Alaska has proven to be attractive to a wide variety of unconventional and free-spirited figures. This includes former Michigan Militia leader Norm Olson, who moved up here in July 2005. Olson has not reportedly engaged in any militia activity since relocating here.
And now, another militia-related Alaskan is in the news. Craig Schweitzer (pictured above left), son of former Montana Freemen leader Leroy Schweitzer, lost his aviation licenses in July, and has also had legal disputes with neighbors since bringing Mavrik Aire to Alaska in 1996, the same year as the Montana standoff. Schweitzer claims he has tried to follow the rules, and believes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came after him because of his father's reputation. Read full story published August 12th, 2007 in the Anchorage Daily News.
Schweitzer claims the FAA got him on a technicality. When completing a medical certificate application, he failed to disclose a previous citation for refusing to take a breath test after he was pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving. He said he had disclosed that fact on an earlier application.
However, the now-retired FAA inspector who built the case against Schweitzer called his accusation "malarkey" and said he investigated because of numerous rule violations, and not because of Schweitzer's name. "Craig wants to operate according to his rules," said Spencer Hill, an inspector who retired in March 2007. The violations in the revocation order included an allegation that Schweitzer wrote an inflated weight limit on the maintenance record for one of his company planes, causing the pilot to overload it.
"You start overloading an aircraft and then it becomes an unstable machine," Hill said. "This has caused a lot of wrecks."
Hill also cited other issues, such as Schweitzer's potential drinking problems, contuing to fly despite lack of certification, and his failure to schedule flight checks or training for his pilots. "I tried to work with Craig to keep him out of trouble, but every time I turned around there was another problem," Hill said. [Ed. Note: While refusal to take a sobriety test after being pulled over for suspected DUI is legally considered the same as a DUI, it is no guarantor that the individual actually was impaired.]
However, Schweitzer had acquired a reputation for being potentially violent when he was fined $500 for assault after he allegedly threatened to get a gun and shoot a woman serving him with unrelated legal papers. As a result, when FAA agents decided to visit Schweitzer's home on July 24th to serve him with an emergency revocation of his license, they asked Alaska state troopers to accompany them out of fear for their own safety.
On Thursday August 9th, an administrative law judge rejected Schweitzer's appeal of the license revocation, upholding the FAA decision. The judge's decision means Schweitzer can't fly planes or operate a standard federal-regulation air charter, although an exemption to charter regulations in Alaska law allows Mavrik Aire to continue flying hunters to camps or lodges so long as Schweitzer is not at the controls. This means Schweitzer can continue to work during the summer, ferrying hunters and bear-viewers around, but cannot fly during the winter, when he ordinarily would be transporting freight around the state.
Schweitzer also has problems with his neighbors at a North Kenai air park subdivision. He runs his business from there, and neighbors say he sued the homeowner's association in an attempt to unduly control airplane access to a floatplane basin and restrict them as potential charter competitors. Schweitzer countered by saying that his property came with an easement allowing his planes use of the area and he's just trying to maintain that right. However, some neighbors believe he's riding on his father's coattails, bullying and intimidating people and using the spectre of costly legal battles to control others and their property. Apparently this dispute is in the legal system, and a trial is scheduled in Kenai for October of this year.
Apparently, these troubles have made Craig Schweitzer more sympathetic towards his father's cause. He now says maybe his dad was right to buck the system. "As much as people love America -- and I feel for it too -- I think our government has betrayed us," Schweitzer said. "There are men who fought and died for the freedoms we're supposed to have in this country."
The Freemen, a self-described "Christian Patriot" group that rejected federal authority, set up its own common-law court and placed liens on public officials' property. When authorities arrested the elder Schweitzer, his followers refused to leave their ranch compound during a long 1996 standoff. Ultimately they surrendered, and Schweitzer was sentenced to 22 years on charges including conspiracy, bank fraud, false claims to the IRS and threats against public officials. Apparently Craig Schweitzer wasn't involved in the standoff.
Those who want to learn more about the 1996 Montana Freemen standoff can read a mainstream media account from CNN HERE, or read a more sympathetic version HERE. You decide whether they were right or wrong. Personally, I think they had the right ideas, but they went about it the wrong way.