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Rocky Houston left the federal courtroom in Knoxville on Monday shouting about a surreptitious camera.
He had reason to be upset.
According to a criminal complaint filed against him, on Oct. 9 last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives quietly had a video camera installed on a public utility pole with a view of his Barnard Narrows Road home.
“On Oct. 11, 2012, Rocky Houston was observed holding what appears to be a high-powered rifle with a scope attached,” the complaint said.
That same day, Rocky and his brother, Leon, were seen target shooting with two unknown males. Extremely loud gunfire was also reported coming from the Houston farm.
A 2010 conviction for felony evading arrest makes it illegal for Rocky, 52, to have a firearm. He was arrested on Friday for being a convicted felon in possession of firearms.
Leon, 54, was arrested as well. He’s charged with possession of firearms while being an unlawful user of controlled substances. His firearms were taken at gunpoint.
The criminal complaints, which were sealed until this week, described the brothers’ arrest:
“While ATF agents on scene were waiting for the warrants to be issued, they secured the area around Rocky Houston’s residence,” the complaint against Leon said. “At about this time, Leon Houston, riding a four-wheeler at a very fast pace, came across the pasture between his trailer and Rocky Houston’s house, armed with two rifles and a handgun, all of which were loaded. When Leon Houston saw many law enforcement agents with firearms aimed at him, he stopped his approach and was subdued by the agents.”
The complaint said Leon agreed to talk with agents and admitted to “getting high” and “getting drunk.”
“When asked if he was talking about marijuana when he said ‘getting high,’ he made a reference to some ‘wacky tobacco,’” the complaint said.
Rocky and Leon efaced first-degree murder charges for the 2006 deaths of Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along Mike Brown.
Leon’s first trial ended in a hung jury. He was acquitted during a second trial in November 2009.
A state appeals court ruled that an error made by the judge during Rocky’s trial in December 2008 barred him from being tried again.
In April 2010, a Roane County jury of eight men and four women found Rocky guilty of reckless endangerment and felony evading arrest. He served as his own attorney during the trial, and was found not guilty on four other charges. The case stemmed from an August 2004 police chase that ended with Rocky’s pickup truck flipped on its top.
According to the complaint in the federal case, the ATF started investigating Rocky due to allegations that he was in possession of firearms.
“On Oct. 15, 2012, Rocky Houston was observed with what appears to be a rifle slung over his shoulder,” the complaint said.
The complaint also said Rocky was observed with what appeared to be a rifle on Oct. 20, what appeared to be a handgun on Oct. 23, Oct. 24, and again with what appeared to be a rifle on Oct. 25.
Shackled and wearing street clothes, the Houston brothers made separate appearances Monday before U.S. Magistrate Bruce Guyton.
Rocky argued that Guyton had a conflict of interest because he once recused himself in a civil case Leon filed in federal court.
“You are a material witness in this case, and I’m asking you to immediately recuse yourself,” Rocky told Guyton. “You’re violating your oath and my due process rights.”
One time when Rocky stood up three U.S. Marshals started to close in on him, and he sat back down.
“I’m calling you as a witness, judge,” he told Guyton. “You can’t get around it. As soon as a subpoena is in my hand, I’m subpoenaing you.”
Rocky also declined to be sworn in at the hearing.
“Sir, I can’t answer no questions,” he said.
Rocky also asked Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings to stand up and acknowledge that Guyton had a conflict of interest. Jennings did not.
By the end of the hearing, Guyton appeared fed up with the outbursts.
“I don’t want to have to force the marshals to make you not talk,” he warned.
Rocky was being held at the Knox County Jail. Jennings asked that he remain in custody. The request was granted.
Leon was being held in Knox County, but has since been moved to the Blount County Jail in Maryville.
Guyton appointed Knoxville attorney Joseph Fanduzz to represent him.
“He believes the court has a conflict,” Fanduzz said.
Guyton said he didn’t believe there was a conflict. He told Fanduzz to investigate the allegation and address it how he sees fit.
A detention hearing is scheduled in Leon’s case on Thursday.
The government wants him to remain in custody.
The charges against the Houston brothers were brought by ATF Special Agent Jason Dobbs. Each faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The criminal complaint against Rocky was filed under seal in federal court Nov. 6. It was unsealed Monday.
Rocky had the right to request a detention hearing, but did not do so on Monday. He said he wanted a “disclosure hearing” to address the issues he raised about conflict of interest.