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FBI Prepares for Possible Power Cutoff at 'Freemen' Compound

May 24, 1996| From Times Wire Services

JORDAN, Mont. — The FBI prepared to make life tougher for the "freemen" Thursday, bringing in two portable generators as a possible prelude to cutting off the electricity at the fugitives' farm.

The move came a day after the latest effort at negotiating an end to the 60-day standoff failed.

No new negotiations were scheduled, U.S. Atty. Sherry Matteucci said. But there also was no sign the freemen were continuing the armed patrols they began Tuesday.

The activity came two days after talks broke down and a day after a mediator, Colorado state Sen. Charles Duke, flew home, saying "the time for negotiation is over."

In Washington, Deputy Atty. Gen. Jamie S. Gorelick emphasized that a decision has not been made to turn off the power at the farm where the freemen have been holed up.

But she said: "We are placing generators a short distance from the freemen to provide the ability to discontinue electric service to the ranch without disrupting service to its neighbors."

She said the government is "not setting any deadlines for ourselves."

"We have bent over backwards to achieve a peaceful solution, and we still hope for that, but we are preserving all our options," she said.

Two generators and related equipment, covered by tarpaulins, were delivered Wednesday night in a convoy of three tractor-trailers. One large gray generator was uncovered Thursday at an FBI outpost 2 1/2 miles from the farm.

Duane Gackle, general manager of McCone Electric Co-op, said he had crews working Thursday to connect the generators to power lines feeding 35 customers who would lose electricity if power is cut off to the freemen's farm.

A woman identified by local residents as Janet Clark, wife of freeman Edwin Clark, was driven to the compound Thursday by two FBI agents. She was believed to be delivering medicine to their son Casey, a teenager. Edwin Clark has not been indicted by federal authorities.

Janet Clark, who works as a nurse, stayed on the ranch for about five hours and left, taking a number of articles, including a television set, with her. She did not talk with reporters.

Her visit to the ranch was the first in three weeks as the standoff with the anti-government group reached its 60th day Thursday.

The FBI, criticized for its handling of previous confrontations with militant groups, has 100 agents ringing the ranch. The two leaders and several others among the 20 or so freemen on the ranch are accused of taking part in a financial scheme to defraud businesses and public agencies of more than $1.8 million, stealing television news equipment and threatening a federal judge.

The freemen do not recognize government authority, refuse to pay taxes and hold white supremacist views.

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