Militia leader gets 6 year sentence

Patriot-News/July 3, 2003
By John Beauge

Williamsport -- A central Pennsylvania man who amassed a collection of weapons -- including machine guns and bombs -- as well as maps of airports was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday.

Prosecutors have called Ronald William Hertzog, 40, of the State College area, a terrorist, but he claims he was just preparing for World War III.

"I love my country," he told U.S. Middle District Senior Judge James F. McClure Jr. yesterday before being sentenced to 70 months in prison followed by three years of probation. The former bus driver and Penn State University computer programmer said he never intended to harm the country.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick E. Martin described Hertzog as a dangerous man with the capability of being a terrorist or providing weapons to organizations.

In arguing for a longer sentence, Martin pointed out that Hertzog, the self-proclaimed commander of the Pennsylvania Citizens Militia, was interested in selling kits for converting semiautomatic weapons to automatic.

Prosecutors described the militia as a small group with a Web site that was taken off-line immediately after Hertzog's arrest.

"I do not see Mr. Hertzog as a terrorist," his attorney, Kyle W. Rude, told McClure. Rude said Hertzog's views were misguided, but he argued Hertzog was trying to combat terrorism in the United States. He was upset with what he viewed as the "overreaching power" of the United Nations, he said.

Hertzog, who has been jailed without bail since his arrest a year ago, pleaded guilty in September to a charge of possession of firearms. None of the guns were registered to him.

One of the reasons given for the long sentence was a letter Hertzog sent from prison to a person who posted it on the Web site for the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma. The letter said he would come out of prison "bigger, badder and better" than when he went in.

McClure also referred to Hertzog's admission that he had machine guns, explosive devices and counter-surveillance equipment, and statements attributed to the defendant that he could "take out" government radio towers.

The judge cited Hertzog's distrust for the federal government and agents' discovery of literature and videos on how to convert weapons to fire automatically, black powder, empty military shells and grenades, at least 115 armor-piercing bullets, 12,000 rounds of ammunition, maps with airports and pipelines identified and a device that would indicate the presence of electronic equipment.

Federal agents began the investigation into the militia in spring 2001 and Hertzog was arrested June 19, 2002. Officers seized his computer.

Agents allege Hertzog exchanged coded electronic messages with others thought to be sympathetic with his beliefs, gathered information about police frequencies in the State College area and had two compact discs that contained chemical formulas for making explosives.

During a hearing after Hertzog's arrest, Rude claimed his client feared World War III was near and he wanted to protect his family.

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