`I LIKE TO AGGRAVATE PEOPLE' THE LAWSUIT-LOVING ED BRENNAN MAY BE MORE THAN AN AGGRAVATION. HE IS WANTED ON WEAPONS CHARGES IN CANADA.
Orlando Sentinel; Orlando, Fla.
May 17, 1998
Kathryn Quigley of The Sentinel Staff
MOUNT DORA - Ed Brennan, retiree, is spending his golden years on three things: collecting machine guns, filing lawsuits and preventing police from masturbating in their patrol cars.
Sometimes, all three are connected - at least to Brennan, a 73-year-old decorated World War II veteran and retired auto body shop owner who glories in irritating people.
He thinks government is a giant conspiracy, big business is crooked and most people are out to get him. He believes the quickest way to right a wrong is to file a lawsuit.
If the Eustis cops give him a ticket, Brennan sues. The Wal-Mart annoys him; he sues. He once sued his children while settling a divorce with his former wife. His suits get thrown out but not before defendants - often the taxpayers - get socked with legal fees. Brennan, on the other hand, has almost nothing invested - he pecks out the documents with two fingers on his typewriter.
"You might think I'm a nut," Brennan said in an interview last week with The Lake Sentinel. "But I don't care."
Residents of Lake County who made his mailing list in 1996 must certainly have wondered when they received a rambling, unsolicited newsletter from the "International Association To Stop Police Officer's From Masturbating and Fornicating On Duty, In Parked Police Car's."
Brennan thinks lots of cops do it. He also wonders what astronauts in the space shuttle might be up to when they think no one is looking. This bothers him. But in a rare moment, Brennan admits he doesn't believe everything he wrote in the newsletter. "I like to aggravate the people," he says with a grin. "Aggravate" is probably an understatement in describing his relationship with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The Mounties want Brennan.
Ever since they seized more than 100 assault weapons - including a rocket launcher - from his property in Ontario, a warrant has been out for his arrest. So what kind of guy is Brennan, who now spends most of his time in Mount Dora because he can't go back to Canada? Should the neighbors worry, or is he a harmless conspiracy theorist?
This is Eustis Police Chief Bob Templin's take:
"Ed is not a threat. He's a pain."
Once he has your phone number, he calls constantly. When he gets your address, the letters keep coming.
On Thursday, after he was interviewed and knew a story would be published about him, Brennan fired off his latest missive. This time, he has taken on some formidable foes: the entire United States of America, the government of Canada, the province of Ontario and a federal judge. Brennan wants $2 million in damages because the Canadian government seized more than 100 of his weapons and, he claims, is holding them hostage.
With good reason, said Constable Ian Leonard of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When government agents descended eight months ago on property Brennan owns in Ontario, they found 82 machine guns, 47 assault rifles and a rocket launcher in a trailer, secured only by a rusty lock.
Brennan describes the stash as his hobby, his nest egg for retirement. That's a no-no in Canada, a country with strict gun laws.
Brennan is wanted on five charges of possessing a prohibited or restricted weapon, and he'll be arrested if he returns. Despite Brennan's rock-solid belief that the Mounties are coming down to haul him back to Canada, Leonard said that just isn't so.
Though he loves weapons and harbors a deep conviction that the U.S. government was wrong at both Waco and Ruby Ridge, Brennan said he wouldn't hurt anybody. He said he has just plain liked guns since he was machine gunner in World War II, when he got a Purple Heart after being shot during combat in Italy.
Now, his injuries are less physical, and he has a method of fighting back. To Brennan, the "surest way" to get things done is to sue. In the past 30 years, Brennan has filed dozens of lawsuits, mainly in federal court. He doesn't bother much with Lake County Circuit Court, which he refers to as a "kangaroo" operation.
Brennan, who left school after eighth grade, admits his legal documents are a bit convoluted. Then there is the matter of his coronary bypass surgery, which he said left him with memory loss.
His ill health has not affected his love of battle - especially the legal variety and especially when it involves his guns.
"I feel like getting up in the morning when I go after an issue like this," he said.
Any number of perceived wrongs can send Brennan scurrying for his typewriter. Eustis police gave him a traffic ticket, so he sued. Mount Dora code enforcement inspectors went on his property wondering why he had airplane parts around. He didn't figure it was any of their business. See you in court.
He recently decided the chairs at the restaurant at the Mount Dora Wal-Mart were the wrong height for people with aching arthritis - and he has threatened to sue. In a letter warning the store to take action, he noted, "No one takes me seriously at first."
Brennan's lawsuits have won him a certain notoriety among those lawyers from Orlando to Ohio who keep thick "Brennan" files in their offices.
One attorney, who defended several clients against Brennan's lawsuits, said he never figured out what Brennan's point actually was. "He seemed almost like a legal crusader for a cause I don't understand," he said.
The lawyer did not want his name used: "He might sue me."
Constable Leonard in St. Thomas, Ontario, doesn't care. He is already been sued by Brennan. "Anybody who he runs into, he sues," Leonard said.
Brennan usually claims violations of the Civil Rights Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act, but not always.
He once sued the United States of America over the constitutionality of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Another time, he sued the clerk and deputy clerk of the district court in Detroit because they returned a complaint to him unfiled.
Brennan said that violated his rights and demanded $68,000 in damages. He even sued his children, his former wife and lawyers on both sides after his divorce from his wife in 1982 in Ohio.
One lawsuit he filed in Guernsey County, Ohio, has been pending since 1988. That was when an officer in Cambridge, Ohio, stopped Brennan and charged him with improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle.
Brennan didn't like the Cambridge Municipal Court building - he said it was not accessible to disabled residents. So he sued the city, the county, the courthouse, the state and the Sheriff's Department. He says his lawsuit got the Ohio county to build a new jail.
"There is no truth to that," said attorney Elizabeth Luper.
She and another lawyer from her firm in Columbus, Ohio, are handling the Brennan case for the defendants. In court documents, the lawyers call Brennan's arguments "incomprehensible" and "confusing."
On one point, however, Brennan is quite clear: his guns.
He said he might consider giving up all his lawsuits on two conditions: Canada gives him his guns back, and the United States lets him bring the weapons into this country.
If not, he said, he already has his next target picked out: pedophile priests in Canada.
It's not that he knows any such priests personally. He just thinks they deserve to be sued.