Viper Snitch Hits a Glitch

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Militia defendant Chuck Knight claimed, however, that the group was tiring of its experiments in explosives and wanted to become strictly a rifle group. Several defendants, through their attorneys, claimed that explosives were brought on a final Viper outing only at the insistence of the informants, Schultz and Nolan.

"Doc and I didn't ask them to bring the explosives," Nolan counters. "They were brought specifically because I had missed a training." He claims he was told that he needed to learn how to detonate certain devices, and he says he didn't object.

If he hadn't missed a training, would the group have brought explosives at all on the final outing?

"I have no idea," he replies.
He's clearly proud of his role in the investigation, remarking in particular on a moment when an unsuspecting militia member was mixing explosives and then paused to say to Schultz and Nolan: "If you guys are feds, we're fucked."

If the investigation itself went smoothly, however, its aftermath proved a nightmare, according to Nolan.

"I don't know how it all unraveled," he says.
Nolan says that officials at the ATF and the U.S. Attorney's Office promised that his identity would never be revealed. To be safe, Nolan would be arrested with the rest of the defendants, paraded in chains in front of the others and then released under the cover story that he had worked out a deal with prosecutors. The other members might consider him a coward, but his identity as an infiltrator would remain hidden.

So, on the morning of July 1, Nolan reported to the ATF-leased apartment where Viper Team had been secretly videotaped, and he waited to be arrested.

Hours later, he was still waiting.
Later he got a call from an ATF agent. "Things are just crazy down here. If I were you, I'd pack my shit and get out of there," Nolan says the agent told him. Less than 10 minutes later, he left.

"Within a week, the media was crawling up my ass," Nolan says. He attempted to continue on as a manager of Shooter's World, but by July 9, a television crew showed up at the front door wanting to interview him. He slipped out the back door into a friend's car and sped off.

Nolan figured he had to get out of town. "I lived in a bulletproof vest in those days," he says, patting his chest to show that he no longer wears one at all times.

Days later, he began a 15-month odyssey which would take him to every region of the country. He believed the traveling was necessary to keep him from people who meant him harm. But more frustrating, he says, was his treatment by government officials.

The ATF offered to put him in a witness-protection program, but Nolan rejected its constraints. He would have to cut off ties to family and give up any old possessions which might identify him. He would be relocated in a new city and supported for a short while before being left to fend for himself.

"If I had murdered 12 people and had ratted out on the Mob, I could understand that kind of treatment. But I was asked to get into this," he says.

Believing that he still was owed back pay as well as reimbursements for expenses that he had incurred in the Viper investigation, Nolan says he complained bitterly to government officials.

ATF agent Steve Ott acknowledged that Nolan has complained, but said that the U.S. Attorney's Office is dealing with the former informant. Viper prosecutor Joseph Welty wouldn't discuss Nolan's predicament before the end of the Floyd trial.

For a time, Nolan lived in Texas and was in close contact with the ATF, which paid his rent.

During other periods, he claims to have been completely cut off from government agents.

About a year ago, he says, he returned to Phoenix with 92 cents in his pocket and stayed just long enough to get a legal name change and a new driver's license. He won't reveal what name he currently uses. Since July of last year, he says, he's lived in places from California to Maine, Washington to the deep South, Texas to near the Canadian border. No place has he stayed in for more than four months.

And, before returning this time to Phoenix, he claims to have spent a few months living near a lake, fishing for his meals.

"I am so sick of fish," he says.
The constant moving has left him $14,000 in debt. But he says that despite receiving a $7,500 government reward for the conviction of the first 10 Viper defendants, who pleaded guilty and received sentences from 18 months to nine years, the government still owes him $25,000 for the expenses he's incurred bringing the Vipers to justice. (Defendant Chuck Knight was convicted in a trial in June and is serving a four-year, nine-month sentence. Chris Floyd's trial is expected to go to the jury Friday.)

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Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega