An open carry gun activist and member of the Oathkeepers pleaded guilty last week to charges of lying to federal agents.
28-year-old Johnathon Irish of Brentwood, New Hampshire pleaded guilty after claiming last year that he had sold all of his firearms, when in fact he had hidden them to obstruct a federal investigation.
In August, Irish was charged with five felonies alleging he illegally sold “self-built assault rifles” to undercover officers. He was known locally as an open carry activist — and often “triggered high-profile police calls by openly wearing guns.” One time he was arrested open-carrying weapons at an event attended by a former governor and a retired Supreme Court judge. In another incident involving law enforcement, he was accused of waving a gun in the air in women’s clinic during a heated argument with his girlfriend. Irish was known to law enforcement not as your local fun-loving, law-abiding, open carry activist, but as a troublemaker, and a criminal, according to Seacoast Online:
An indictment charging Irish with the five gun crimes describes him as a lying, pot-smoking, illicit maker and seller of semiautomatic rifles. But Irish previously told the Portsmouth Herald he was entrapped by a former boss at an Army-Navy surplus store who assured him the gun sales were legal and that the buyer was a known customer who even fronted him cash to buy gun parts.
The FBI claims Irish, who grew up in Hampton Falls and has lived in multiple Seacoast communities, “has been affiliated with a series of militia groups of both local and national reach.”
As part of the plea agreement, Irish also admitted that he persuaded his girlfriend to purchase part of an assault rifle for him. By doing so, he was able to avoid a background check that would have prohibited him from purchasing a gun. Irish — a member of the heavily-armed Oath Keepers — was prohibited from possessing firearms at the time.
Irish was still active in gun politics and open carry up until his arrest in August this year. He was involved in a “National Day of Resistance” in front of the State House in Concord in February 2013 that featured the former head of the New Hampshire Republican party, Jack Kimball. (The photo from the event leads this article — showing Johnathon Irish, (left) Chris Oliverio, and James Marron at the National Day of Resistance.)
Irish made national headlines in 2010 after claiming that child protective services “stole” his newborn baby because of his membership with the Oath Keepers, but it turns out that was just a small part of the reason authorities chose to remove the child. Irish had a lengthy history of documented domestic abuse — not just against romantic partners, but against children, according to the Concord Monitor:
But according to an affidavit provided to Irish by the state Division for Children, Youth and Families, state officials took the child because of Irish’s long record of violence and abuse. According to the affidavit, a judge determined that Irish abused Taylor’s two other children. She is still married to the father of those children, though Taylor said yesterday that her husband has refused to accept her divorce petition for the past two years.
The affidavit also says that the police in Rochester report a “lengthy history of domestic violence” between Taylor and Irish, and that she accused him of choking and hitting her on more than one occasion. According to the document, Irish failed to complete a domestic violence course as ordered by the state, and that a hearing was held last month to terminate Taylor’s parental rights over her two older children.
Irish and his girlfriend, Stephanie Taylor, became right-wing heroes and their cause was taken up by the Oath Keepers, the fringe right-wing group that includes military, veterans, and police officers. Right wing media rallied to their defense, buying into Irish’s persecution complex without so much as a fact check. They explained their rationale to the Concord Monitor at the time:
“All I heard was that a baby was kidnapped, literally kidnapped, because the father posted on an online forum,” said Ofer Nave, a Manchester man who did not know Irish or Taylor but described himself as active in “pro-liberty” causes. He said he heard about the protest from a friend, who likely heard about it through Facebook.
As for allegations that Irish had abused his fiancee’s children, Nave said: “Maybe he’s not that great a guy. Maybe he has a record. But just because the government says it’s so, I don’t believe it. The fact that there are documents about it is meaningless. But what they did is no different if I kidnapped that baby.”
Members of the Oath Keepers protested outside the Rochester Family Division Court, in what they called ‘in support of the First Amendment-protected right of freedom of association.’ The efforts persuaded the judge to return the baby a few days later.
Irish is expected to be sentenced in January to 18 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to the federal plea agreement.
[Image Credit: Concord Monitor]