BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Jurors on Thursday convicted an anti-government activist on firearms charges after authorities said he sought out high-powered weaponry for a coming "second American revolution."
William Krisstofer Wolf of Montana was arrested after buying an automatic, sawed-off shotgun for $720 from an undercover FBI agent nicknamed "Dirty" in a truck stop parking lot. He was found guilty of possession of a machine gun and failing to register a firearm.
Automatic weapons that can fire multiple rounds with a single pull of the trigger are considered machine guns under federal law.
Wolf testified that he was seeking a legal version of the same weapon and intended to use it for home defense. But the 53-year-old carpenter and host of an anti-government webcast also acknowledged that he wanted to acquire a flamethrower and spoke of targeting judges, elected officials and law enforcement in an anticipated conflict between the United States and its citizens.
"Once this goes down, once the war starts, I will do everything I can to end the war quickly," Wolf testified. He added that he hoped for but did not expect a peaceful resolution.
He faces up to 10 years in prison on each weapons charge. A sentencing date was not immediately set by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.
Government witnesses including an undercover agent testified that Wolf sought out a weapon that he knew to be illegal and appeared ready to use it when he was arrested in March.
During what was his second meeting with Wolf, the undercover agent said he was surprised to hear the defendant talk openly of building or attaining a flamethrower capable of defeating police body armor and an armored vehicle that recently had been purchased by the Bozeman Police Department.
Contrary to defense assertions that Wolf "talked a lot" but showed no intention to act on his extreme beliefs, the agent said Wolf appeared ready to act.
Federal Defender Mark Werner argued that the undercover agent and a paid FBI informant who encouraged Wolf to buy the Russian-made shotgun entrapped his client. The bureau said it paid the informant $9,000.
Werner said after Thursday's verdict that he will consider an appeal.
"Would he have done that without Dirty's persuasion? I don't think so," Werner said. "That guy was playing him like a piano from the get-go."
On his webcast, The Montana Republic, Wolf railed against federal immigration policies and the administration of President Barack Obama and advocated for direct action to restore a Constitution-based government.
He compared shooting police officers to "shooting gophers" and proposed citizen arrests of judges by militia-like "safety committees," according to authorities and excerpts from the show played for jurors during a three-day trial.
During his final broadcast, in November 2014, Wolf said it was "time to stop talking for me ... it is time for me to start putting my money where my mouth is."
At his arraignment in April, Wolf said he did not recognize the federal court's jurisdiction and refused to enter a plea on the charges against him. A magistrate judge entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
Prosecutors said it wasn't Wolf's beliefs that were on trial, but his deliberate attempt to attain an illegal 12-gauge shotgun with a shortened barrel that was capable of firing 10 shots in less than two seconds.
"This was an under-the-table deal for an illegal firearm at the back of a truck stop with a guy named 'Dirty,'" Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Whittaker told jurors during closing arguments. Wolf "was a man who espoused violence. He wanted to acquire the most dangerous weapons he could."