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Wrong Nicholas Murnion?

Nicholas C. Murnion


National Telecommunications Cooperative Association

HQ Phone:  (703) 351-2000

Email: n***@***.org


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National Telecommunications Cooperative Association

4121 Wilson Blvd. 10 Th Floor

Arlington, Virginia,22203

United States

Company Description

The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) is the premier association representing more than 580 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides it...more

Background Information

Employment History

MACO Management Company Inc


Valley County


Garfield County


Montana County Attorneys Association

Valley County Attorney

Mid-Rivers Communications Inc

Board of Trustees Member

Web References(64 Total References)


Nick Murnion: A Profile in CourageNick Murnion: A Profile in CourageWhen Nickolas C. Murnion, former president of Mid-Rivers Telephone Cooperative (Circle, MT), saw his community of Jordan, Montana, being terrorized by a militant anti-government group known as the "Freemen," he knew he had to take a stand.As Garfield County Attorney, Murnion had sworn to prosecute those who broke the law.Through years of intimidation, harassment, and death threats-long before federal authorities arrived on the scene-Murnion was working to mobilize his community against the Freemen and to bring the group to justice.His uncommon courage and unflagging commitment to upholding the law won him the 1998 John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.The story of Murnion's struggle against the Freemen is a lesson in bravery, honor, and American heroism. At first, he wasn't sure what to make of them.When a group of men entered Nick Murnion's office in January 1993 insisting that he prosecute a federal farming agency for fraud, Murnion was puzzled, not alarmed.As the county attorney he had no jurisdiction to proceed with such a case, and he later determined that no crime had been committed.He declined to pursue the case, not knowing that he was embarking down a road that would put his community, his livelihood, and his very life in jeopardy. The men who requested-or rather, demanded-Murnion's assistance were members of the Freeman, a militant anti-government group that would wreak havoc on rural Montana and gain nationwide notoriety in a standoff with the FBI during the spring of 1996. But that was all in the future; when the Freemen first approached Murnion, they were a small, obscure group just beginning to gain a foothold in the small community of Jordan, Montana.Murnion's first indication of something unusual came about two weeks after the initial encounter, when the Freemen sent him a lien for $500 million in minted silver, alleging he had failed to uphold the U.S. Constitution."I didn't respond to it," says Murnion."I just kept the document.I knew that something was going on, but I didn't know what." Throughout 1993, Murnion watched with growing concern as the group stepped up recruitment efforts.A small but significant number of people in the community were buying into the Freeman doctrine; specifically, that organized government was illegitimate and had no authority over members of the group.According to their philosophy, Freemen weren't obligated to pay taxes, repay loans, or honor any contracts with the government.They could, however, set up their own government, banks, and courts, and hold others accountable to their "law."The group's rhetoric also was shot through with elements of "Christian Identity," an ideology laced with anti-Semitism and racism. A Deadly SituationMurnion rushed to the courtroom and confronted the group's leader, Rodney Skurdal."I informed [the group] that our courtroom and our county facilities weren't available to ‘fictitious entities,' [but] they went ahead and used it anyway," recalls Murnion.He and the other local officials videotaped the proceeding and later published an order from the Board of County Commissioners forbidding the Freemen from using county facilities for fictitious court proceedings. But the Freemen weren't easily dissuaded, and they responded with a document from their "court" removing the county commissioners from office and accusing them of a variety of treasonous crimes.Soon after, the county clerk and recorder received another document signed by approximately 15 Freeman, which stated that they had appointed one of their members as Justice of the Peace of Garfield County. At this point, Murnion decided it was time to take action and suggested to the county commissioners that they consider prosecuting the phony Justice of the Peace for impersonating a public official.He also wanted to charge the individuals who had signed the document with "aiding and abetting the impersonation." Just one day after meeting with the commissioners, Murnion had a price on his head: The Freeman posted a bounty for $1 million for anyone who would bring Murnion, the county sheriff, the county judge, and four other officials to their court. "The bounty changed the whole complexion of the situation," says Murnion. The posting instructed individuals to contact the Freeman "constable" for more information."About two days later," recalls Murnion, "our sheriff called the constable.We weren't sure how serious [the threat] was, and the sheriff's first question was whether he could turn himself in and collect $1 million.The constable responded that if he did, he'd be tried and hung . . . from a bridge. . . . The trial would only take two hours.I remember that very specifically. "That was when we realized that these people were very deadly serious, and that . . . these folks that we had known all of our lives-our friends and neighbors-had now turned against us for really no good reason." Refusing to be intimidated, Murnion moved forward with the charges and sent notices to the accused to appear in court.In what would become a frustrating pattern, the vast majority of the Freemen simply ignored the notices and didn't show up for the court date."They don't believe that our courts have any jurisdiction over them," explains Murnion."They'll give you a lot of discussion about individual sovereignty, but they [believe that] somehow they are a different class of white people that don't have to abide by the laws that the rest of us abide by." With each passing month, the situation became more volatile.Threats of violence became more and more frequent.In the spring of 1994, a Freeman-owned farm was put up in a sheriff's sale after the owner stopped making payments on his federal bank loan. ("I always like to make the distinction that this wasn't a farm crisis," notes Murnion."These were people that had the ability to pay creditors and made a conscious decision not to pay.") Prior to the sale Murnion and the other officials received word that during the sale, "sharpshooters would come in and shoot the seven of us and fade back to the Blackfoot." Murnion and the other officials turned to their community for help and were heartened by the response.They called a town meeting to inform the community about the Freemen and issued a call for volunteers to join a "sheriff's posse" to help protect the county and its officials."I've always been very proud of that meeting," says Murnion, "We explained to the community that . . . this was an attack on their form of government, and over 80 people signed up and agreed to help the sheriff-even though we told them there would be bounties and there'd be liens, and that [the Freemen] would try to go after their property and their person." Murnion calls that meeting "the turning point in the war of indoctrination."He believes the resulting pressure from the mainstream community hurt further recruitment efforts by the Freemen. Prosecuting the FreemenEven with support from the community, Murnion's fight was far from over.He still faced the daunting and frustrating task of prosecuting the Freemen.The trials started in August 1994."My inclination was that I needed to get them into court as quickly as possible," says Murnion, "but we had a real problem getting them arrested because they were so persistent in defying the process." Murnion used a creative legal strategy against the Freemen, invoking an obscure statue from the 1920s called "criminal syndicalism."The statute makes it illegal to organize or become a member of a group advocating violent crime, malicious damage to property, or other unlawful methods of terrorism for political or industrial purposes."It was the only real anti-government statute that we had," explains Murnion. In February 1995, Murnion brought that charge against William Stanton, the Freemen constable, and his conviction resulted in one of the most volatile periods of the ordeal.By that time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had become involved, investigating illegal Freemen activities ranging from fraudulent check schemes and counterfeiting operations to armed robbery. The week of Stanton's sentencing, Murnion received a call from an FBI investigator; the bureau had a tip that a group of Freemen was planning to kidnap a judge-and a prosecutor."I can remember, I was driving alone between Jordan and Miles City on an 85-mile stretch of road," says Murnion, "and, you know, getting that kind of a call wakes you up a little." The day after Stanton received a 10-year prison sentence, two Freemen showed up at the judge's chambers in Roundup, a town 120 miles from Jordan: home base for several Freemen leaders.Authorities later stopped the men in a pick-up truck, which was loaded down with assault rifles, guns, plastic constraints, video cameras, $80,000 in gold and cash, groceries, and walkie-talkies.By the end of the day, five more people were arrested, including John Trochman, the leader of the Militia of Montana. "They found out later that during the previous week, some Freemen had tried to buy 200 50-caliber rifles from one proprietor,"

www.mtcoattorneysassn.org [cached]

Nick Murnion
Valley County Attorney

valleycountymt.net [cached]

Nick Murnion, Valley County Attorney, visited with Commissioner Peterson.

historycommons.org [cached]

Garfield County prosecutor Nick Murnion files misdemeanor charges of impersonating public officials against 13 residents and a felony charge of solicitation of kidnapping against Ralph Clark for a $1 million bounty posted around the county for court officers, the sheriff, and Murnion.
Garfield County prosecutor Nick Murnion files misdemeanor charges of impersonating public officials against 13 residents and a felony charge of solicitation of kidnapping against Ralph Clark for a $1 million bounty posted around the county for court officers, the sheriff, and Murnion. Murnion eventually files felony criminal syndicalism charges against Freemen members. Entity Tags:Charles Phipps, Daniel Petersen, Montana Human Rights Network, LeRoy Schweitzer, Jerry Walters, Jean A. Turnage, William Stanton, Anti-Defamation League, Sherry Matteucci, Nick Murnion, Steven Gardner, Posse Comitatus, Peter Rapkoch, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Ralph Clark, Montana Freemen, Roy Schwasinger

www.mid-rivers.com [cached]

Pictured are (back) Mark Robbins, Kevin Braun, Craig Johnson, Mark Tombre; (front) Don Kimmel, Gene Engen, Nick Murnion, Rob Reukauf and Alan Sevier.
President - Nick Murnion Nick Murnion

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