An undercover FBI agent who sold an illegal fully automatic shotgun to an anti-government activist from Gallatin County told a federal jury in Billings on Tuesday that the buyer, defendant William Krisstofer Wolf, knew the weapon was an automatic and showed no hesitation in buying it.
As Wolf took possession of the weapon, he told the FBI agent he wanted to set up defensive positions and that he didn’t believe in “anything but the extreme,” the FBI agent said.
FBI agents monitoring the purchase arrested Wolf immediately at the close of the March 25 deal, which took place in the parking lot of a Livingston truck stop.
Law enforcement recovered the high-powered weapon — a Russian Siaga 12-gauge fully automatic shotgun with a shorten barrel of 16 inches. There was “no way we’re letting that shotgun go. In Mr. Wolf’s terms, ‘that’s a devastating weapon,’” the agent testified.
Wolf, 52, is on trial in U.S. District Court on charges of illegal possession of a machine gun and possession of an unregistered firearm. The jury trial started on Monday with U.S. District Judge Susan Watters presiding.
If convicted, Wolf faces a maximum 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each charge.
Wolf claims he was entrapped by law enforcement after being induced into buying an illegal fully automatic shotgun by the undercover FBI agent and a paid informant who had expressed sympathy with his anti-government views over a series of meetings.
The FBI began investigating Wolf after he repeatedly expressed views he was in an arms race with the government and would be involved in an armed conflict various officers. Wolf aired his views on his webcast, The Montana Republic, and held a public meeting in January in which he further discussed his ideas for violence toward public officials.
The undercover agent, who posed as a sympathizer able to get Wolf weapons through contacts, told the jury about a series of meetings he had with Wolf in which Wolf talked about wanting to develop flamethrowers and use other weapons in a coming violent conflict with the government.
All of the agent’s meetings with Wolf were recorded, and the prosecution played for the jury a series of audio and visual clips from those meetings.
At the public meeting January meeting, the agent said, Wolf talked to about 20 people about setting up a committee that would issue orders to have certain public officials removed from office. If the officials refused to leave, a militia would be sent in.
Wolf also told the group he preferred to drop 500 pounds of napalm on the roof of the Gallatin County courthouse. The agent said it was “very unusual” for someone to say those types of things in a public forum.
The agent, who said he’s been to about 50 similar anti-government meetings, said Wolf’s meeting was “the most aggressive speech” he’d ever seen in a public forum. “He was dead serious about this,” the agent said.
During a Dec. 18, 2104, meeting between Wolf and the agent, Wolf asked the agent to see if he could get a Russian fully automatic shotgun. The agent testified that was the first time in the investigation Wolf had mentioned a fully automatic weapon.
The agent also said he’d never heard of such a shotgun. The FBI firearms experts at headquarters in Quantico, Va., didn’t have one in the inventory and to buy a semi-automatic shotgun and convert it, he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Whittaker played for the jury a demo video the agent made of himself test-firing the converted shotgun. The video was shown to Wolf through the paid informant.
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The agent said investigators made the video to show Wolf that the shotgun functioned as fully automatic.
In setting up the video for the jury, the agent said it showed “me shooting the shotgun and trying not to fall over.”
In the demo, the agent is wearing a cowboy hat, mirrored sunglasses, jeans, shirt, leather vest and black gloves, and is holding a long black shotgun. He is standing in a Utah desert. The video shows a close-up of the shotgun and then the agent as he takes a stance and fires at a target. He reloads with a fresh magazine and fires a second time.
The shotgun fired 10 rounds in “1.8 seconds and change” with one pull of the trigger, the agent said.
The shotgun was so powerful that “it’s all you can do to stand up when shooting this thing,” he testified.
The agent also identified the gun for the jury by taking it out of a gun case and holding it up for the panel. He pointed out a grip under the shortened barrel that is used to help control the gun’s recoil.
In a recorded conversation over lunch before the sale, the agent said Wolf told him he was looking to get his hands on the most devastating weapons he could, wanted to convert an old firetruck into a tank that had flame throwers and automatic weapons. And, Wolf told him, “I just need to kill public officials.”
Also Tuesday, Wolf's attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Mark Werner, challenged the prosecution's case against Wolf.
Wolf, he said, "talked a lot" about plans to acquire flamethrowers and other weapons supposedly to take on authorities, but never acted until he was befriended by an FBI informant and an undercover agent who said he could provide such weaponry.
During a cross-examination of FBI Special Agent Matt Deurmeier, the case agent, Werner suggested that prior to Wolf's arrest his anti-government activities largely were limited to talk on his webcast, The Montana Republic.
Deurmeier agreed that Wolf "talked a lot" about an upcoming conflict between the United States government's and its citizens, but never specified his intended targets for the flamethrower and other weapons he planned to attain.
"He can do that, he can advocate as other people and hold his own political beliefs about the government?" Werner asked Deurmeier, to which the FBI agent replied, "Yes, sir."
Deurmeier also acknowledged under questioning from the defense that it's not illegal under federal firearms regulations to have a flamethrower.
But the agent added that Wolf's statements about using a flamethrower as a "mass casualty weapon" against law enforcement stirred serious concern, and that Wolf's rhetoric continued to build throughout the government's monthslong investigation into his activities.
The trial will continue on Wednesday.