Elwin Ward told a federal magistrate Thursday the only reason he was involved in a standoff with the FBI was because he was taking classes at the Freemen compound when federal agents arrested two Freemen leaders in March.

Ward, 55, of Salt Lake City, was accused of assisting the fugitive Freemen during the 81-day standoff. He refused to enter a plea or accept court appointed counsel.U.S. Magistrate Richard Anderson entered a not-guilty plea for Ward, appointed a standby attorney and ordered Ward held without bond.

Ward said he got caught up in the standoff because he was going to class in an effort to try and resolve custody issues. His common-law wife, Gloria Ward, was ac-cused of custodial interference for taking her daughters out of Utah.

The Freemen held classes on the foreclosed wheat farm in which they allegedly taught people how to write and use worthless financial instruments.

Ward left the compound June 6, a week before the standoff ended, with Gloria Ward and the two girls. He was arrested in Salt Lake City after he and seven others who participated in the standoff were indicted in Great Falls on June 21.

Among the accusations against Ward was being armed during the standoff.

"As far as carrying a weapon on Justus Township . . . ," Ward began, when Anderson interrupted. The judge cautioned Ward to be careful of what he said.

Ward, nevertheless, continued that he didn't think it was a crime to "carry a gun on your hip or rifle on your shoulder."

Anderson told Ward he would consider releasing him to the custody of relatives Ward said he had in Dillon and Ennis if they would agree in court to be responsible for him.

Ward noted his objections to the court in a calm, respectful manner, addressing the judge as "sir." He was not wearing leg chains, as other Freemen have during their court appearances.