David Burgert said Friday that he's done getting into trouble with firearms.
"I have no intention of ever being in this situation again," Burgert told U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, who had just finished telling Burgert he could expect to be effectively banned from owning guns for the rest of his life.
Burgert, the alleged leader of a plot to assassinate Flathead County officials, was in Molloy's court Friday to plead guilty to two federal weapons charges. He admitted to possessing an illegal machine gun and to possessing that weapon while he was barred from having any guns at all because he is a convicted felon. Both charges are felonies, and each carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and three years on supervised release.
Burgert was arrested for bail jumping last year, after a brief disappearance and a seven-hour standoff at a Flathead Valley residence in which he threatened to shoot himself with the machine gun.
In court Friday, he explained his disappearance before the standoff as being "due to the fact that they (law enforcement) threatened my life in the newspaper and on several other occasions."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean said a law-enforcement videotape shows Burgert "quite clearly sitting in the woods holding the weapon" during the standoff. McLean said he would have presented the video as evidence if Burgert had chosen to go to trial.
McLean also said he would have included as evidence an FBI interview in which Burgert said he altered the .308 caliber assault rifle in his garage to make it fully automatic.
Although Burgert disputed some of the facts in McLean's version of what happened before, during and after the standoff, his attorney, federal public defender Melissa Harrison, said he did not dispute the elements of the crimes themselves.
"I possessed a rifle which was automatic, and I had a prior felony conviction in another state," Burgert said at one point.
Harrison also assured the judge that Burgert was competent to enter his pleas, despite being under medical care for anxiety and depression and having been diagnosed with a "paranoid personality disorder" during a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.
The current charges are unrelated to the "Project 7" plot, named for the number on Flathead County license plates. Members of the group allegedly stockpiled weapons and ammunition and maintained a list detailing personal information about local officials and their families.
FBI Special Agent George Dougherty said Friday that the investigation into the group's activities is continuing.
McLean said he could not comment on the investigation or whether additional charges could be filed.
Said Dougherty: "The allegations that have been made against (Burgert) are being looked into."
Reporter Ericka Schenck Smith can be reached at 523-5259 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.