Testimony in the four-day trial ended on Friday afternoon for the 48-year-old Tampa resident and retired U.S. Army Green Beret member who has been detained in the Pinellas County jail for more than 14 months because a federal judge concluded “he poses a danger to law enforcement officials.”
Brown, a self-professed member of the paramilitary Oath Keepers group, faces a 10-count indictment alleging that he possessed unregistered firearms, explosives, and secret national-security documents that federal law enforcement officials found when they raided his home and RV on Sept. 30, 2021.
Authorities came to his home that day to arrest him on a warrant for trespassing arising from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Brown says he went to the Capitol that day to provide protection for members of the Oath Keepers. He did not enter the Capitol, however, and has not been charged with any violent actions.
But that’s a separate case that he must later deal with in Washington, D.C.
Three hours’ testimony
Brown spent more than three hours on the witness stand on Friday, where he denied knowing anything about the two grenades and a CD-rom that contained the national security documents.
Dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and bold red tie, Brown responded to questions at times so expansively that U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew admonished him to simply answer “yes” or “no.”
Brown denies seven of the 10 counts against him while offering somewhat nuanced takes on the other three counts.
The first two counts against him in the superseding indictment laid out on Nov. 8, 2022, are that he illegally possessed the short-barrel rifle and a sawed-off shotgun discovered by federal agents. Brown concedes that the two weapons were his but maintains that any violation of the law in owning them is “inconsistent” with the Second Amendment.
And he said that the 10th count — that he illegally possessed secret documents for a report that he wrote about Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2011, was not classified when he wrote it.
In his testimony, Brown said the only person he had spoken to about the Bergdahl report was a former Army colleague turned journalist named Jack Murphy, at a party held after a funeral of a fellow soldier in 2017. That was apparently what tipped off officials at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, which led an Air Force investigator to visit Brown at his home and ask whether he possessed classified documents pertaining to that report.
“Absolutely not,” Brown says he told the investigator at the time.
Brown insisted at length that the work in question was “a format draft to be used as a physical guide,” or a formatting tool, saying that it was his own work and couldn’t legitimately be considered classified at the time.
But on counts 3-9 — three of them related to the two grenades found in a “chest-rig” military garment in his RV and four connected to a CD-rom of other classified documents — Brown’s legal defense team has indicated that he never possessed those items, inferring federal agents planted them at the time of his arrest. Testimony during the trial showed that his DNA was not on the grenades and there was never a photo taken of the CD-rom at the time of the raid.
Towards the end of his time on the stand, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Marcet introduced an explosive piece of evidence that the Brown defense team had argued in a filing should have been excluded from the trial — that in 2011 it was discovered that Brown had uploaded pornographic material onto a military server.
Marcet said that the incident led to a reprimand for misconduct and ultimately to the end of his military career.
Brown argued that he already had been scheduled to retire and that the incident was not the reason he left the military.
Brown has contended in interviews to conservative websites (and to the Phoenix) that the government set him up by planting the grenades and secret national security documents in retaliation after he went public with an audio recording of two Homeland Security agents asking that he become an informant for them in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 incident at the Capitol.
Brown’s attorneys had gone before Judge Bucklew before the trial arguing that the recording should be allowed into the trial. The judge had said that she would rule on it if the issue came up in court, but it never did. If it had, it could have opened up a door the government to question Brown about Jan. 6 — again, which never came up in testimony.
The case will resume Monday morning with the two sides giving their closing arguments to the jury.
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