“[T]ruth & reason are eternal. they have prevailed. and they will eternally prevail, however, in times & places they may be overborne for a while by violence military, civil, or ecclesiastical.”
During March of 2015, William Krisstofer Wolf was arrested for being in possession of a machinegun. The following November, he was convicted by a jury for violating Title 18 United States Code § 922(o) and Title 26 United States Code § 5861(d), and was sentenced in March of 2016 to six years incarceration. Assuming that his pre-trial detention will count as time-served towards the completion of his sentence, then Wolf is expected to be released sometime in 2021.
What exactly lead to such a state of affairs for William Wolf? To answer that question, we must examine the past few years and see how a series of interrelated events were set in motion vis-à-vis the domino effect. Spanning the course of many months, the story of how William Wolf came to be incarcerated, and remains so today, is certainly one well worth learning if you care about human liberty.
In order to understand William Wolf, you must first comprehend Ernie Tertelgte. Initially attending a Tea Partier rally in 2010, Tertelgte originally got into trouble during August of 2013 when a park ranger charged him with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest, both of which stemmed from when the ranger demanded that Tertelgte produce a fishing license and government-issued identification while Tertelgte was fishing with his son. The jury subsequently convicted Tertelgte of both charges, neither of which was directly caused by a lack of licensure or failure to produce identification.
Throughout 2014, Tertelgte promoted the oxymoronic “sovereign citizenship” ideology; in January, he supported the formation of “citizens’ grand juries,” which were organized by Steve McNeil. In typical sovereign citizen fashion, Tertelgte spread misinformation about the applicability of Montana Code Annotated § 37-61-207. Local mainstream media’s last report in March said that Tertelgte was back in court, this time waving a white flag, and that trial dates were set for the following April and May; I was unable to locate any follow up articles regarding these court appearances, so Tertelgte’s fate is currently unknown.
Mentioned during this saga was the fact that William Wolf was a friend of Tertelgte. Due to the treatment Tertelgte received, Wolf expressed his desire to have Judge Rick West arrested. Up until this point, Wolf’s “activism” was seemingly limited to being a user on the Constitution Club’s website.
The nearest equivalent of a cotillion for Wolf as a “coming out” (of sorts) to the patriot community was when he issued an official request for a three-member panel from the Gallatin County Commissioners to investigate complaints and alleged violations of the law; needless to say, they denied his request. In terms of outreach and what has since become his legacy, were his broadcasts of The Montana Republic, which ran on BlogTalkRadio from January 14th to November 18th of 2014. Most importantly, I think was his live lecture regarding Committees of Safety on January 30th of 2015; the sovereign citizen group Republic for the uNited States of America (RuSA), as I’ve mentioned before, hijacked the simulcast of Wolf’s lecture by claiming to the other simulcasters that only their live feed was stable enough to support all the out-of-state listeners – this subsequently gave the false impression that Committees of Safety were a sovereign citizen thing, even though they are not.
I was a featured guest on three episodes of The Montana Republic during its run. On May 20th, we discussed libertarian philosophy as well as Gary Hunt’s article, Factions – The Chains of Oppression: The Greatest Obstacle to Restoration of Constitutional Government. The September 23rd broadcast was dedicated to civil asset forfeiture, and October 28th focused on state citizenship. Because of these positive experiences is why Wolf agreed to become a co-host on Disassociation Nation, but oddly enough, his debut appearance was also the very same day he was arrested on March 25th; there was scant information publicly available until Gary Hunt began his Wolf Trap series on April 14th.
Obviously, the harassment of Tertelgte, the citizens’ grand jury, and the alternative media outreach were all running concomitantly into each other, thereby forming the contextual background leading right up to Wolf’s arrest. Interestingly enough, Wolf was interviewed by Peter Ryan of The Montana Pioneer from a jail in Billings; Wolf told Ryan that:
“They had committees of safety during the Revolution. They were committees – organizations – formed by the people. Their job was to give the people a voice. It was a place where the people could form the complaint and present it. They are not militias. They are just a body of concerned citizens who have the ability – and are not afraid – to present complaints. They have no authority, no power.”
Fascinatingly, Ryan corroborated Wolf’s statement by saying:
“Wolf is correct in asserting that these committees of safety did exist during the Revolution. However, in his book, American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, Northwestern University Professor T.H. Breen offers a more intimidating description: ‘The committees of safety – or, as they were sometimes called, committees of observation or committees of inspection – made key decisions on the local level about ideology and resistance, about accommodation and violence, which in this highly unstable political environment carried the force of law.’ ”
This is probably the first time in recent years where a mainstream media journalist has acknowledged the Committee of Safety historical model at all. As someone who has promoted the formation of local Committees of Safety myself, you can imagine I felt delighted yet apprehensive when Wolf, on the one hand, was able to popularize the concept better than I have ever done, yet on the other hand, has incurred the cost of becoming a political prisoner in no small part due to his media outreach. Revealingly, Ryan mentioned the following tidbit, which I think is more significant than not:
“As reported by the Pioneer, Wolf appeared at a Bozeman City Council meeting on Oct. 5, 2014, to speak in opposition to the Lenco BearCat G3, the aforementioned armored vehicle made available to Bozeman police through a $253,537 grant from the Department of Homeland Security.”
Déjà vu, much? I say that because on August 6th of 2013, Chris Cantwell wrote his infamous article expressing what he thought were the implications concerning the Concord, New Hampshire City Council’s decision to accept a $258,000 federal grant to buy a BearCat truck, which is little more than an armored personnel carrier (APC). This was the basis for Cantwell’s public ostracism from the Free State Project by its board of trustees, so is it really any wonder why Wolf would be just slightly concerned about the Bozeman municipal police accepting greenmail in order to acquire an APC, given the fact that this exact same thing had happened the year before in Concord?
Is it really that much a stretch of the imagination to infer that Wolf began promoting the formation of local Committees of Safety because he saw that the municipal government was equipping its police forces with an APC in order to more easily control Montanans?
All things considered, was William Wolf truly guilty for what he was convicted of? 18 USC § 922(o) says:
- (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), it shall be unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun.
- (2) This subsection does not apply with respect to –
- (A) A transfer to or by, or possession by or under the authority of, the United States or any department or agency or a State, or a department, agency, or political subdivision thereof; or
- (B) Any lawful transfer or lawful possession of a machinegun that was lawfully possessed before the date this subsection takes effect.
“For the purpose of this chapter – The term ‘machinegun’ means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.”
According to the grand jury’s indictment, the mere possession of the Saiga shotgun was sufficient to charge Wolf given that the shotgun was fully automatic, thereby turning a shotgun into a machinegun, legally speaking (I know that gun owners can appreciate the utter kookiness of this definitional madness, but this is exactly what happens when the production of law is monopolized by Leviathan). This same grand jury also charged him with possession of an unregistered firearm, which is an odd tidbit I’ll mention briefly here simply because the statutory code citations are located in Title 26, not Title 18. 26 USC § 5861(d) says:
“It shall be unlawful for any person – to receive or possess a firearm which is not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer record…”
Wait, I thought Wolf was in trouble for being in possession of a machinegun, so what is legally considered to be a firearm here? 26 USC § 5845(a)(6) says:
“For the purpose of this chapter – The term ‘firearm’ means…a machinegun…”
Okay, so a machinegun is a type of firearm, for purposes of the enabling statute. 26 USC § 5871 says that:
“Any person who violates or fails to comply with any provisions of this chapter, upon conviction, be fined not more than $10,000, or be imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
If anything, this charge seems like a tack-on due to the fact that the full auto shotgun is legally considered to be a machinegun, thus making it likely to bump up the possible maximum sentence to 20 years incarceration and a $260,000 fine, which is unnecessary because Wolf was already facing a possible maximum of 10 years and a $250,000 fine due to the machinegun possession charge alone, never mind the after effect of being a convicted felon, which is a legal handicap that increases one’s vulnerability to coercion in the future, as Jesse Newsom discovered last year.
Wolf’s very innocence hinges upon whether the possession or transfer of the machinegun was “lawful” or not, as per the exemption located at 18 USC § 922(o)(2)(A). According to the affidavit attached to the criminal complaint signed by FBI “Special” Agent Matthew Deurmeier, FBI headquarters modified the shotgun themselves, so when the informant Ed Gray facilitated the sale of the shotgun by undercover FBI agent Greg Rogers to Wolf, this was a lawful transfer of a machinegun. Let’s revisit 18 USC § 922(o)(2)(A):
“This subsection does not apply with respect to – A transfer…by…the authority of the United States or any department or agency…”
Last time I checked, the Fan Belt Inspectors were an agency of the United States federal government, so unless I am misunderstanding the letter of the law here, statutory construction suggests that the FBI’s transfer of the shotgun to Wolf was exempted, thereby rendering both charges against Wolf quite frivolous; in other words, the transfer to, and possession of, the machinegun by Wolf is a legal interstice. Yet, in the final equation, this does not matter, because Wolf’s appeal was dismissed last December 14th because he failed to pay the $505 docketing/filing fee.
What can be learned, if anything, from William Wolf’s experience? I think it is a cautionary tale for what happens when you violate security culture by buying guns through a private sale from an undercover FBI agent. Given that the content of his media outreach and other public statements was used against him during his trial in order to establish mens rea, I think that keeping your own counsel as well as keeping the peace are indispensible, especially for those who are publicly outspoken by expressing their dissent against the government.