Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — Jeremy Brown, a former U.S. Army Special Forces master sergeant linked to the Jan. 6 insurrection, was found guilty Monday on six of 10 federal criminal charges related to weapons and classified information that authorities found in his Tampa home.
After a weeklong trial, a jury of six men and six women deliberated about five hours Monday afternoon before deciding that Brown was guilty of illegally possessing two guns, a pair of hand grenades, and a single classified document related to the search for a formerly missing soldier in Afghanistan.
But the panel also found Brown not guilty of possessing four other documents related to national defense, which federal agents found on a CD inside his girlfriend’s recreational vehicle.
Brown, 48, remained stone-faced, his arms at his sides as he stood at a defense table while the verdict was read.
Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew set a March 13 sentencing date.
Federal agents found the illegal items last year during a search of Brown’s property amid a probe into his connection to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
He’s accused in a separate case in Washington, D.C., of being among the rioters who disrupted certification of the 2020 election results, though Brown is not accused of actually entering the Capitol building.
Brown didn’t deny that the sawed-off shotgun and the short-barreled rifle that agents found at his home were his. The guns were not registered in a federal database, as required by law.
But his attorney, Roger Futerman, argued to the jury that most of the other items — including the grenades and a CD with a red label marked “secret” which contained documents detailing military activities in Afghanistan — were planted by federal agents.
The defense lawyer pointed to forensic evidence that showed DNA on the hand grenades came from someone other than Brown. He also highlighted a number of peculiarities in the way agents conducted and documented the search. Most notably: they turned off Brown’s home security cameras upon entering.
“The evidence was manipulated and planted,” Futerman said. “I can’t tell you when it was planted or who planted it. But the forensics don’t lie.”
Futerman also asserted that for Brown to be guilty of possessing classified material related to national defense, there would have to be proof that he had a “bad purpose” for the material.
Federal prosecutors scoffed at the claim that evidence was planted. They said Brown knew he wasn’t supposed to have the items.
“He knew the rules,” prosecuting attorney Menno Goedman said in closing arguments. “But he broke them anyway.”
There were other revelations throughout the trial that seemed to dampen Brown’s claims.
During the testimony of his girlfriend, Tylene Aldridge, the jury learned that she’d looked up the home address of one of the federal agents involved in Brown’s arrest. They were also told of a recorded jail phone call between the couple. In the call, prosecutors said, Brown could be heard boasting about his forthcoming trial testimony.
“I could lie my ass off and they’d love the s— out of me,” he was quoted saying. (Brown testified that the statement was taken out of context.)
The jury also heard about another jail phone call between the couple, this one from shortly after Brown’s arrest. In the brief recording, Aldridge told him some of the things agents took from their home.
She mentioned the grenades. Brown said nothing.
She then mentioned that agents turned off the couple’s security cameras.
“They unplugged them?” Brown asks.
Prosecutors said his lack of response when told of the grenades showed that he knew they were there.
“That silence is a confession,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Marcet.
Brown has remained defiant in the face of charges that could bring him a hefty prison sentence. From jail, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Florida House of Representatives.
Court records and Brown’s own public statements have linked him to the Oath Keepers extremist group. Five Oath Keepers were convicted of various crimes last month after a lengthy trial in Washington. They included the group’s national leader, Stewart Rhodes, and the leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, Kelly Meggs — both of whom were found guilty of seditious conspiracy, the most serious criminal convictions to result so far from the events of Jan. 6.
But Brown’s connection to Jan. 6 wasn’t mentioned in the Tampa trial.
Much of the focus was on his 20-year Army career. He held a secret security clearance for the bulk of that time. His attorney highlighted the positive evaluations he received each year from his superiors, who noted Brown as having a reputation for honesty and loyalty.
Prosecutors focused on the circumstances that preceded Brown’s retirement from the service in 2012. That year, he was reprimanded after military officials found several unauthorized files, including some pornographic images, on his military-issued computer. Brown left the service soon after. On the witness stand, he told the jury he’d already planned to retire.
Shortly before that, Brown had authored a document, labeled “secret,” which detailed search efforts for missing soldier Bowe Bergdahl. Prosecutors suggested he took the document with him for nefarious purposes. Brown claimed he didn’t believe the information in it was classified. It was one of the items agents found when they searched his home, and the only one he was found guilty of possessing illegally.
“We’re not disputing that at one point this defendant did serve his country honorably,” Marcet said. “But this case shows just how far he fell.”
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