The chief federal judge for Montana started carrying weapons after five Montana Freemen sent him a "shoot to kill" letter for foreclosing on their farm property.

"I took it seriously and notified the marshals," U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom testified Tuesday. "I carried a weapon with me."He also disqualified himself from hearing the criminal trial against the anti-government Freemen, explaining that "I considered myself a victim in this case."

Shanstrom testified at the trial of 12 Montana Freemen accused in a 40-count federal indictment of crimes ranging from bank and wire fraud to threatening a federal judge - Shanstrom.

All other federal judges in Montana also stepped aside. The trial, now in its third week, is being heard by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour of Seattle.

Shanstrom said he received a letter from five of the defendants, including Emmett and Richard Clark, in December 1994. He said he took it seriously.