The Internal Revenue Service has arrested William P. Gale, leader of the politically extremist Posse Comitatus, and six associates on charges that they made death threats to IRS agents in Nevada.
Gale, 69, was arrested last Thursday at his rural home in Mariposa County in California, IRS officials said Wednesday, and later was taken to Las Vegas, where he awaits arraignment. The arrest was not announced immediately because officers did not want to give warning to other members of the group who remained at large.
"Everyone went peacefully," said Richard Pocker, assistant U.S. attorney in Las Vegas. "There's been some raving and ranting by relatives, but no retributions so far."
Pocker said the charges stem from a series of incidents over the last two years in which various agents in Nevada received documents called "constructive notices" from a spinoff of the Posse Comitatus known as the Committee of the States. The notices allegedly warned that the agents would receive a "maximum sentence" if they did not desist from tax-collecting efforts.
The Committee of the States first appeared in 1984, according to the investigators, and has goals similar to the older Posse Comitatus. The name Posse Comitatus means "power of the county," and members of the group believe that they have the right to organize local governments without regard to state or federal laws, in particular those requiring individuals to pay income taxes. Posse leaders have also preached a brand of anti-Semitism and claimed that white Anglo-Saxons are the true Hebrews.
Since the early 1970s, the zeal of the group has led to a number of violent confrontations with police agencies. In 1983, one posse leader, Gordon Kahl, was killed in a gun battle with police in Arkansas after he defied attempts by authorities to seize his property for back taxes.
Gale, who likes to be called "reverend," won notoriety in 1983 when a series of his sermons were broadcast by a small radio station in Kansas. The sermons were part of what Gale called the "National Identity Broadcast" and consisted largely of racial attacks against Jews and other minority groups.
Although long recognized as a leader of the Posse Comitatus in California, Gale was never arrested until last Thursday, IRS officers said.
IRS officials said the Nevada death threats were directed largely at agents involved in efforts to collect taxes from members of the group. A Nevada state court judge also received one of the threats.
Arrested with Gale were Angelo Stefanelli, Michael McCray, Gary Dolfin and Susan Kieffer, all of Nevada; Richard Van Hazel, Arizona, and Fortunato Parrino, Mariposa, Calif.