IREHR began looking closely at Chris Kerodin and the Citadel well before Stephen Colbert lampooned the militia fortress idea on his television program in January. We began to piece-together the players involved, the ownership of the numerous corporate bodies, and the North Idaho land deal that anchored the project. In February, we contacted the Nation Investigative Fund. With their financial support, we received all of the court documents in the case where Kerodin was convicted of an elaborate scheme of extortion and on gun charges. The first of April, we traveled to Idaho, the site of the Citadel itself (See below). We closely tracked the activities of Kerodin, and we watched and waited until it started to take shape. Following the first official gathering of Kerodin's Threepers on the North Idaho property over the weekend, The Nation ran a lengthy investigative piece written by IREHR entitled, "Is America's Militia Movement on the Rise?" You can read it here.
Below are outtakes from previous versions of this story featuring Christian Allen Hyman and our April trip to St. Maries. A photo gallery of the trip to find the Citadel is also shown below.
Serpentining up the hillside through the tall stands of fir, hemlock, and pine trees, the dirt logging road leading to the potential spot of a new Tea Party militia stronghold is muddy and rutted. Even though it’s April, patches of snow still sit alongside the road, and the tops of the surrounding hills are still blanketed in white. Another logging road to the south of this twenty acre parcel washed out during the winter, the mudslide killing a deer when the dirt gave way. While a few Idahoans have carved out spots for mobile homes and log cabins along the road leading towards the property, the actual land purchased for this endeavor is steep, rocky, wooded, and completely undeveloped. The land could never hold the imagined castle-like city with thousands of residents. Nonetheless, this land deal it has the potential to turn into the latest far-right encampment in the state.
Reaction of Local Officials
Several old rifles on the walls and an old six-shooter with its well-worn holster and ammo belt slung over a pair of antlers on his desk adorn Benewah County, Idaho Sheriff Dave Resser's office. With his bushy grey moustache, leathery features and weathered cowboy hat that curled at the edges, he appears like a character in a Louis L'Amour novel, except for the Kevlar vest under his polyester uniform.
On his desk and others in the office sat a stack of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, pocket-sized editions provided by the Cato Institute. "I believe in the Constitution," Resser declared. "These guys claim to have a mindset in the Constitution, but that's not what they're about," he said about Kerodin's Threepers. The Citadel was against the Jeffersonian ideals they claimed to be protecting, he claims. "From the sounds of it, only a few honchos would be calling all the shots, which makes it an oligarchy, not a republic," he explained.
Resser also had his doubts about the future of the operation, however. "A scam. It's obviously some sort of scam," Resser added, tipping back his hat. He compared the Citadel plan to a cult and drew parallels between it and the disaster of Jim Jones and Jonestown. Resser later added that Kerodin and his ilk were "preying on the fears of well-intentioned good-minded people."
"I have no clue what they might be thinking," said Resser, about Kerodin's Threepers and their plans to build a Citadel on land in his county. "Absolutely nobody from that outfit has contacted me, anyone in this office, or any of the county officials that I'm aware of." Nevertheless, Resser checked the Citadel blog regularly, and he was aware of Christian Hyman's extortion conviction. He knew of Jim Miller's recent Federal Firearms License acquirement and the progress made on the gun manufacturing side. However, he made it clear that the Citadel development seemed like a fantasy.
Several drives around Benewah County and its county seat, St. Maries, confirmed the sheriff's assessment. St. Maries is a gritty logging town of around 2,400, situated at the confluence of the St. Maries and St Joe Rivers. The county was established in 1915 by slicing off the southern side of Kootenai County, where the Aryan Nations once had its headquarters camp.
There are more than a dozen historic murals around downtown St. Maries depicting the local history of logging and the city, like the work of the "River Hogs"- loggers whose specialty was to ride the log booms, and the steam tug boats that used to ferry millions of board feet of logs up the river. In the town center, Logger's Memorial Park pays tribute to loggers killed working in area forests. More than 250 victims are inscribed on bronze plaques mounted on cedar logs.
The property purchased by III Arms Company LLC in Benewah County is on tribal land - part of the Coeur d'Alene reservation. The purchase price for the 20-acre parcel was $69,000 according to records provided by the County Assessor's office. The land was not paid-for in full, however. Rather than a full transfer of the deed, only an Abstract of Agreement has been filed, meaning that there is an agreement to buy the property, but the sale price has not yet been paid in full.
The land sits on a heavily wooded hillside, off a logging road, and is completely inaccessible during the winter snows. According to Resser, the property was almost impossible to develop. It has no utilities. They'd need to put in a lagoon, and for that they'd need the permission of Panhandle Health. The roads up to that property couldn't take that kind of traffic, which would negatively impact their neighbors. They will have to comply with the Native American's regulations, as well.
Benewah County Assessor Donna Spier seconded Resser's assessment, with amendments. Although the topography was rough and in its current state not suitable for building, a lot of work by the Threepers might be able to turn it into a site for small manufacturing.
That particular 20 acres might not be the place Kerodin envisions his future Citadel, however. When news of the location first surfaced, "Just a III Guy" wrote the Citadel blog: "The parcel of property currently owned in Benewah County Idaho is not the location of the Citadel, it was never intended to be the site of the Citadel, and obviously would be physically impossible to serve as the site of the Citadel. [It] is intended to serve as an administrative center for the project and for related businesses. Development ... will begin during the Spring/Summer of 2013 after submitting the proper paperwork to the county for consideration."
If construction does begin, it will likely be done by III Construction, an LLC formed by Jake Marrujo (AKA Bonnie Gadsden III). Active with the Southern California State Militia and working as an estimator for Monarch Construction, he brings some skills to the enterprise. As such he is central to the Citadel's hope for success. He also has a realistic appraisal of the whole project's prospect: "Without III Arms Company there is no III Citadel. Without the Citadel there is no III Construction."
Christian Allen Hyman (Kerodin)
Kerodin was born as Christian Allen Hyman, and grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. Obviously intelligent, and entrepreneurial, he has written two self-published books and fill the oceans of cyberspace with multiple barrels of ink. Some might describe his thinking in apocalyptical terms, but in the Tea Party and militia universe, he simply exists on the far wall of the farthest edge. He formally changed his last name to Kerodin in 2003, and writes and works today under several other pseudonyms.
In 2003, Kerodin began an elaborate scam geared towards the post-911 era. He wrote and published several reports that purported to reveal weak points at Washington area shopping malls that Islamic terrorists were sure to attacked.
The reports echoed the Bush Administration's line on terrorism and were filled with Islamophobia. "Kerodin International has concluded ... by the end of 2005 – in terms of death tolls and destruction to civilized society – Americans will come to know the carnage on 9/11 as insignificant." He described future attacks on shopping centers with a similar level of certitude.
He contacted the owners of the malls and sought either security contracts for his firm, Kerodin International, or money. It was an extortion scheme plan and simple, and during a police search they discovered an illegal gun. On April 2, 2004, U.S. District Judge Gerald Lee sentenced Kerodin for both crimes to 30 months. He did two years.
Leonard Zeskind is president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. Devin Burghart is IREHR vice president.