By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Last week the fifteen good people in the jury box watched a parade of FBI agents step into the witness stand.
This jury, like all juries, is composed of citizens who are chosen because they are like the rest of us. They do not summer in Portofino. They work for a living. They do their own laundry and on the weekend they shop for their own groceries. At the supermarket checkout counter, the jurors see the tabloid magazines that trumpet as male role models Michael Jackson, Arsenio Hall, Rob Lowe, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rooney and, yes, Roseanne Barr's husband.
Was it refreshing, then, to this jury of our peers when a host of FBI agents, men who still look and talk like real men, took the stand?
Every agent was square-jawed and clear-eyed. They really do look that way; you'd never think of asking one of them to spell H-A-N-G-O-V-E-R. Facial hair-- a mustache to you, sir--is regulation issue. And these are men of substantial size; not a Spike Lee in the lot.
The first to testify was Special Agent Michael Roof. (Everyone in the bureau is referred to as Special Agent so and so.)
Special Agent Roof was in charge of the FBI's SWAT Team. He described for the jury how he had scouted the territory near Central Arizona Project Pole 40-1, where his fellow agents had hoped to arrest the crew from Earth First!.
On May 30, 1989, a contingent of special agents was staging in Salome, Arizona, prior to the SWAT Team's departure for Pole 40-1. On two separate occasions, local law enforcement officers came upon the Salome gathering. Rather than confide in the sheriffs, Special Agent Roof lied and said it was only a training exercise.
When defense attorney Wellborn Jack Jr. stood, he asked the witness about this lie.
Special Agent Michael Roof absolutely refused to admit that he'd told an untruth.
Jack asked the question five or six ways. And each time Special Agent Roof refused to budge.
"It was a necessary part of the operation," said Special Agent Roof, but he would not label it a lie.
Wellborn Jack was a model of patience. He was the understanding principal who had an unruly child in his office. In the face of each denial, Jack found a new way to ask the same question.
With his slight Louisiana drawl and gentle, hesitant elocution, he sounded like a Dixie Jimmy Stewart: "Now.|.|.now.|.|.now .|.|. just tell me.|.|.you lied, didn't you?!"
Special Agent Michael Roof continued to charge forward, owning up to nothing; then, in a single unexpected movement, Jack took the onrushing Roof and deftly flipped him: "It's hard to admit that you lied, isn't it?"
That soft question gave the courtroom pause and allowed everyone to see Roof's bullheaded resistance in stark relief against the relative inconsequence of the deception itself. Jack's moment of illumination set up a fundamental bulwark of the defense: The FBI is not to be trusted; not in matters small or large.
As the FBI's story of the arrest at the transmission tower emerged, the defense attorneys adopted a strategy that was a variation on Dana Carvey's character, the Church Lady, from Saturday Night Live: "Well, isn't he special, Special Agent Michael Roof?"
The skepticism directed at the FBI by the defense attorneys began with the description by Special Agent Roof of the arrest.
At the CAP transmission tower, a SWAT Team of nine FBI agents waited under Roof's command. They were dressed from head to toe in their black uniforms. They wore bulletproof vests and were further protected by unique antisnake leggings. They carried walkie-talkies and sported night-vision goggles. Each man carried a 9mm pistol and many were additionally armed with shotguns and fully automatic M-16s. One agent carried an M-79 grenade launcher specifically tooled for flares. A Blackhawk helicopter waited in support. A short distance away another fifteen agents were organized in teams prepared to interrogate, transport and analyze the crime scene.
Into this deployed array of bristling special agents rode the Earth Muffins the government identified as terrorists from Earth First!: Mark Davis, Margaret "Peg" Millett, and Marc Baker. They were driven to their ill-fated rendezvous by Special Agent Michael Fain in the truck of Special Agent Michael Fain.
After witness Roof described how he and his partner had crept up upon the would-be saboteurs, pounced upon and arrested Baker and Davis, defense attorney Michael Black stood.
Did you see anyone out there dressed as a giant squirrel, sneered Black in reference to his client's inclination to don just such a costume at Earth First! demonstrations.
Roof did not see the humor in Black's jab, and for all the Special Agent knew, Peg Millett had worn a squirrel costume. The Special Agent was in the dark about Peg's outfit because he was in the dark about Peg period.
Despite all of the special agents at CAP Pole 40-1, despite all of the equipment, ammunition and backup, Peg Millett walked right past the FBI on the night of the arrests.
Special Agent Roof spent the entire evening and all of the following morning with his men in the desert searching for the lady, calling her name.