Ken Ritter / AP
Published Monday, March 7, 2016 | 1:12 p.m.
Updated Monday, March 7, 2016 | 2:22 p.m.
CONCORD, N.H. — Several New Hampshire lawmakers on Monday defended a man charged in an armed standoff in Nevada by ranchers opposed to federal control of public lands, telling a judge that he is a law-abiding peacemaker who deserves to be released on bail.
Gerald DeLemus, of Rochester, is accused of being a "mid-level leader" and organizer of a conspiracy to recruit, organize, train and provide support to armed men and other followers of rancher Cliven Bundy. He was among a dozen people in five states arrested last week, raising to 19 the number accused of inciting and leading an armed insurrection in April 2014 to stop a roundup of cows from public land near Cliven Bundy's ranch. Bundy was arrested last month.
At a detention hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Zuckerman said DeLemus should be considered dangerous in light of statements he made about his willingness to use deadly force against U.S. agents if he felt they were acting unlawfully. He also argued that someone who supported Bundy and his disregard for court orders is unlikely to comply with bail conditions and said the weapons DeLemus took to the ranch — including a sniper's rifle designed to intimidate and kill — were reason enough to consider him a public safety risk.
"With respect to dangerousness, I think our argument almost could begin and end with that weapon," he said.
Public defender Jonathan Saxe argued that DeLemus had nothing to do with the April confrontation and didn't know it had happened until he arrived later that night. He questioned why authorities have let DeLemus remain free for two years if they consider him dangerous. The courtroom and an overflow room were packed with DeLemus's supporters, including a neighbor and three lawmakers who testified on his behalf. DeLemus' wife, Susan, is a state representative.
Rep. Warren Groen, a Republican who represents Rochester, described an incident four years ago when he and DeLemus were holding campaign signs and waving to cars on a city street. When protesters tried to disrupt the group, some of the Republicans were on the verge of starting a fistfight, he said, but DeLemus stepped in.
"Jerry stopped it all. He's not a peacekeeper; he's a peacemaker," Groen said. "He actually made peace where none existed."
Rep. John Burt, a Republican from Goffstown, called DeLemus "one of the most law-abiding Americans I've ever met." And his neighbor, a Democrat, said he personifies the notion of "random acts of kindness."
"Jerry is anything but violent," said Stephanie Monzo. "In 13 years, I've never seen that man upset."
The judge did not indicate when she would rule on whether to release DeLemus.