation to another felony,” according to the AP.

Huff’s trial begins Tuesday in District Court. If convicted of the first charge, he faces up to five years in prison. The second charge carries a two-year minimum sentence.

In July, Huff was granted a request to oust his publicly-appointed defenders, calling them “either incompetent or attempting to sell the defendant down the river.” He was given a replacement.