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Case, Book Focus on 2001 Rainbow Farm Shooting

Tiffani Blade, Michigan Live (MI), 23rd May 2006

On Sept. 4, 2001, a West Michigan family's life was shattered by events that for some called into question the role of government in people's daily lives.

Only days before attention was turned to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, a police standoff that ended in the deaths of Grover Tom Crosslin, 46, and his partner, Rollie Rohm, 28, drew national scrutiny. Five years later, a wrongful death trial and an upcoming book are once again bringing attention to Rainbow Farm in Vandalia.

Crosslin and Rohm were vocal advocates for marijuana legalization, a stance that sparked a four-year feud with former Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter that preceded the standoff.

A federal wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Rohm's family was scheduled for a jury trial earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo, but a temporary stay has been ordered pending resolution of an appeal filed by Michigan State Troopers Daniel Lubelan and Jerry Ellsworth, two of the eight defendants.

On June 13, a book on the standoff and the events leading up to it, "Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke,'' will be released. When Los Angeles-based editor and author Dean Kuipers read about the standoff in the Kalamazoo Gazette in 2001, he was inspired to launch his own four-year investigation.

"There's a story that's not being reported here,'' Kuipers said. ``Who are the real people who are caught up in resisting the drug war?''

The book tells the story of Rainbow Farm based on extensive interviews with friends, family, law enforcement officials and farm employees. The following account comes from newspaper articles, the book and court records:

From 1996 to 2001, thousands would gather for hemp festivals on the 35-acre farm, 30 miles southwest of Kalamazoo, to enjoy live entertainment and speakers who are pro-private property.

After a lengthy undercover investigation, Teter had Crosslin and Rohm arrested for manufacturing marijuana, running a drug house, and possession of firearms while committing a felony. He also had Rohm's 12-year-old son, Robert, removed from the home and placed in foster care.

The pair was released on bond May 9, which was revoked when they held another festival in mid-August.

On Sept. 4, 2001, the morning of their bond hearing, state police showed up to arrest the men after they failed to appear in Cass County Circuit Court. But, they refused to go, according to newspaper accounts and court records.

Faced with doing hard time, Crosslin and Rohm chose to fight on their farm instead of in a courtroom. Crosslin began setting his buildings on fire. He was fatally shot after he pointed a semiautomatic rifle at an FBI agent, according to court documents.

When Rohm's parents, John and Geraldine Livermore, received information about the standoff, they drove overnight from Chattanooga, Tenn., in hopes of saving their son.

They were in contact with authorities and were told their son would not be harmed. The Livermores arrived at Rainbow farm at 7:30 a.m., but the police wouldn't talk to them. During a news conference at 10 a.m., the Livermores learned their son had been killed 30 minutes before their arrival.

"As a mother, I still have that guilt to this day,'' said Geraldine Livermore, her voice quivering as she spoke via telephone Wednesday from their home in Rogersville, Tenn. "He hadn't even known we were on our way.''

The Livermores said they could have saved their son if police had waited for them to get there.

"If they would've let me in there, I would have never come out,'' Geraldine Livermore said. "I would have stayed, or we would've walked out of there together.''

"There is no doubt in my mind he would have come out with me,'' John Livermore added.

The Livermores did not participate in the writing of Kuipers' book, but they say they eventually plan to write their own account of the events surrounding their son's death.

The Livermores originally filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Detroit against eight state troopers, saying that Rohm was wrongfully killed and that investigators conspired to cover it up. Documents list Lubelan and John Julin as the shooters, and six other state troopers were named as defendants.

The case was transferred to the U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo in accordance with a request made by the defense, according to Christopher Keane, the Livermores' attorney. According to court documents, attorneys for the defense asked that the case be thrown out for lack of evidence, but the motion was denied by Judge Richard Enslen in March. That ruling has been appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati , and even if the appeal is denied, it could be up to two years before the case reaches a Kalamazoo jury.

"While Defendant Lubelan has testified that he shot the decedent when the decedent was swinging his rifle toward the approaching armored vehicle, his testimony is contradicted by the autopsy,'' Enslen wrote.

Attorneys point to several other contradictions, including a statement by Lubelan that he shot Rohm to protect two officers whose upper torsos were exposed while they traveled in an armored vehicle, but he admitted in his deposition that he did not see the officers exposed when he fired.

"Anyone that can look at this and come up with a not-guilty verdict -- there's something wrong with them,'' John Livermore said.

"The truth -- that's all I want to come out of this,'' John Livermore said. ``I want people to know that the state of Michigan killed my son for no reason. He was not a criminal.''

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