Feds Set Up Anarchy-Talking Webcaster at Truck Stop
BY PETER J. RYAN
On a mild, breezy Wednesday in early Spring, while residents of Livingston went about their daily routines, a bizarre transaction was taking place on the outskirts of town.
Two men met in the parking lot of the local truck stop. According to court documents filed March 26 in Park County, they discussed the sale of a Saiga-12 shotgun, a Russian-made weapon with a magazine that holds 10 rounds of 12-gauge ammunition. In addition to having a shortened barrel, court documents said, the shotgun had been modified from semi-automatic to fully automatic, giving it the capability of discharging a full magazine of 10 shells within a mere 1.9 seconds.
The man touting the weapon’s capabilities was a federal agent. After opening his trunk to reveal a case containing the Saiga-12, the agent is said to have accepted a payment of $720, making the transaction complete. Moments later, William Krisstofer Wolf, 52, was arrested without incident.
In a federal indictment filed April 17 in Billings, Wolf was charged with illegal possession of a machine gun and of an unregistered firearm, each count punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He has been in custody in Yellowstone County Deten-tion Center since late March, and was arraigned on April 22. At that hearing, Wolf refused to enter a plea, saying he wished to invoke a demand of habeas corpus, and that he did not recognize the jurisdiction of the court. The count entered a Not Guilty plea on his behalf, and he remains held without bond.
Wolf, who since 2013 has hosted an internet webcast titled, The Montana Republic, is a self-described “patriot” who purports to be protecting the Constitutional rights of citizens of this state and others. To law enforcement, he is viewed as an anti-government activist bent on anarchy, and a danger to state and federal officers.
Livingston Police Chief Dale Johnson said his department received no advance notice of the sting operation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, after conferring with the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case, chose not to respond to questions. Wolf’s court-appointed attorney, Mark S. Werner, also declined comment, as did Park County Sheriff Scott Hamilton.
Wolf, however, did agree to speak with the Pioneer in an April 17 interview from the detention center in Billings.
“When all of the information is made known to the public, the public will see how this all transpired,” Wolf said, wearing jailhouse blues and cradling a phone above handcuffed wrists as he spoke from the other side of a plexiglass partition. “I wanted to purchase a legal firearm in a private sale.
“I am a law-abiding citizen,” he insisted. “I believe I was targeted for exercising my right of free speech.”
The case against Wolf is built on comments made during his weekly webcasts, as well as conversations he had with both a government informant and an undercover FBI agent in the months leading up to the alleged purchase of the weapon. The criminal complaint asserts that Wolf’s webcasts “advocated the affirmative targeting of law enforcement officers,” and that the purchase of a potent, illegal firearm would assist him in executing his plan.
A review of Wolf’s webcasts, as detailed in court documents, would certainly lead the most objective observer to characterize him as far more dangerous than your average community organizer. For example, in June of 2014, the documents said, Wolf stated that, “Until we get the federal government—not the government, (but) the agents and agencies of the federal government—out of our local government, (including) our local police officers, we don’t stand any chance but shooting.” According to the criminal complaint, he then compared shooting law enforcement officers to gopher hunting.
In a July 2014 webcast, Wolf allegedly told his audience, “Are you willing to attempt a restoration of your constitutional government? Because that is what we are going to do. What’s it going to do to us? It will put a lot of us in the grave. But I guarantee you it will put a lot more of them in the grave.” Wolf then is said to have added, “When the war starts, there won’t be anyone who is safe. Just because you have a badge or a black robe isn’t going to protect you.”
The complaint cites comments made in October 2014 as targeting judges who overturned gay marriage bans. When a guest on his webcast commented that the judges are now viable targets because they violated the Constitution, Wolf is said to have agreed, adding, “As it sits, folks, please understand, I firmly believe that all agents of the federal government, all judiciary, and all police officers are targets.”
By November, court documents said, “Wolf concluded The Montana Republic webcasts by informing his listeners that the time for talking was over,” although the complaint offered no direct quote.
During his interview, Wolf claimed that his webcasts were designed simply “to inform people of all of their constitutionally protected rights, and to inform them of all of the things that others are afraid to speak out about.” He describes himself as a true American patriot, which he defines as “someone who protects and defends the constitution, and thereby protects the people.”
Wolf concedes that his webcast comments likely caused him to run afoul of authorities. “They definitely cherry-picked things, in my opinion,” he said, referring to the criminal complaint. “Taking certain quotes out of context can make anyone look bad.”
The Pioneer independently reviewed several hours of Wolf’s webcasts, seeking to hear the context of the statements detailed in the complaint. Many of his overall comments—on topics ranging from illegal immigration to President Obama’s use of executive orders—are calm, cogent viewpoints so benign that they could easily surface in upcoming presidential debates. On numerous occasions, he referred to his desire for a “peaceful solution,” although he conceded in his interview that such an outcome was unlikely.
“I believe in the restoring of Constitutional government,” he said, “but no existing government has ever freely given up power. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Wolf makes plenty of statements on his webcasts that certainly can be interpreted as incendiary. In June of 2014, he welcomed guest Gary Hunt to discuss “The Plan for Restoration of Constitutional Government,” which is outlined in 50 pages of detail on Hunt’s website, outpost-of-freedom.com. Referred to on the webcast simply as The Plan, Hunt’s treatise professes to be modeled after one used during the American Revolution to replace British authority. It includes extensive use of “committees” and militias for the establishment of a new governmental structure. In his interview with the Pioneer, Wolf conceded that The Plan did not meet with widespread approval from his webcast listeners, nor from himself.
“The Plan was not something I completely agree with—I put Gary on in order for him to exercise his First Amendment Rights,” Wolf said, acknowledging that broadcasting such details would certainly raise the eyebrows of government officials. “I don’t agree that it is the way it should go—that’s why we need to find a peaceful solution. But if government continues to destroy our freedom, the people will rise up.”
During the June webcast, Hunt said that in taking over county governments and establishing state militias, “committees of safety would play a big role here.” Such committees of safety, which Wolf discussed at various times in his webcasts, apparently drew the attention of the FBI.
According to court documents, Wolf told both the informant and undercover agent that he was “planning a meeting in late January, 2015, to inform the public about ‘committees of safety.’” Wolf viewed these committees of safety, the documents say, “as the last peaceful method to address his grievances with the government. He likewise felt that these committees were not his preferred method, but ‘it is buying us time so we can draw our numbers.’ ”
“They had committees of safety during the Revolution,” Wolf told the Pioneer. “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.”
“These are not militias,” Wolf emphasized. “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.”
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.”
On various occasions, Wolf’s webcasts appeared to urge the peaceful involvement of citizens, even suggesting in July 2014 that committees of safety offer write-in candidates that could rise to power within the current system. “We’re going to start by having a committee of safety in every county in the entire United States of America,” he told his audience. “We’re going to move forward with having a committee of safety right here in Montana. I’m starting in Gallatin County.”
“What can we do to peacefully take back this nation?” he asked in November of 2014. “Do you think the Republicans are going to do it in Congress? Well, here’s what you can do to possibly ensure that they do. Form committees in your own state and start pressuring your congressman.”
Every mention of a peaceful solution, however, seems to be spiced with vitriol, as Wolf repeatedly seemed resigned to the idea that a nonviolent “restoration” could not occur.
“I want a second American Revolution because I don’t believe that there is any other peaceful solution,” he said in November. “That is why I am trying to bring these shows to you, trying to get you involved. Because you can’t have somebody like me who wants a revolution. You have to be part of this.
“I can tell you now,” he later said, “if you looked at your small town, count the number of law agents who are in that small town, I guarantee you, you have a least four times that many patriots. And there are a lot, there are a lot, of them out there.”
During his interview with the Pioneer, Wolf spoke with slow, quiet composure, seemingly lacking the bravado that characterized his webcasts. He appeared to be a man steadfastly dedicated to his cause, if not someone unabashed with his dubious, limited limelight, even agreeing at one point to have his photo taken through plexiglass at the detention center.
“Law enforcement takes a lot of things as threats,” he said of the webcasts. “I said over and over that we need to find a peaceful solution. But history has shown that people can only take so much.”
While Wolf’s webcasts drew the attention of federal authorities, his alleged comments to the government informant and undercover agents were far more damning.
In July 2014, court documents said, Wolf met with the informant and “described his intention to develop a ‘blowtorch gun’ with a range of up to 150 feet for the purpose of protection against law enforcement officers wearing body armor.” Wolf allegedly stated that “he believed he could build one in about a week and that he had been in contact with others out of state who were also planning to build similar weapons.”
On Sept. 30, 2014, the complaint said, Wolf again met with the informant and “discussed the Bozeman Police Department’s recent acquisition of a ‘BearCat’ armored vehicle.” Wolf is described as stating “the need to destroy the vehicle and that the most effective method would be ‘cooking it from the inside,’” and “reiterated his plan from several months prior to build a ‘blowtorch gun.’” During the meeting, Wolf allegedly expressed interest in having the informant introduce him to “a former colleague” who could possibly provide technical or monetary assistance in building the gun. On October 10, Wolf met the colleague, who was actually an undercover FBI agent.
As reported by the Pioneer, Wolf appeared at a Bozeman City Council meeting on Oct. 6, 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.
“The militia is here,” Wolf is quoted as saying. “And until they [the police] can police themselves as hard as they police us, don’t give them that vehicle.”
According to the Pioneer reporter present at the meeting, Wolf carried a duffle bag to the podium. To demonstrate that the vehicle was unnecessary, he reached into the bag, creating a tense moment, and produced pieces of body armor, saying he could defend himself against such a vehicle.
On a November webcast reviewed by the Pioneer, Wolf appeared especially piqued by the appearance of the armored vehicle. “Since the local cops are militarized … yes, they can keep their happy little butt inside their armored vehicle, (but) they are absolutely useless,” he said. “You have to get out to take ground. And this is what all of this is about. They can go around wearing all the body armor they want, they can go around doing everything they want, but the bottom line is that they still need to get their little butts outside of their tin can—to take control. I don’t think there is a cop out there right now who wants to step out into the line of fire.”
By December 2014, court documents state, the uncover FBI agent told Wolf he would ask his contacts about acquiring a flamethrower for Wolf. Upon hearing the news, Wolf allegedly replied, “Get me a Russian automatic shotgun, too.”
On Jan. 28, the informant and agent met with Wolf, who is said to have stated his preference for a Saiga-12 fully automatic shotgun: “Any fully auto shotgun is going to handle most riot crowds and cops.”
“Like I said,” he allegedly added, “the purpose of the gun is not to go hunting with. It’s to clean house.”
According to the federal complaint, Wolf told the informant by text message on Feb. 9 that he preferred a shortened (sawed-off) military grade barrel on the gun.
Documents state that the FBI then made a video recording demonstrating the gun’s capabilities, and the video was presented to Wolf on March 18. He was informed that in addition to a previously agreed sum of $600 for the gun, he would have to pay an additional $125.00 for the fully automatic conversion.
Wolf allegedly agreed to the higher price, and the March 25 meeting at the truck stop was arranged.
“As I told my attorney, I was very specific about the type of item I wanted,” Wolf told the Pioneer. “The item in the sting operation was not it.”
At various times in his webcasts, Wolf expressed that he felt he was being watched by federal authorities. Asked in Billings whether he thought he might eventually be arrested, he offered a subdued smile and replied, “Yes, Sir.”
Did he feel he was entrapped? “Yes,” he replied.
“It’s a setup, that’s what it was,” claimed Hunt, speaking by phone from his home in California. “Their objective was to get him off the street.”
Wolf concluded the interview with the Pioneer by defiantly claiming he is of no danger to the general public or law enforcement, even offering the latter a fractional olive branch. “To law enforcement, I would say that many of you are good, honorable people,” he said. “Please remember to obey your oath.”
He remains steadfast in his belief that he is simply a patriot, executing what he considers to be his “duty” as an American.
“The Constitution is the supreme law of the land,” he said. “The Constitution is the only thing in this nation that will save us. People of America have to understand what is going on. They need to be vigilant.”