The wife of imprisoned former militia activist Mark Koernke says the Wednesday seizure on her home by special agents was nothing more than a conspiracy by the federal government to extend her husband's jail sentence.
"They have been looking for an opportunity to come into the house to see what we have," said Nancy Koernke, who lives at the 4500 block of Dexter-Pinckney Road in Webster Township, just south of Livingston County.
"This was their window of opportunity, and that window was closing."
Nancy Koernke said she and her two sons where detained a total of 12 hours in the home without being permitted to contact her attorney while agents from the U.S. Marshal's Office and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) conducted a search for weapons and radio broadcasting equipment.
The U.S. Marshal's Office confirmed it did conduct a search of the home that lasted several hours, based on an order from the Federal Communications Commission.
An affidavit from FCC Compliance Specialist Patrick Patterson, released by the U.S. District Court Friday, explained the nature of the warrant. It alleged the confiscated equipment had been used to conduct illegal broadcasting from the Koernke residence.
ATF agents obtained a warrant to conduct a subsequent search after marshals discovered firearms on the property as well, according to ATF spokesperson Vera Fedorak.
According to Nancy Koernke, the perimeter of the home was sealed off by authorities for a mile in every direction through the duration of the search.
During that time, Nancy Koernke maintains law enforcement engaged in "negotiations" with the statewide Michigan Wolverine Militia organization for the safety of the Koernke family and a guarantee they would not be arrested at that time.
"And that if something like that happened, there would be some sort of retribution," she said.
It is unclear at this time whether charges will result from the seizure, and, if so, against whom would charges be issued.
Nancy Koernke said the weapons removed from the property by the ATF were antiques belonging to both her and her husband and therefore not required to be registered.
She said the weapons, some of which belonged to her husband, had been brought into the home from a leased storage facility recently for the purpose of cleaning and appraisal. Nancy Koernke said she planned to sell them so her husband could return to the home if released on parole. The weapons were shotguns, some of which were semiautomatic, she said.
Mark Koernke was convicted in 2001 on a list of charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon, resisting and obstructing a police officer and fleeing a police officer. He was sentenced to three to seven years at Kincheloe's Chippewa Correctional Facility.
The charges stemmed from a 2000 incident in which Koernke was involved in an hour-long police chase in Livingston and Washtenaw counties and down Interstate 94 after reportedly being mistaken for a bank robber.
Prior to his arrest, Koernke made a name for himself as "Mark from Michigan," broadcasting a short-wave antigovernment radio show called "The Intelligence Report" on a frequency from the family's home. The so-called "Patriot Broadcasting Network" could typically be heard within a three-mile radius of the residence on station 92.7 FM, Nancy Koernke said.
The FCC reportedly began investigating reports of illegal broadcasting from the family home in mid-1999 and have continued periodically until the present. According to Patterson's affidavit, two notices were sent to Mark Koernke at the beginning of the investigation, but were returned unclaimed.
Nancy Koernke said the station was developed five years ago as a home school project for her son, and she admits the family had no FCC license operate it. However, Nancy Koernke maintains federal guidelines did not require licensing for smaller frequency stations until recently.
She said her family was not made aware of the changes in the law, nor had they received any warnings or complaints about the station from law enforcement prior to Wednesday's search.
The family has created a new radio Internet radio broadcast called Liberty Tree Radio that Nancy Koernke said broadcasts "patriotic and Christian" music.
Koernke will be eligible for a parole hearing Sept. 11, 2003.