William Wolf

In this undated photo, Bozeman resident William Wolf addresses the Gallatin County Commission after submitting a request to investigate an alleged government conspiracy against a leader in an anti-government movement to form citizen grand juries and expose supposed corruption.

A Bozeman anti-government activist will stand trial in federal court this week on accusations that he acquired an illegal fully automatic sawed-off shotgun with the desire to target public officials. But he claims that his purchase was entrapment and an undercover agent persuaded him to buy the firearm.

The trial for William Kristoffer Wolf is slated to get underway Monday in U.S. District Court in Billings before Judge Susan Watters. Wolf faces counts of illegal possession of a machine gun and possession of a firearm not registered in National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. The trial is expected to last three days.

Wolf, 52, was arrested in March in Livingston after exchanging $720 for a Saiga 12-guage shotgun at a truck stop in Livingston, prosecutors say. He has remained in the Yellowstone County jail while his case is pending.

Prosecuting the case are Bryan Whittaker, assistant U.S. attorney, and Danya Atiyeh, trial attorney in the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Wolf is represented by Mark Werner, a deputy federal defender for the District of Montana.

Prosecutors said in a pre-trial brief that they intend to call seven witnesses throughout the trial and also plan on playing excerpts from Wolf’s webcast called “The Montana Republic” as well as phone calls he’s made from jail.

The defense, on the other hand, said they will claim entrapment and anticipates showing that Wolf didn’t have a specific interest in getting a machine gun prior to being contacted by undercover federal agents.

Wolf’s discussions on his webcast are what prompted the FBI to introduce Wolf to two undercover informants. Prosecutors say he talked about anti-government views and his plans to overthrow local, state and federal governments by force.

On what Wolf said was his last webcast in November 2014, he declared that the time for talking was almost over and that he didn’t believe he would reach a peaceful solution to his problems, prosecutors say.

According to prosecutors, Wolf built a relationship with a man whom he believed was like-minded but who was in fact a confidential FBI informant.

That informant told Wolf that he had a friend who might be able to help Wolf get various kinds of weapons, including a flamethrower Wolf repeatedly expressed a desire to have, prosecutors say.

The informant eventually introduced Wolf to the friend who was also an undercover FBI agent, prosecutors say.

Wolf met with the agent several times, during which prosecutors say the agent offered to get a flamethrower for Wolf. During those meetings, Wolf also requested that the agent get a Russian-made, fully automatic, short-barrel shotgun for him, which the agent agreed to do, prosecutors say.

In July 2014, Wolf invited the informant to his home, where Wolf described his intention to develop a “blowtorch gun” with a range of up to 150 feet, prosecutors say.

Several months later, Wolf again met with the informant and discussed the Bozeman Police Department’s recent acquisition of an armored vehicle, saying he needed to destroy the vehicle and that the most effective method would be “cooking it from the inside,” prosecutors say.

In subsequent conversations with the agent, Wolf repeatedly detailed his desire to use a flamethrower against law enforcement officers, saying that it would be an effective way to neutralize officers who were wearing body armor, prosecutors say.

Over the course of several months, Wolf said he wanted a Saiga-12 fully automatic shotgun due to its durability, prosecutors said.

“The purpose of the gun is not to go hunting with. It’s to clean house,” prosecutors allege Wolf said to the agent.

The agent discussed details of what kind of gun Wolf wanted, prosecutors say.

The FBI acquired a firearm with Wolf’s desired specifications and the agent made a video showing the gun’s capabilities, prosecutors say.

On March 18, Wolf was shown the video and he said he had changes he wanted made to it, prosecutors say, and then came to an agreed upon price for the gun.

A week later, Wolf met the agent at a truck stop in Livingston and Wolf paid the undercover agent $720 for the gun and put the gun into his vehicle, prosecutors say. He was immediately arrested by the FBI.

The defense counters the prosecution’s claims, arguing that Wolf was coerced into buying the gun.

The undercover agent said he was with a group headquartered in Utah and that getting a weapon would be easy, the defense says.

The agent also persuasively presented himself as an anti-government ally and friend to Wolf, the defense says. Discussions with him “fueled” Wolf’s request for a flame thrower and the Russian shotgun, the defense says.

Whitney Bermes can be reached at wbermes@dailychronicle.com or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.

Whitney Bermes covers cops and courts for the Chronicle.

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