A former Georgia militia member was sentenced to four years in prison Tuesday, after being convicted of transporting firearms across state lines with the intent to cause a civil disorder.
He was convicted in October 2011, and sentenced Tuesday.
"This sentence will send a strong message to those who attempt to take the law into their own hands. Under our federal Constitution and statutes Mr. Huff and others like him can talk or write about their anti-government views. They cannot arm themselves and make threats to arrest public officials and take over government buildings. The core of our democratic system is to allow peaceful protest, but prohibit armed threats to those who serve our government. His conviction is a great achievement by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff Theodore and William Mackie. Their cooperative efforts resulted in this conviction and sentence," said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian.
Tuesday morning a federal jury in Knoxville found 41-year-old Darren Huff guilty of a felony charge of attempting to cause a civil disturbance while armed. The jury acquitted Huff on a second felony charge of using the weapons. The attempted takeover never actually materialized.
Huff was part of a 'birther' movement that sought to indict President Barack Obama for failing to produce a birth certificate to verify his U.S. citizenship.
The two main characters in the legal fight that began in April 2010 are Huff and a Monroe County man named Walter Fitzpatrick III.
Fitzpatrick attempted to convince a Monroe County grand jury to indict Obama. When the courts refused, Fitzpatrick attempted a "citizens' arrest" of several members of local law enforcement and court employees. Fitzpatrick was arrested after attempting one of the arrests in a Monroe County courtroom. Huff was present during the attempted citizens' arrests.
Fitzpatrick was arrested for charges that included disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. A few weeks later, Huff again drove from Georgia to Madisonville in order to protest the charges against Fitzpatrick.
A Tennessee State Trooper stopped Huff on Interstate 75 and discovered an AK-47 assault rifle and a .45 caliber handgun. Huff had a license for both firearms. Huff is quoted by the trooper as saying the weapons were needed because "ain't no government official gonna go peacefully."
A few days later investigators had enough evidence to charge Huff and arrested him while driving on I-40 in Knoxville.
During the trial Huff contended that he never planned to take over the courthouse. Prosecutors contend that the attempted takeover never materialized because law enforcement became aware of the plot and displayed overwhelming force.
Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens reacted to Tuesday's verdict by saying he is glad the case is over and justice was served. Bivens said he firmly believes Huff came to Monroe County with intentions that were not peaceful.
Sentencing for Huff is scheduled for February 29, 2012. Huff faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The felony conviction means Huff is now unable to legally own a firearm.
Fitzpatrick is also in jail after being convicted last month of charges that stemmed from the April 2010 citizens arrest attempt. The judge sentenced Fitzpatrick to six months in jail.