The federal trial of leaders of the Montana Freemen was delayed for at least a day Tuesday, with the judge citing the sudden illness of a key but unnamed person.
U.S. District Judge John Coughenour of Seattle entered the courtroom in shirtsleeves at 9 a.m. MDT, when jury selection was scheduled to begin, and said the trial opening would have to wait "because of the illness of someone who must be present for the trial.""This person was taken by ambulance to a hospital this morning," the judge said. "We will just have to wait and see."
He apologized to 75 potential jurors who were gathered and asked them to return Wednesday.
There was a collective groan from the courtroom, which was filled with potential jurors and observers. One Freeman supporter, John Wright of Townsend, Mont., shouted out: "Who is this person?" He was immediately hustled from the courtroom by several marshals, his question unanswered. But one of the defendants identified the ailing man as a fellow defendant, Cornelius John "Casey" Veldhuizen, 59.
Nearly two years after their 81-day standoff with the FBI, 14 members of the anti-government group were to have gone on trial. They are charged with more than 40 crimes, including conspiracy, bank fraud, threatening a federal judge and armed robbery.