Jerry DeLemus is a longtime Rochester resident and building contractor who was former co-chair of the Strafford County Republicans and served as the co-chair of the state Veterans for Trump for President group during his 2016 presidential campaign. He also would have been a delegate at the 2016 Republican National Convention were he not imprisoned in the Cliven Bundy standoff with federal agents in Nevada in 2014, which erupted over Bundy's grazing rights on federal land.
DeLemus traveled to Bunkersville, Nev., to help the Bundys and was imprisoned though he didn't arrive till after the well-publicized standoff was over.
At his sentencing Judge Gloria Navarro called DeLemus a "bully vigilante" and tacked an extra year and a half on his plea agreement for not showing enough remorse.
DeLemus said he only went to Nevada to protect Bundy's children and grandchildren from federal sniper holed up in the hills above him. Government prosecutors said there were no snipers holed up, but they were ultimately contradicted by Bureau of Land Management officials, which led to the unraveling of the government's case and an acquittal for Bundy.
But the judge refused to dismiss the charges against DeLemus. He spent 68 months in federal prisons in Nevada and Massachusetts, is currently released on six months of home confinement and will be on probation for three years after that.
On Thursday he sat down for an hour and half interview with The Rochester Voice to tell us his side of the story. Below is the interview, which was edited for length.
The Rochester Voice: The Rochester Voice has been following your story, and we know after many years in federal prison you were let out on Tuesday so tell us what it's been like since you got out a couple of days ago.
Jerry: I'd like to go back a little further than that. When I was first held in detention they put us on a complex case in Nevada and the government didn't have their case prepared, so they said, and we wanted a speedy trial, but they wouldn't do it and the judge was bias and sided with the government which is not a surprise, but she (Judge Gloria Navarro) ... well we were told it would be two years to get to trial at least, so, mind you, if you're an innocent man - just think of it that way - you're an innocent man, but you're charged, and you know you didn't break any laws, that you're gonna still serve two years just to prove - and God knows how much money and your family not having any income and stuff, and you're gonna serve two years in prison, cause in prison you're treated like every other prisoner, guilty or not.
And you're trying to get to trial just to prove your innocence and when you know the government, in fact, is so bias that they've been lying, hiding evidence and they're trying to build cases because they want to put people in prison.
TRV: So tell us what happened.
Jerry: So what happened to me is I ended up taking a six-year plea agreement and the reason I took the plea agreement was with all the charges on the indictment - which I think were pretty easily disproven - was
|Jerry DeLemus during his time near Bundy ranch in 2014|
still going to take two years (to prove) or more and God know how many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees to do that. I knew it was going to be a struggle to do that, which I was game for the struggle but then what happened was I'd been trying to get a detention hearing to get released from Pahrump Detention Center in Nevada and would've stayed in Nevada because there was an assemblywoman and her husband who said I could stay with them and I would have fought the case from the outside.
TRV: Did they let you get out and go stay with that assemblywoman?
Jerry: No, so everything we tried, she denied, she was bias. She was an Obama appointee and a Harry Reid appointee. I'll tell you what I learned is that I thought there's going to be mistakes in the system and certainly there's going be some people wrongfully imprisoned, but what I learned was that the Dept. of Justice had no interest in serving justice.
All they wanted was a conviction. And so anybody they want to put in their sights - and we saw this with President Trump - is guilty. And we saw with President Trump just how dirty the FBI is with the operations they were running on him. And they denied it the whole time. And what do you think they'd do to a guy like me?
TRV: You got no chance
Jerry: Right. So at any rate, so my attorney came out for a detention hearing and he gave me a plea agreement for a six-year sentence. I look at it and I think, 'You're asking me to lie. None of that (in the plea agreement) I did. And so I tossed it back down on the table. And I said to him 'Between you and the prosecutor you're asking me to perjure myself.' So I wouldn't sign it so he left it with me to look over, but it really angered me.
TRV: Of course it would
|Jerry and Susan DeLemus with President Trump during a stop in Rochester when he was running for president. He would have been a delegate at the convention that nominated him if he hadn't been in prison in Nevada.|
Jerry: So the next day when I was calling home to talk to my wife, Susan, (I heard) the FBI had been out to visit a friend who had gone with me (to the Bundy farm in 2014) and he had cancer and was on a strict diet trying to hold his cancer off. And they had threatened to either indict or extradite (wasn't sure which) him to Nevada for the (September 2016) grand jury in Nevada. And Sue told me that she'd talked to him and he was afraid if they indicted and held him he'd die in prison. When Sue told me that I knew I was going to take the plea deal, cause he's my best friend.
TRV: So you were afraid they might indict him once he got there?
Jerry: Well, you can indict anybody, that was my concern.
TRV: Correct, one attorney once told me you can indict a ham sandwich
Jerry: That's right, you can indict anybody. so when the attorney came back in I said if I sign this plea agreement will they stop their trying to bring my friend out here and he nodded his head, yes; he didn't say anything, but he nodded his head. Because they know (the prosecutors) if I'll drive thousands of miles to defend a family I don't know (the Bundys) they know I'm not going to let my best friend die in prison. So I signed the plea agreement.
(The interview is interrupted during a five-minute phone call as Brigadier General Don Bolduc, who was wounded while serving in Afghanistan and is now among those seeking to run against U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, calls to welcome Jerry back to New Hampshire.)
Jerry: So anyways I signed the plea agreement. I spent the six years. I did my time.
So you have to understand I am the kind of guy who will travel thousands of miles to defend a family I don't even know or take a six-year plea deal to help a longtime friends.
TRV: I can see that.
Jerry: So what gives me the fire in the belly and that is true for a lot of Marines, former and present - and a lot of our servicepeople - but I'm partial to the Marines Corp. And another thing is that nobody wants to die, nobody wants to go to prison, but when push comes to shove they are willing to sacrifice and risk it all to the betterment of this country. And this country is written in our Constitution and our state Constitutions and when we see what's going on in this country and they absolutely ignore the Constitution and we see criminal behavior in our Dept. of Justice, we see it out of the White House and in the Congress and Senate and how they manipulate it's really frustrating because I have friends buried at Arlington (stops, chokes up).
So I took the plea, I spent my time. And when I got sentenced the judge (Navarro) tacked on an extra 15 months.
TRV: How'd she do that?
Jerry: Because she said I wasn't remorseful, and I wasn't remorseful. I said I'd do it again if I ever had it to do over again. I absolutely would have. I didn't break any laws.. I didn't go out there to shoot anybody. I didn't go out there to cause trouble. The fact is I went out there to de-escalate the situation the federal government had escalated.
TRV: One thing I don't understand is you pleaded guilty, then Cliven Bundy and his son - more the principals of the standoff - got off on some technicality.
Jerry: That wasn't a technicality. What happened is one of the biggest part of our case was that there were (federal) snipers put up on the hills above Bundy's house, and the FBI and Bureau of Land Management both denied that in court that there were snipers put up there. So without a warrant for anybody's arrest they're setting up sniper positions, which is the sole reason I went out there because Cliven was afraid they were going to shoot his kids and his grandkids not to mention his wife. So that's the reason I went out there. To get between those gunbarrels.
TRV: So the FBI or BLM ended up admitting they were up there?
Jerry: No, they didn't admit it because what happened is they denied it and hid all the information from us in our discovery. Then what happened is after I got sentenced the lead investigator for the BLM wrote a letter to Judge Navarro and he wrote one to the Attorney General and the DOJ which was under President Trump at that time saying that there were (federal) snipers up there on the hill over the Bundy's house. And he showed they (the prosecution) was hiding evidence that would have exonerated us so that's why the cases got (dismissed with prejudice) thrown out. But what the judge did was block anybody who had been a victim of the same dishonest behavior from appealing.
TRV: That's the part I don't understand. How she could have done that?
Jerry: Cause she's a liar and corrupt, that's why.
When I went into court in chains and shackles around my ankles (sniffles, chokes up), I thought to myself, the truth will come out. At least everybody is going to try for justice. That's what I thought, with the Department of Justice, where the judge is honorable. I mean I'm expecting the prosecution to try to win their case but not to lie about it. But what I realized was the attorney I had at the time knew what was going to happen. He knew the plea agreement was going to come. The prosecutors knew the plea agreement was coming. The only person who thought that justice might have a chance was me.
Jerry: Everybody else knew what was going to happen. That's why the FBI called up and threatened my buddy. They knew I would take the plea agreement.
TRV: Well, at least now you're not in prison.
Jerry: (grins. Looks around his living room) Oh my gosh, this is so much better than prison.
TRV: In closing please tell us about - because this is Veterans Day - about being a Marine and your thoughts about serving this country.
Jerry: Well, I love this country and ah (chokes up for several moments and is encouraged by Sue to continue). It's worth the risk to stand and do what's right. If it costs your life or it costs you going to jail as long as you're doing what's right.
And unfortunately right now our country is being pushed into a position of tolerating evil. You gotta be tolerant of everything. Every weird jackass cause that comes along. Every liar, every thief and government you got to be tolerant. And I'm a tolerant person as long as the person I'm being tolerant of wants to better themselves. I'm not tolerant of people who want to degrade or harm our country. I'm not tolerant of people who deny the U.S. Constitution or the New Hampshire Constitution.
So this country's worth fighting for. And not every fight's with a gun. The most effective weapon is our mind and putting the words out to those who have been deceived. I can't tell you how many (copies of) the Constitution Susan and I have given out.
But the American people, like in Rome, are caught up with the circus, watching football, basketball, hockey. They can tell whose batting average or how many yards so and so ran but they can't tell you "Jack" about the United States Constitution.
They can't tell you about the battles like the Chosen Reservoir (in Korea). They don't know who General Bolduc is and the sacrifice that man made, his family made. Because it's not just a soldier or Marine, sailor or airman that are out there fighting that's putting everything on the line; it's their family, too. Plenty of widows go to Arlington Cemetery and look at the graves and they're all around the world. They gave their last drop of blood to defend this country from tyranny, because that's what would have happened with Hitler and we know communism is tyranny because they don't have a record of freedom; that's for darn sure.
TRV: That's right
Jerry: So how do I feel about it? Loving this country. I'll fight for this country. I'll die for this country. I'll put my life on the line that fast (snaps his finger) If the Marine Corp said they needed bald headed old men. I'd go fight for this country, but what I won't do is remain silent when this country is on the wrong track and we've got leadership that, in fact, is trying to undermine the rule of law and they're behaving lawless in this country. I won't do it. I won't be suckered by lying politicians. You'll never hear me endorse or support a lying politician. I don't care if they're Republican or Democrat. They can call themselves anything they want.