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Strange standoff in Lakota, N.D., continues

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Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke continues to consult with "my team of experts" on how to peacefully end the strange standoff of a Lakota, N.D., farm family facing criminal charges who refuse to leave their farm or talk to Janke.

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Rodney Brossart, his wife, Sue, and their children, Abby, Alex, Jacob and Thomas were charged in a confrontation earlier this summer over a neighbor's six cattle the Brossarts would not return. The brothers face terrorizing charges for appearing to hold guns while refusing officers attempts to arrest them.

Meanwhile, Roger Elvick, the ex-convict former area farmer who has attracted national attention as a trouble-making anti-government zealot -- and who has met with the Brossarts -- left town last week for California.

Nine people, including three minor children of Rodney and Sue, live at the Brossart farm south of Lakota, said Sheriff Janke.

"They are staying pretty tight at their residence," he said. "They all six have outstanding charges."

The situation was sparked by a complaint in June from a neighbor who said Brossart would not return six stray cattle. In the ensuing confrontation, Brossart's sons held guns while declining orders from deputies, and his daughter allegedly hit an officer.

Eventually, six adult Brossarts were jailed and posted bond. They have since failed to appear for scheduled court hearings.

"We have made several attempts to place phone calls through third parties," Janke said. "They are choosing not to return our calls."

The Brossarts attend a local Catholic church and Janke has spoken to the priest, as well as others who know the family.

It's about a lot more than six stray cattle, Janke said. "There is a history with Brossart. The cattle is just the last thing we have had to deal with."

The Brossarts raise corn and soybeans and cattle.

Neil Carlson, a TV reporter with Valley News Live, was at the Brossart farm this week, trying in vain to interview them as they drove tractors around their farm yard. Carlson reported he saw what looked like a rifle inside the cab of a tractor.

The Brossarts have some connection to Elvick, a former Michigan, N.D., farmer who built a reputation the past two decades as a leader of anti-government efforts. Elvick moved back to the area last year when he got out of federal prison, Janke said, living near his ex-wife in Lakota.

But he failed to pay his rent and was evicted, say those familiar with the case. When asked by the judge during the hearing to answer to the charges, Elvick simply stood up, said "This court is adjourned," and walked out, said one witness, who asked to remain anonymous because of concern about Elvick's reaction.

During the hard times in farming 30 years ago, Elvick lost his North Dakota farm to federal lenders, say those who know him. Since, he's been bitter and seems to think that the government owes him a lot of money, a feeling he uses to justify not paying his debts at times, they say.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Georgia, Elvick held seminars in 30 states on his theory he calls "Redemption."

In the hard-to-follow conspiratorial concept, Elvick claims the federal government secretly owes each citizen about $630,000 and he teaches people how to try to get the money.

He can be seen on the internet at www.youtube.com. He teaches people they don't have to pay debts in U.S. currency and can thwart the IRS, according to the SPLC.

His theory includes warnings about Jewish bankers and he's had ties to the late North Dakota tax protestor Gordon Kahl.

According to the SPLC, "Elvick first started spreading his crackpot vision in the 1980s, when he was the national spokesperson for Committee of the States, a white supremacist group Elvick started with William Potter Gale, who had previously founded the Posse Comitatus, a violent anti-Semitic organization."

Five years ago, Elvick was convicted on federal fraud and extortion charges in Ohio and served several years in prison.

Sheriff Janke said since Elvick returned to this area last year, he has held meetings, attended by Brossart family members, in a third party's home.

Elvick and his ex-wife left last week for California but expect to return to Lakota later this fall, Janke said.

Like many around Lakota, Janke has heard and seen enough to worry the Brossarts might resort to violence, he said.

That's why he's taking a careful approach to the case, including consulting with larger law enforcement agencies, Janke said.

"We are meeting with what I call my team of experts, people who are used to dealing with this type of situation and we are continuing to meet on a periodic basis on numerous occasions," Janke said. "My intent is to end this peacefully. I want to reach out to the Brossarts, to start a dialogue and ask them to give me a call to let me know what they are thinking."

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