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The IRS, however, was not willing to accept the trust, since Harris' meager assets were all earned within the U.S. So it set out to seize and sell some of his property--including a 1967 Ford pickup truck--to cover the tax bill.
The truck was scheduled to be sold July 21 as part of a Phoenix auction of other seized vehicles. Carpa dispatched Ellena to the auction bearing a homemade "seizure order" which had been generated on Carpa's home computer.
The order, which accused the IRS of "deceptive use of color of office, fractious and unlawful conduct contrary to the protection of the public good," demanded that the truck be returned. Ellena also carried the truck's title, which showed that it was registered to LAJ Trust.
"It was a legal challenge," Ellena explains, "putting them on notice that we were contesting the sale."
When he got to the auction, Ellena presented the order to IRS agent Raymond Banks, who informed Ellena that he would not return the truck.
According to court records, the short-tempered Ellena erupted, yelling at Banks for 15 minutes, insisting that the seizure of the vehicle was illegal and that the IRS was a "Gestapo-type" organization that would be destroyed as soon as the American people awoke to its fraud.
Ellena then announced that he wanted to sit in the vehicle, like other people who were milling about the auction lot inspecting vehicles.
"I had keys," Ellena admits, "and I could have easily driven it away if I had wanted to. But I didn't."
The reports of the IRS agents on the scene confirm that Ellena made no effort to take the truck from the lot. He merely sat in the cab for a minute, inspecting the condition of the truck.
But suddenly, perhaps annoyed that Ellena was blocking potential buyers from inspecting it, Banks and IRS Special Agent John Nielsen moved into the cab and grabbed Ellena.
"They wanted me out of the truck, and they began pulling on my legs, wrenching my back," Ellena says. "At which point I yelled that I was being assaulted."
The agents, noting the crowd that was gathering, no doubt attracted by Ellena's bellowing, retreated and radioed the Phoenix police.
The officers who responded to the call asked to see Ellena's ID and ordered him out of the truck. He complied, and was arrested for failure to pay an outstanding traffic ticket.
At the police station, the officers quickly discovered that the traffic citation was an error and released Ellena.
Had he gone home peaceably at this point, that might have been that--just another meaningless skirmish in the Constitutionalist war on the system.
But Ellena raised the stakes, filing assault charges against the two IRS agents with Phoenix police.
"They had roughed me up," Ellena says, "and I hadn't done anything that I did not have a legal right to do."
The IRS knew Ellena had not broken any laws by sitting in the truck; nor had he physically tried to seize it. He had not initiated any physical contact with agents, and he had not stopped the auction--the truck was sold for $600 the same day.
He wasn't a tax evader himself--Ellena hadn't made enough money that year to owe any federal income tax.
In short, he hadn't done anything wrong. If he had, federal officers had an easy opportunity to arrest him at the scene. Yet according to reports filed by the IRS' own agents, they had no reason to do so.
Ellena's only sin, apparently, was the obnoxious manner in which he had delivered the "seizure order."
But a few weeks after Ellena filed his complaint, the IRS suddenly decided that the decision not to arrest him had been a mistake, and a warrant was issued.
The stated reason? The IRS said that the pathetic, home-computer-generated "seizure order" constituted a "threat" and an "assault" on agents Banks and Nielsen.
In addition, it announced that an investigation of Ellena had turned up some very important information about the blustery man who had caused such a scene at the car auction.
In an all points bulletin issued to U.S. marshals, the FBI and police forces throughout the West, Ellena was described as "armed and dangerous," a man with potential ties "to the Aryan Nation."
How could agents of the federal government believe that this hapless former school principal and tax heretic was a cross-burning, gun-toting menace to society?
Easy. They read it in the newspaper.
@body:Ellena wasn't always a professional antitax activist. He started out teaching America's youth.
After attending classes at Cal State-Sacramento and the University of Montana, Ellena got his degree in school administration in 1974. In the mid-1980s, after teaching for 11 years in California, Ellena settled in Ronan, Montana, where he taught and served as assistant principal at two different Indian reservation schools.
It was in Ronan, he says, that he became increasingly enraged at the course of American education.
"I began to have a real conflict in education, because I began to see what was going on and I didn't like it," Ellena says. "We're teaching students a secular-humanist doctrine and revised history, destroying the relationship between parents and students."
Helping to reinforce his concerns about education were the like-minded people he met in Ronan. Among them was the Reverend Keith Roberts, another fundamentalist whose church became a meeting place for about 40 members of the town's far right. Roberts befriended Ellena, and together they led spirited political discussions every Thursday night on topics ranging from the Nicaraguan contras (for them) to Ronald Reagan (for him) to abortion (against it).