Freemen Prove Hostile Witnesses

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BILLINGS, Mont.: The Thoreaus-with-guns Montana Freemen disdain to recognize the U.S. justice system. The system has been quick to return the sentiment. As opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of six Freemen for abetting other Freemen in their 1996 standoff with the FBI, four of them watched on TV from a holding cell, banished from the courtroom Monday for shouting and cursing. Two sat at the defense table but also refused to participate as their court-appointed lawyers began their opening statements.

This standoff should be quicker than the last one, which went on for 81 days. Jury selection was completed in just one day, and prosecutors are already promising the jury videotapes that show the six defendants committing violent acts, carrying weapons and robbing two TV news crews. In May, the Freemen leaders will go on trial for bank fraud and a host of other charges; by then they'll be able to judge for themselves the merits of intransigence as a legal strategy.