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The Federal Trial of Bob Stewart
The Deck is Stacked Against Him.

by Angel Shamaya

January 18, 2001 — Some people may be surprised to know that today's federal court system has dispensed with a centuries-old tradition of using a Holy Bible to "swear in" a witness before he or she testifies against another. The left hand, for hundreds of years, was placed on a Bible, the right hand raised, and an oath taken. And that oath has changed a bit, too. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" is still spoken, but the "so help you God," once the closing phrase of a witness' oath, has been stricken entirely.

And from what a few of us watched in the fancy new courthouse in Phoenix on Thursday, the above actually makes sense, in a sad sort of way.


Though I missed jury selection in Mesa, Arizona gunkit maker Bob Stewart's trial proceedings, a couple of people who attended the fiasco freely shared their thoughts of what transpired. According to one man, Mr. Stewart sought to deny one potential juror's participation after she proclaimed that she believed nobody should be allowed to own a gun. The judge denied Mr. Stewart's request, reportedly saying that the woman could still stand as an impartial juror. Another witness to the jury selection (tampering) process said he believes that -- based on what he witnessed -- eleven of the thirteen jurors are mildly to severely anti-gun in their leanings. A third gentleman said he wondered if the original jury pool was hand selected from either the ACLU mailing list or based on their being registered Democrats.

Also reported was an exchange Mr. Stewart had with the judge during the jury selection process.  Mr. Stewart asked a question regarding whether or not a certain juror supported the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  The judge reportedly stopped that line of questions and said that those issues were not going to be addressed in this trial.


Bob Stewart has been defending himself pro per for the last year or so. His court-appointed counsel, Mr. Haney, has been by his side the whole time, but it's Mr. Stewart who is conducting cross-examination of witnesses, making arguments in the form of questions, etc.

Through Thursday's cross examination process, Mr. Stewart attempted to address many of the issues people on our side consider to be fundamental to a fair trial were repeatedly rebuked by the judge. For example, the following issues are banned from the jury's ears:

  • whether or not the BATF has jurisdiction over firearms manufactured within a state that have never traveled in interstate commerce
  • the nature of where BATF's jurisdiction begins and ends
  • whether or not BATF could/should have taken an administrative course of action (a friendly phone call or a knock on Mr. Stewart's door) to address their concerns about the legality of Mr. Stewart's gun kit they've determined to be a gun
  • the definition of "readily converted," which was the basis for BATF's justification for their raid of his property and the prosecution against him  (Nowhere in BATF's code of regulations is the term "readily converted" defined.)
  • whether or not BATF was negligent in not having checked to see if Mr. Stewart's firearms rights had been restored before proceeding against him as if he were prohibited from possessing a firearm
  • the accuracy and validity of the search warrant (The judge ordered the jury to consider the flawed search warrant accurate and valid.)

At one point during Mr. Stewart's cross examination of a BATF agent, when the judge again told Mr. Stewart that one of the above issues he sought to address was already resolved in the government's favor, Mr. Stewart's eyes filled up with tears. After a moment of silence, he respectfully said, "Your Honor, for the record, I feel I am being deprived of my right to defend myself." The judge had to call a short recess so the frustrated patriot could compose himself.


A couple of exchanges that took place during Mr. Stewart's cross examination of those testifying against him were noteworthy.  The first took place between BATF's Marvin Richardson, Special Agent in Charge of the investigation against Mr. Stewart.  Mr. Stewart was seeking clarification from Mr. Richardson as to why BATF didn't check to see if Stewart's rights had been restored prior to raiding his home and business:

Mr. Stewart:  Did BATF check to see if Mr. Stewart's firearms rights had been restored?

Mr. Richardson:  Since 1990, when Congress stopped funding BATF's program to restore people's rights, that hasn't been our job.

In other words, according to Marvin Richardson -- who said he oversees some 75 such investigations at a time, sometimes -- in a state such as Arizona, where rights can be restored by local authorities pursuant to ARS 13-909, that fact is irrelevant to him and his machinegun-toting anti-second-amendment pals.  "Not our job" is akin to "just following orders," which Hitler's Nazi SS troops used as their excuse to abuse, harass, invade, intimidate, bully, shoot, maim and kill innocent people they were "investigating."


Then there was the testimony of Mr. Curtis H. A. Bartlett. Bartlett is the Chief of the BATF's Firearms Technology Branch. He flew in from D.C., again, to do his best to help put Bob Stewart in prison.  A cache of guns allegedly taken from Stewart's residence during the raid was presented, one by one, to Mr. Bartlett. He was guided to explain how guns work to the jury, the difference between a revolver and a pistol, the difference between semi- and full-auto, and to describe the function of each gun while holding it.  Any anti-gunner in the jury was, surely, horrified. (One female juror looked duly aghast -- it worked.)

When Mr. Stewart was given his chance to cross-examine Mr. Bartlett, his questions turned to the nature of BATF's authority in conducting investigations as they relate to interstate commerce.  (BATF has been known, repeatedly, to claim greater jurisdiction than they truly have by stretching the definition of what constitutes interstate commerce.)  Though the judge stomped on Stewart's line of questioning and called for at least three sidebar conversations to make sure Stewart did what he was told and left the issue alone, one conversation managed to make it past the judge's shutdown:

Mr. Stewart:  What exactly constitutes interstate commerce as it relates to BATF's jurisdiction over cases like this one?

Mr. Bartlett:  When a gun travels in interstate commerce, the BATF has jurisdiction.

Mr. Stewart:  What is the definition of a "state," and how does that definition guide BATF's activities?

Mr. Bartlett:  I'm not sure of the definition of a state as defined by law. I do recall that D.C. is listed as a "state".

The gist of the conversation was that the BATF employee and Chief who flew in from our nation's capitol to testify against Bob Stewart couldn't quite address where BATF's authority stops and starts -- but he did put it clearly on record that D.C. is a state.  People who understand the nature of law as it relates to interstate commerce will find that most intriguing. At issue was whether or not a person can make a gun within his or her own state without incurring the wrath of the BATF. [Interstate commerce is defined in Title 18, U.S.C., Section 921 (a)(2). You will also find the definition of "state" in that section of U.S. Code. D.C., Puerto Rico, and possessions of the United States such as post offices, federal enclaves, etc. Also specifically excluded are any areas not defined as "state," and Arizona is not mentioned, nor are any of the other 49 states. 95% of all gun transactions do not take place in "interstate commerce" as defined by law -- BATF does not have jurisdiction over Mr. Stewart, legally, in this prosecution.] Though Mr. Bartlett didn't come out directly and say YES, he implied the truth: you can make a gun in your own state and leave it within the state and they have no authority over your so doing.


The U.S. Government's original prosecutor in the case against Mr. Stewart -- Mr. Welty -- was pulled from the case some months back. After Mr. Stewart got his rights retroactively restored to a date prior to the launching of BATF's investigation against Mr. Stewart, it appeared that BATF's prosecution was about to go belly up. Mr. Stewart subpoenaed Mr. Welty to inquire as to his involvement in getting a judge to rescind the rights restoration just days after she signed the order.  Mr. Welty appeared in court on Thursday to meet his requirement based on that subpoena, but Judge Silver ruled that Mr. Stewart would not be allowed to examine Mr. Welty as a witness -- then excused him from the courtroom.  The term "Kangaroo Court" comes to mind...


Can there really be a jury of 13 and no patriots who understand the right of the people to keep and bear arms? We will know soon enough -- Mr. Stewart will call his witnesses, prosecution will cross-examine, they'll have their closing statements, and the jury will disappear behind closed doors to find out whether or not the BATF will be successful in its bid to put a husband and father of three young boys in prison for a many years. These final proceedings are scheduled to take place Tuesday morning (January 22, 2001) in Judge Roslyn O. Silver's courtroom (Room 604) at the fancy new federal courthouse at Washington St. & 4th Avenue in Phoenix. The jury's verdict is expected back no later than Wednesday.

I will be there, and I will report the outcome of this federal assault on the Second Amendment.

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