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Dennis Fisher

dennis fisher, I'm an asst. US attny, ND...
...I was covering the federal building in Chicago for the SunTimes between
72 and 78. And in the spring of 74 I decided that I'd watched enough of
the activity in court and that I should get a degree and go into law...22/21...
and that's exactly what happened...
...22/41...there are a series of them and they're all lawyers, DAn WEbb
was one of them, he prosecuted John Poindexter...
...23/15...it was a warm day, extremely warm day, it was a sunday and
it was a day before Valentine's day and I'd only been in ND for 13 or 14
months. And I dind't expect something like this to happen. I saw the bulletins
come across the tv, I think I was watching sixty minutes. And it talked
about some people being injured whill making an arrest in medina which is
in the central part of the state. so I went to the phone and dialed up Lynn
Crooks, a person who was a US atty and a man with a lot more experience
and asked him had seen the same tv bulletin, he said he had not, so I filled
him in on what I knew...23/55
...and I began to make some phone calls myself and things began to develop
that night. He and Rodney webb had jobs to do and they went off to do those...24/08...
...24/12...the next morning I came in pretty early and worked on a series
of press releases for the US Attny, who at the time was Rodney Webb and
we began a series of briefings as well, he did the briefings and I was his
right arm, he was a fasicile public speaker but not at all schooled as to
how to deal with the media. So I kind of assited in that respect...24/38...
24/45...that's hard to recapture. mine was disbelief, I had never heard
of GK before this time . I didn't know who the posse comitatus was, I didn't
know the consequences might be in terms of the fallout in terms of victims,
including indirect victims, even the prosecutor office and the reaction
they might have to it all...25/12...
...taht's hard to recapture, I was shocked...
...25/27...the next morning which was monday , a lot of things were
happening and Lynn Crooks came and asked if I'd help in the prosecution
of this case. And I'm kind of the junior member...25/38...
...in the outfit, I'd only been a lawyer for six years, I started law
school later than some, I'd been a newpaper man for some time. ...25/48...
...but I thought I was up to the challenge and I appreciated the trust
in my abilities and that's the initial involvment...25/56...
...but we went immediately to Jamestown, he and I and two FBI agents
and that's where the newscenter for a two pronged investigation, one the
process for the trial and the other was to find GK because he was a fugitive
at that point...26/17...
...26/17...and Spencer Hellicksen one of the FBI agents and I became
the search warrant team and we wrote a whole series of search warrants for
things that are still sealed in the court records...26/27...
...looking for GK , looking for evidence. It took several days of intensive
behind the scenes kind of work...26/38...
...26/48...well, I'd never been to Medina in my life. It's not a very
large hamlet, if you've been there, you know what I'm talking about. It's
kind of, a couple of traffic signs on Hwy 94 going west. ...26/58...
...so, I had to see it first to understand what had occurred, we had
photographs, but that didn't do justice to the whole thing, I saw TV aspects
of it, before I saw the whole thing myself...27/08...
and the way I recall this the best, is the ramcharger which is the car
that Chesire was shot on the running board. at close range. The ramcharger
was sitting there. And I have in my own mind, the flashing light still going
on, just going on...27/30...
...and I can see Chesire asking Ken Muir, I can see this because of
the radio tapes, asking him to come forward, to come down from the crest
of this hill, because they're kind of a dip right at the reardon farm. And
Muir's car and Schanble's car driving forward trying to block the road.
And to what a classic debacle the whole thing turned out to be
it just boggles the mind. I'm not a combat veteran, but people I've
talked to, tell me that when you're in a fire fight the people that fire
first have the element of suprise, are usually the ones that take everybody
that need to take out of the way, out of the way, and that's exactly what
happened here...28/08...
28/23...well, GK seemed to me to be the kind of individual in terms
not poitical would be an easy grandfatherly type of person to get along
he was a good rifle shot, he was reputed to be able to bring down a
running deer with iron rifle sights on a 30/6 bolt action rifle with one
...and that's a pretty incredible feat, He's the kind of person that
you probably could have learned a lot from...28/47...
...from the philosphocal aspect of things, because he lived about 60
years when all of this happened...28/53...
as far as the political aspect of things, the posse comitatus simply
means the power of the county, and it revolved around the notion that the
sheriff is the leading law enforcement official and that is the highest
law enforcement official that anybody should have to obey...29/09...
...and these individuals, GK and his group, were talking about having
a kind of an extra legal county imposed on the ND system of counties...they
were going to carve out a section and just declare themselves a county and
they were going to have their own sheriff, it was like a sheriff in England...29/30...
...the sheriff of Nottingham...and everything flowed from the sheriff
and his authority, ...it turns out eventually that they didn't believe in
the 16th amendment which gives congress the power to lay and collect income
taxes from whatever source derived and they profess not to believe that
that is a valid constitutional amendment...29/55...
...something that we've accepted since it was enacted 67 years ago.
The aspect of carrying fire arms was foreign. Any weekend day in the fall
you'll see many pickup trucks with guns on gunracks perched right behind
the driver's head. on a set of gunracks, it's not unusual, it's forreging
to me coming from ILLinois...30/23...
...where you just didn't have that situation at all, I was from chicago
where the guns were either in the hands of agents or the bad guys...30/35...
...so it was much more rough and tumble out here so to say. Carrying
your gun to church didn't make that much sense. I attend church and nobody
that I know carries a gun and sets it inbeween his knees as he's praying...30/52...
...unless you're in a combat situation where you need to keep your weapon
close at hand, I don't imagine that that would be a norm for anyone...30/58...
so the fasile use of the discussion of protecting your rights with a
firearm based on some misguided notion that the second amendment gives him
the right to keep and bear arms and to do whatever is necessary to protect
their property and physical interests is something that is foreign to me
because individulas dont, by becoming part of civilized society give up
certain of those rights in favor of a normal police action...31/24...
...that we all expect... END THIS TAPE
00/41...this was an unusual case in many respects, the FBI called this
"MARMURS" for marshal murders. and the amount of resources that
the govt was able to gather and focus in the efforts to find GK and his
contiunual abilty to elude law enforcement for a good period of time until
an informant was develped inside of his camp in Ark...1/05...
gave me the most pause, there's a live loose cannon out there someplace.
And we had, course the rumor mill feeds itself rather well in time sof stress
like this . but, stress you come to work with that, depending on your background,
mine was from the daily pressure of a deadline for a newspaper so it didn't
bother me very much...1/27...
...you go to work, you work until you're finished and you go home. this
didn't seem to have logical conclusion. there were some mile posts that
you work toward. The judge set up some pretrial motions deadline and you
work yourselve to a frassile getting ready for those and when he set a trial...1/41...
...date. You knew within a day or two that that was going to be it.
He backed it off by a week.
So it was a very super stressful time , because of the mixed elements
of a mystery figure out there that you never met, that might come back and
do some more harm and try to break his son out of jail. Which was a concern
of the marshals...2/03...
...so what we had was two hundred or more lawmen, US Marshals and the
FBI, sometimes at loggerheads as to how they were going to proceed...2/15...
...helping to, helping us to gather the evidence that we needed. And
by the way that was gathered all within a day or two, except for the evidence
at the forensics laboratory...2/27...
...the forensics people doing the ballistics. One of the things that
struck me that went along was what was missed during the course crime scene
search. And that happened to be among other things the pistol grips from
Yori Kahls .45 handgun, which Bob Ramlo, who was one of the defense lawyers
for Mrs. Kahl, found during his honeymoon wedding trip when he was going
thru medina. Stopped and looked where Yori had been . a little utility type
post, and found these pistol grips on the ground and picked them up and
took them to the authorities...which of course is...3/07......what anybody
should have done.
but it was just interesting, these little things come up because they
came up later in the course of the trial when the gun mysteriously appeared
in a West Acres parking lot, not even a refuse container but a 55 gallon
drum , instide a plastic bag was the 45 gun that Yori had at the time that
he was shot...3/28...
...and I remember also, this is not quite in answer to your question
that Lynn Crooks made some reference to this in his closing argument, that
he was pleased...3/37...
...that Ken Muir may have gotten off one good live shot that could have
ended this whole thing, but unfortunately it was nipped by Yori's 45 in
his shoulder holster...3/49...
...4/00 ...well, I was not the lead prosecutor...in this case. I was
doing tasks that were assigned to me. I had a number of witnesses to prepare
during the course of the trial and I of course we discussed strategy as
a group. And I was taking my lead from Lynn Crooks who is a very skilfull,
methodical and thorough trial lawyer. All of those things come into play...the
emotional atmosphere was very charged...4/28...
...it was charged because of the extremem dichotomy between what I saw
as the side that the US was representing and the side that was being projected
on the other side, which was a vocal, subminority, a sub group of people
that would take the law into their own hands and we can't operate that way...4/50...
...I keep remembering Robert Bolt's play , "A Man for All Seasons"
, during the course of the play, sir thomas moore, is talking to his nephew,
and will is saying let's go after that man, cut down all the laws in england
if we have to, and let's go after him...5/08...
...and the character says in the play, but I would give the devil the
benefit of the law Will, because if you cut all of the laws down, where
would you turn when the devil turned on you? And that kind of ...5/22...
...thing. And here we have, not arch black and white figures, by any
means and the govts never all right or all wrong. And there are some human
aspects, clearly humanatarian aspects to what these people believed, misguided
as I think it was...5/37...
...(sourgrapes from defense attnys)
...6/05...well, the watergate trials were held in Washington. The case
law was quite clear that we could hold the trial in Fargo if the judge could
find a jury. ...6/15...
...and in fact he was able to empanel a jury. I was teasing Lynn all
the time about moving the case to Guam. Which is of course out of the realm
of the possiblity...It is a protectorect of the US and we could have gotten
our plane tickets and just headed over there...6/29...
and I kept coming down during the jury selection and I would said, we
just got closer to Guam when we would use up more prospective jurors that
had been summoned into court...6/43...
...so you had to find your humor where you could...I never for a moment
as we were going thru this case that it was still not a jury question, they
could have acquitted everyone as far as I was concerned. So I was under
the gun. Not like Lynn and I have talked about it afterwards, it was just
a question of which charges they were going to be found guilty on. 7/08...
...that was my first murder case, so it made a difference to me. And
I wanted to make sure I performed to the best of my ability. We had to sleep
in our own beds...7/21...
which is nice, hell we could camp in a hotel, I've done it an awful
lot, it doesn't make any difference...7/28...
...7/44...well, I was assigned to write the answer and response by the
govt. on the pretrial aspects of this thing. it was a manufactured issue
from my persepective. There is a separation of powers issue that goes on
here. The marshal is a person appointed by the president for a specific
job to do. They work in the executive branch in the dept. of justice...8/03...
...they also had functions in protecting the jury, which is part of
court security. And judge Bensen of course is part of the judicial branch
and appointed for life and above the fray. and he's demonstarted in the
course of his career that he doesn't get down in the thick of things like
...and oof course when you ask a judge and it's his discretion whether
to excuse himself, they call it recusal. if you fail there what's your next
move? You certainly wouldn't go to the court of appeals right away. because
you certainly wouln'd certify it as an issue that was serious enough to
do that. So, you're piquing the dragon so to say...8/34...
...if you don't like this man, you're asking him to get out of the case.
What's going to happen when you're finished. What I saw was a fair impartial
, unbiased, detached, referree, run the case just like he should of, in
the face of all the slings and arrows that these individuals could throw
at him, most of which were manufactured and hocum...8/54...
...9/09...by gag order I suppose you mean whether we can make extrajudicial
statements to the news media outside of what happens in court. But they
seem to forget that their function is to defend their clients and ours is
dual, one was to prepare for trial and the second was to find the fugitive
who demonstrated how dangerous he was already. He shot and killed two people...9/34...
and the function it seemed to me of the govt lawyers to make clear that
there is this menace afoot, trancends any gag order, the judge could issue
a gag order, but it would only have to do with what we were doing in trial,
it wouldn't have to do with what we were doing searching for GK...5/52...
and that's exactly what happened here. As a matter of fact we stopped
talking to the press as soon as a trial date was set. And there weren't
anymore interviews of that sort because we wanted to get a fair and impartial
jury as well...10/04...
I mean we have an interest in justice as well...
...10/22...well, Jim likes to write a good yarn, a couple of friends
in Chicage say, never let the facts stand in the way of a good story...and
if you're going to be able to sell a few more books based on what your observations
are, I can't take that away from him...
...10/35... did I hate these individuals? No. I didn't then and I
don't now...I'm hopefully a person would consider a proficient prosecutor,
one who can take the facts as they are, it would be easy to hate them ...but
I could certainly show my disregard for what they'd done without saying
that I had to hate them . No, I was hoping the processes of law would work...11/00
...that's the reason we were in court, versus issuing me a 9mm and saying,
okay, go take care of the situation...11/07...
...which is so far remote in thinking from what normally happens, so
he can have his quote,
I didn't hate them then and I don't hate them now...11/18...
...but I didn't hide my feelings for what was going on. I mean, there's
a dramatic flair that most tiral lawyers develop that hopefully is not too
melodramatic and hopefully not too soap-operaish, but it was very clear
cut what my functions were...11/40...
and what I thought of everyone else in that courtroom. I mean within
the realm of decorum and non consequensious conduct. ..11/48...
...12/02...they were wrong and that the allegations that were set out
in the indictment were proven without any doubt, not even beyond any reasonable
doubt, when they left and went back to deliberate...12/13...what happened
out there as best we could present it to them. so it was an aggressvie focused,
very sharply delineated trail as far as I was concerned....
...12/38...because of the potential for fallout further I don't want
to talk about that...(still today?=JJ) ...absolutely...12/48...
...not so much me, you take the risks when you take em, by the nature
of the job that I have,. it is not a normal job. I enjoy it, I have my own
case load, I develp my own style with the help of the people here...13/04...
...but the US dept of justice is a good agency to work for. there is
certain fallout for a person family and friends and people that you associate
with. and I just think to protect them it's probably good for me to stay
away from that, I can take with you off camera about it...13/20...
...13/33...well, the bomb threats came late, we didn't have any during
the course of the trial...I'm also in the navy so I used the training that
was given to all of us when you go overseas, ...not going in uniform, not
carrying ID card, not doing the same routine everyday...I didn't drive my
car to work for example...I went into a different door everyday...I told
people not to pick me up at my house...14/35...
...14/41...during the course of the case, somebody came out in front
of my house with a video camera with a wisconsin license plate on their
car...one of the more vocal persons in the whole posse comitatus was a man
near stevenspoint wisconsin...I felt something was amiss in this, so I dialed
up an FBI man and he had the whole thing checked out within hours...15/13...
it turned out to be an innocent sort of thing, but it came everybody
second thoughts in my house,...it sure gave everybody a second beat to the
heart as to what was happening...15/33...
...15/37...my kids were pretty young, my wife is a stalwart person,
but you can penetrate anyone cal....I'm sure it got to her, it got to me...15/59...
...it was difficult to go to sleep, when you're in a rough and tumble
situation you develop flexible habits. You get done what needs to be done...
...16/31...any prsecutor that doesn't ask a pointed quetion on cross
examination using all the skill and abliility and resources that are available,
probably shouldn't be doing the job...
...that's his view again, I'd say some of the comments probably were
ascerbic, sharp, caustic, holding a person up to ridic¨le, mocking,
but those are all stylistic devices taht are used to good effect, but you
can overdo them as well...so there's a point after which deminishg returns
set in...17/02...
...so viscious, I sdon't know, I'd say aggressive, I remember during
cross examination of his client for examople, Judge Benson was very rigid
in his schedule, I think Yori Kahl got on the witness stand at about eleven-thirty
in the morning. we weren't going to break until noon, I had to hold my good
questions that were going to evoke some response from him...17/27...
...for at least 30 minutes or more, and I had 30 or 40 items that ticked
off in my notes that I needed to get from him as either concessions by him,
tings that he'd said, either to the agents, yeh, I think that I shot the
guy in the white shirt, which was bob Chesire...17/42...
...yeah, I might have shot first, things that he was saying like this
from his hospital bed. And the change of clothes and the whole incident
up to the noon break and lynn uh, wrote me a little note saying, you've
got to stall, and I knew that already, but I didn't mind having someone
who's someone much more senior than I , who'd been thru the Leonard Peltier
...give me some affirmation of what I thought, so I shucked and jived
and did a little tap dance and showed em forty or fifty different weapons,
cause we had a whole lot of weapons. and various other pieces of evidence
and did everything I had to do until the noon break and then
with interviews of...
Joan Kahl
Yorie Kahl
Lynn Crooks
Toots Mathis
Dennis Fisher
John Noah
Irv Nodland
Bill Kennelly
Prof. Ed Gran
Jack McLamb
Delores Everts
Scarlet Skiftu
Herman Widicker
August Pankow
Victor Seil
Marlys Klimek
Ron Perleberg
Len Martin
Brad Kapp
Robert Holiday
Tom Lee
Ed Fitzpatrick
Gene Nail
Buford Terrell
Marlene Gaysek
Bob Ralston
Darrel Graf
Steve Schnabel
Jack Swan
Loreen Dyck
Mark Stagg
Sheriff Ray Weatherby
Jack Miller
Tracy Adams
Allison Hoffman
Jeffrey F. Jackson
production design
Jim Haddon
Peter Lloyd
film editing
Tracy Adams
Martyn Hone
Jeffrey F. Jackson
original music by
Tracy Adams
sound department
Tracy Adams
Jeffrey F. Jackson
Rex Reddick
produced by
Jeffrey F. Jackson
Angela Kaye
writing by
Jeffrey F. Jackson
directed by
Jeffrey F. Jackson
A timeline of the life of Gordon Kahl, from early childhood interests, to his marriage to Joan Kahl, his decorated military experience, his outspoken tax protest, the Medina shootout, and his unusual death in Arkansas in 1983.
VARIETY /   Indie documaker Jeffrey F. Jackson sticks it to the IRS and the Feds in "Death & Taxes," a hard-hitting reinvestigation of the 1983 Gordon Kahl case, about which questions still linger. Jackson's unfazed, investigative reporting-style approach and inventive handling of familiar material make this a controversial item for fests and progressive webs. Non-U.S. viewers will also get a charge out of its conspiracy theme. read more
CHRONICLES MAGAZINE /   Gordon Kahl was a simple farmer who became famous for not filing income tax returns. Imprisoned and hounded by IRS agents who never did prove he owed any amount of money, Kahl and his son were involved in a shootout with police. The son is still serving a prison sentence, but the father was surrounded and shot in Arkansas by police officers who mutilated and burned his body. read more
GUNS & AMMO /   A new video documentary, Death & Taxes, details a case of government murderously out of control that was briefly mentioned in the October 1994 Guns & Ammo article "The Ugly Truth About Gun Control." Death & Taxes is the story of Gordon Kahl, a North Dakota farmer and decorated World War II veteran, and his apparent death at the hands of federal agents. read more
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Death & Taxes (DVD)
First time on DVD (113 min)
Death & Taxes (VHS)
This is a limited edition collector's VHS in the original unbroken packaging. (113 min)
Death & Taxes Miniseries (DVD)
Set of 6 DVD's comprising the complete uncut footage from the documentary film project. (783 min)
Gordon Kahl: Godfather of the militia movement
Now Available!
This set of 6 DVD's comprises over 13 hours of uncut footage, including a 2+ hour prison interview with Yorie Kahl, and candid interviews with wife Joan Kahl. In this rich stockpile of research, you'll find many more threads than could reasonably be pursued in the final feature.
The Death & Taxes Miniseries DVD Set Includes...
01: Gordon Kahl Meets With Head North Dakota U.S. Marshal Bud Warren (60 min)
02: The Beginning: Gordon Kahl's military experience and views on a variety of subjects (93 min)
03: Gordon's Texas Tax Trial (90 min)
04: Medina Shootout (60 min)
05: Gordon Kahl Was...: A montage of over 25 people describing who Gordon Kahl was in their eyes. (50 min)
06: Mysterious Death In Arkansas (90 min)
07: Media Circus: Chronological portrayal of Gordon Kahl in the media (70 min)
08: Yorie Kahl Prison Interview (150 min)
09: Joan Kahl Uncut Interviews (120 min)
The connection between Gordon Kahl, Timothy McVeigh, and the Oklahoma City Bombing
A little-known fact regarding Death & Taxes is the surprising connection to Timothy McVeigh and the ATF / Oklahoma City Bombing. Here's a clip of Jackson sharing the story during a director's commentary on his film Postal Worker.
Manhunt in the Dakotas
The story of Gordon Kahl so captured the attention of mainstream America that it was turned into a highly-rated made-for-television movie titled In The Line of Duty - Manhunt In The Dakotas.

DEATH & TAXES is the story of Gordon Kahl, a North Dakota farmer who became America's "most-wanted" fugitive. How had a WWII war hero become the target of one of the largest manhunts in FBI history? Gordon Kahl U.S. Marshalls Most Wanted Fugitive
Gordon Kahl's charred and burned remains were reexamined after his exhumation. The island of unburned skin shows that Kahl's body was likely positioned against the floor at the time he was set on fire.
The badly burned remains of Gordon Kahl, with an island of skin that shows he was in a prone position at the time of the fire.
Was Kahl a racist, gun-toting fanatic? Or a victim of an IRS policy of harassing vocal tax protestors into silence to keep the rest of us intimidated? Did Bill Clinton conspire to cover-up the torture and execution of Gordon Kahl in Arkansas? Did federal agents mutilate and burn the body to cover-up the murder of the wrong man?
DEATH & TAXES follows the trail of Gordon Kahl as his body is exhumed for a new autopsy. Building on newsreel clips covering two fiery shootouts and hundreds of interviews -- with IRS agents and federal prosecutors as well as Kahl's family and supporters -- D&T explores the myths and controversies surrounding a man who dared to challenge the federal income tax system. Some revile Kahl as a cop killer. Others revere him as an American patriot. Which was he?