National Guard member not guilty in armed confrontation with rail workers


WENATCHEE — A jury found the Chumstick Valley man who confronted a group of railroad workers with an assault rifle not guilty of all eight felony counts as his trial closed Friday

Six men and six women acquitted James Carl Brown, a 45-year-old National Guardsman who discharged an assault rifle while confronting a BNSF railroad crew last year, on four counts of second-degree assault and four of unlawful imprisonment. The jury took just over two hours to reach the unanimous verdict.

Brown admitted arming himself late at night on Oct. 23, 2018, and confronting the workers when their crew truck crossed near his home. He fired at least three shots into the ground to stop them from driving forward in a boom truck, used to remove and replace nearby railroad crossings.

But after his arrest by Chelan County deputies that night, Brown said the truck driver tried to run him over, and he did not act illegally.

in an interview recorded by Deputy Lucas McComas and played for the jury, Brown said: “I don’t think it’s right that I’m here in jail protecting and  enforcing my own rights as a landowner and as an American citizen when individuals are on my private property.”

Earlier that night, Brown had already contacted and warned one passing rail crew against using the private land to access the nearest crossing. His attorney, Nick Yedinak, said BNSF and its crews on the ground ignored him.

“I’ve already asked them to leave once, and not once but now twice, and rather than back up, they’re going forward,” Brown told McComas on the recording. “So in my opinion, and obviously, in even trying to run me over, shows hostile intent.”

Brown is not the listed owner of the land where he lives, and the four BNSF workers said his acts left them in fear for their lives and afraid to move their truck. On the stand, he admitted to refusing to let the crew move forward so they could turn around and exit on the railroad right of way.

Testimony in Brown’s Superior Court trial went on from Tuesday through Thursday. A conviction on a single count of second-degree assault would have carried a standard sentencing range of three to nine months in jail, plus enhancements for use of a firearm.

Brown, a Marine Corps veteran who’s been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and now serves with the Oregon National Guard, won Brandt’s permission to wear his uniform at trial.