Ex-chief says video rants meant to snare threats
Former Gilberton Chief Mark Kessler says he fed information to the FBI about people he thought were sovereign citizens
By Michael Rubinkam
A former small-town Pennsylvania police chief who posted online videos of himself ranting obscenely about liberals and the Second Amendment while shooting automatic weapons secretly fed information on people he considered militia members, anti-government extremists and so-called "sovereign citizens" to the FBI and state police, according to documents he showed to The Associated Press.
The extent of former Gilberton Chief Mark Kessler's relationship with state and federal law enforcement, whether they asked for the information, what they did with it, and how they viewed him all remain unclear.
FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver said the agency does not comment on people who claim to be informants. State police also declined comment.
The ex-lawman attracted attention last year after posting incendiary videos of himself spraying machine-gun fire and cursing liberals and others. The videos got hundreds of thousands of views online.
Kessler said that individuals advocating insurrection and violence contacted him as a result of the videos, and he saw them as a threat and had a responsibility to report them to federal and state authorities.
He said he's going public now because he wants to reclaim his reputation. Kessler retired from the police department last February in a settlement with borough officials, who intended to fire him after the videos emerged.
The ex-lawman had private Facebook communications that he shared via email with the state and the FBI, according to documents viewed by AP. The agents' names were redacted by Kessler.
In one message, an individual advocates shooting the president. In another, someone talks about targeting mosques.
"Any normal person who was contacted by these twisted individuals has a duty to report what they were planning," Kessler said.
Kessler's attorney, Joseph Nahas, said his client reached out to law enforcement about his contacts with radical groups.
Extremists "looked at Mark to be some sort of leader and further their cause of governmental destruction," Nahas said, and Kessler gathered intelligence about "who they were, what their plans were, what their targets were."
Nahas said a state trooper told him this fall that he had been receiving information from Kessler.
Kessler claims his first contact with individuals he termed extremists came nearly two years ago, after he pushed Gilberton's council to adopt a resolution nullifying certain gun laws.
Kessler says he met with an FBI agent and a state trooper and continued to pass on information, but received contact from fewer people as months wore on. That's when he said he ramped up his rhetoric by posting incendiary videos in the summer of 2013.
At the time, Kessler said the videos were designed to draw attention to an out-of-control federal government and the erosion of Second Amendment and other constitutional rights. He now asserts his public persona was an act meant to lure would-be domestic terrorists.
No law enforcement agency put him up to the videos; in fact, they were upset with him for posting them, he said.
"I wasn't portraying me. I was basically acting to attract these sickos and it worked," said Kessler.
Kessler first said he had reached out to law enforcement agencies on Alan Colmes' Fox News Radio show earlier this month, but included few details and did not reveal the names of the agencies to whom he was supplying information.
"I thought I was doing good for myself, my country, my fellow Americans, by trapping these radicals and extremists and bringing them to the appropriate authorities, but in the meantime I decimated my career," he said. "Was it worth it? If I saved one person's life, absolutely it was worth it."
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press