The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
A man who spent 26 years wearing a badge and enforcing the law in Florida now thinks he’s above the law as a self-described “natural, free-born sovereign citizen.”
James Michael Sims, 56, was arrested late last month and will be arraigned on Feb. 27 in Manatee County Circuit Court on three felony charges: two counts of grand theft and a third count of intimidating a public official.
Sims, a former deputy and detective for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, allegedly rented foreclosed properties, intimidated his former fellow law enforcement officials and attempted to file $100 million in bogus liens against judges — a common act among many sovereigns who believe they are immune from courts, judges and licensing requirements.
The judges who Sims targeted with liens previously had entered foreclosure orders on several homes he owned so banks could initiate legal actions to claim their full ownership when he failed to make timely payments.
Court documents say even though a bank had recovered ownership of one home and changed the locks, the locks and realty signs were removed and Sims continued renting the property, fraudulently collecting monthly payments.
Sims’ actions “forced the bank” to take its foreclosed property off the sale market because its officials “feel the situation is way too dangerous for realtors and the public to go view the property,” court document say. Meanwhile, the bank is losing money by not having the property on the market.
Sims worked as a commissioned officer for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office from 1985 until 2011, the Bradenton Herald reported. The following year, court documents say, Sims filed an affidavit with the county clerk “where he made it known that he [now] was a natural free-born Sovereign individual.’’
Dave Bristow and Randy Warren, public information officers for the sheriff’s office, did not immediately return phone calls for comment.
Court documents say when questioned by Detective Mark Franczyk of the Manatee Sheriff’s Office, Sims told the investigator “he was wrong” and that if charges were pursued Sims “was going to probably come after everybody.” The sheriff’s office subsequently received a “packet” of legal claims from Sims.
A judge in Alabama—tired of the blather and repeated interruptions from a man police say is an antigovernment “sovereign citizen”—found an answer to silence courtroom outbursts from the antigovernment activist: threatening to tape the man’s mouth closed.
Calhoun County Circuit Judge Bud Turner suggested using tape to silence outbursts last week from Everett Leon Stout, 73, but ultimately decided it would be better judicial decorum to have the defendant removed from the courtroom and returned to jail.
Stout was in court on Jan. 28 with his common-law wife, Miriam Claire Shultz, 69, both of Oxford, Ala., for an arraignment. They were arrested in December on multiple felony charges, including filing fraudulent liens and attempting to extort $1.6 million from various businesses, including the purchase of a $300,000 recreational vehicle with a worthless sovereign citizen check. All are common crimes of sovereign citizens who believe laws, licensing requirements, taxation and most rules don’t apply to them.
Stout, shackled and wearing an orange-and-white-striped jail uniform, told the court that he wanted to be his own lawyer and refused to waive the reading of 15 charges against him, the Anniston Star reported.
“I do not accept the appointment of counsel,” Stout said, later asking the judge to read the definition of extortion. Stout said that laws didn’t apply to him before later interrupting the court, demanding to be the legal representative for his wife.
“If he says anything else, get some masking tape and put it on his mouth,” the frustrated judge told a bailiff, the newspaper reported.
“Go ahead and put it on me, if that’s what you want to do,” Stout responded. At that point the judge Turner directed bailiffs to remove Stout from the courtroom.
Funeral services were held today in Tallahassee, Fla., for a 47-year-old sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot Saturday by a man with antigovernment views who started his house on fire, setting a trap for first responders.
Leon County Deputy Chris Smith, a married father of two, was ambushed and shot with a 40-caliber handgun moments after arriving at the burning home of Curtis Wade Holley, 53, in the Plantation Woods neighborhood just northwest of Tallahassee, authorities say.
Another deputy, Colin Wulfekuhl, was struck in the back by a bullet, but was saved from serious injury by a vest during the 12-minute mid-day gun battle that left Holley dead outside his burning home, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
Two Tallahassee police officers, Scott Angulo and Mark Lewis, arrived as backup four minutes after the shooting began. Angulo fatally shot Holley in the ensuring gun battle, according to various media accounts.
“We have information that we have received that this person was anti-government, was anti-establishment and had discussed at some point in time planning to harm law enforcement,” Lt. James McQuaig, a spokesman for the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, told the newspaper.
McQuaig and other sheriff’s officials, apparently attending the funeral for their slain comrade, didn’t immediately return calls today from Hatewatch seeking clarification of Holley’s “antigovernment views.”
At an earlier press briefing, the sheriff’s office spokesman said Holley “planned his attack to kill as many first responders as possible,” the newspaper reported.
After starting a fire in the home where he’d lived for a year, Holley waited for it to become fully engulfed before going to his next door neighbor’s house and asking her to call 911.
“It was a 100 percent ambush,” McQuaig said at the press conference after the shooting. “This guy had a plan and he put this plan into action.”
Dispatchers gave first responders the neighbor’s name and address and not Holley’s name from a computer data base which presumably had a temperament warning because of his antigovernment activities.
Deputy Wulfekuhl kept the gunman engaged while warning firefighters who arrived to stay back and evacuate. Multiple engines were called to the scene of the fire.
“It is extremely important to recognize that Colin Wulfekuhl probably saved the life of every firefighter that was there initially responding,” McQuaig said.
A reporter for the Tallahassee newspaper told Hatewatch that authorities investigating the shooting were being tight-lipped about Holley’s background, but did say he had a history of “antigovernment” activity.
Public records show that Holley had minor criminal records in Florida, Texas and North Carolina, including driving without a license and failure to have auto insurance.
Bill Warner, who owns a private detective agency in Sarasota, Fla., told Hatewatch that he has researched Holley’s background and is convinced from his research that Holley was a “sovereign citizen” who put his antigovernment views into action.
It has been six months since the federal government called off its attempt to round up cattle belonging to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy amid a tense standoff with heavily armed militiamen who trained their weapons on federal agents.
For weeks prior, the antigovernment right had been portraying a federal court order to remove Bundy’s herd from public lands as a prime example of federal overreach – even though Bundy had refused to pay more than $1 million in accumulated grazing fees and fines because he said he didn’t recognize the government’s legitimacy.
Militias from around the country responded to Bundy’s plight, hoping that in that tiny corner of the desert they could make a stand against the government they see as the enemy. And when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) abandoned the operation to avoid a bloody shootout, they declared victory.
Government officials promised accountability for those who broke the law by taking up arms against federal agents. It seems unfathomable, in fact, that the U.S. Department of Justice would allow a mob of antigovernment zealots to get away with using the threat of violence to block the enforcement of the law.
But, as the months have dragged on, there has been no response. Not an arrest. Not an indictment. Nothing.
Once upon a time, it must have seemed like a good idea to Cherron Phillips, a 44-year-old antigovernment “sovereign citizen” from Chicago, to file a series of frivolous $100 billion liens against some of the most powerful federal judges and prosecutors in the city in retaliation for the prosecution and conviction of her brother on drug charges.
But on Tuesday, in a federal courtroom in Chicago, that good idea turned into a 7-year prison sentence for the visibly shaken Phillips, a former math teacher, successful real estate agent and insurance broker, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune reported that in passing the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Reagan described Phillips’ campaign to harass and intimidate public officials as “death by a thousand paper cuts.”
Reagan was brought in to handle the case because of concerns of a conflict of interest of Chicago-based federal court officials, whose colleagues, including former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, were targets of Phillips’ campaign of paper terrorism. The sentence she received, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, was six months longer than federal sentencing guidelines recommend.
For her part, Phillips, a mother of two, who now calls herself River Tali Bey, stayed sovereign to the end. At her sentencing she reportedly told the court that her jailing was “an unauthorized punishment that is not recognized by Congress or the Constitution.” She also admitted to being “confused.”
Phillips started filing the bogus liens in 2011 and was convicted last June on 10 counts of retaliation against a federal official. Phillips filed the liens with the Cook County recorder of deeds, according to the Tribune, after being barred from the federal courthouse for disrupting the proceedings in her younger brother’s drug conspiracy case.
For more than a year, Phillips insisted on representing herself in court. But eventually she was assigned a court appointed attorney, Lauren Solomon, who asked Tuesday that Phillips be given probation, adding that the sovereign citizen ideology is “nonsensical at best” and that jail and prison are breeding grounds for the movement.
“Can we really solve this with incarceration?” Solomon told the court, the Tribune reported.
For Phillips, being a sovereign citizen was apparently a family affair. Solomon told the court that Phillips mother and father had also run into trouble with the law and that they, too, were sovereign citizens. According to the Tribune, Phillips’ parents were once convicted on federal tax evasion charges in a case that featured filings by the couple heavy with sovereign citizen language and tactics, such as challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
At one point, Phillips, her parents and her younger brother, who was convicted on drug charges, were all in federal custody at the same time. Her father has been released from prison. Her mother, according to the Tribune, is scheduled to be released next spring.
Phillips and her family are not the first sovereign citizens in Chicago to make headlines or to clash with the federal government. In 2012, just before Christmas, Joseph Banks, 37, a sovereign citizen and convicted bank robber, one of the most prolific in Chicago history, made a daring, Hollywood-style jail break.
Banks and another inmate, Kenneth Conley, a fellow bank robber but non-sovereign citizen, squeezed through a tiny window at the high rise federal jail in downtown Chicago, scaled down 17 stories on a rope fashioned out of bed sheets, caught a cab and then disappeared into the pre-dawn darkness.
Banks did not get to enjoy his freedom for long. He was back in custody about 48 hours later. His escape partner remained free for two more weeks before he was recaptured.
Still, the federal prison system might want to keep better track of its sheets. Another sovereign citizen is on her way.
It may have taken three weeks, three auctions and a handful of headaches, but the Clark County, Wash., Treasurer’s Office was finally able to auction off antigovernment “sovereign citizen” David Darby’s property this week.
Trudy Rouse, a spokesperson for the treasurer’s office, told Hatewatch that the property had been successfully auctioned to a buyer from Richland for $52,445 on Tuesday.
“They’re kind of wondering, why would I jeopardize it for $22,000,” the amount in back taxes that he owes,” Darby told Hatewatch. “The reason is, I own the land. They did not even put a lien against my land. They just said that I owed money and then auctioned it off. Well, they can’t really do that. So I’m going to take it into court.”
He added: “I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t think I could win.”
Two sovereign citizens—a Pennsylvania osteopath who did government contract work and a 75-year-old Utah man who calls himself an “attorney at lawe”—are facing federal charges of being involved in a long-running scheme to avoid taxes.
Robert G. Wray, of Torrey, Utah, and Dennis Erik Fluck Von Kiel, of Macungie, Pa., are accused of using fictitious religious organizations set up in Utah and Montana to avoid paying federal income taxes.
The charges are the latest in a string of cases involving antigovernment “sovereign citizens”—people who not only refuse to obey state and federal laws but frequently pose risks to law enforcement officers.
Self-described “sovereign citizen” David Darby wants everyone to know that he has no intention of getting involved in any armed standoffs with any law enforcement officers from Clark County, Wash., where he lives. He says he just wants his day in court – even though, whenever he has had one of those, he has lost.
Most recently, the 69-year-old Darby – a longtime antigovernment “Patriot” movement activist, dating back to the 1990s, and political gadfly – was informed by a Superior Court judge that his 4.7-acre property in rural Amboy would be put up for auction, following foreclosure proceedings brought against him by Clark County for failure to pay his taxes.
“It’s all constitutional,” he insists. “Everything I’ve done is constitutional. If it’s not constitutional, then all they have to do is prove it. And I will stop this. I will pay the taxes. But because they have not done this, I would not pay the taxes. And I cannot get this into federal court until I am hurt. So once they actually sell my property, I’ve been hurt. Then I will file in federal court.”
Darby has only a few days left to wait. The auction of his property is scheduled to take place between 8 and 11 a.m. on Sept. 16.
Darby, claiming that he is a “citizen” exempt from such duties, stopped paying his taxes in 2008, beginning a long-running dispute with the Clark County Treasurer’s office that culminated in 2013 with foreclosure proceedings on his rural home – a mobile home on raised blocks — and its accompanying wooded acreage.
However, as Darby made clear back then, he purposely forced these proceedings as part of his strategy to get the issue of his claims to a “land patent” on the property heard in a federal court. “I’ve been setting up the strategy to do this because no one has ever gotten sovereign ownership of land in the courts,” Darby said. “The only way to set it up was to go into foreclosure. … This isn’t about my land; it’s about the [state] constitution.”
Indeed, Darby claims that the current Washington constitution, passed in 1889, is not valid – and that the state’s proper constitution is actually one that was drawn up in 1878, when statehood was first suggested. He also characterizes this document as explicitly creating sovereign citizenship for state residents, as well as outlawing property taxes and liens on property. ( continue to full post… )
Justice Department prosecutors — waging a legal fight against sovereign citizens in America’s Heartland — have won a conviction against a man who filed false liens seeking to legally tie up personal property of various federal officials.
Randall David Due, of Pelham, Ga., was convicted Thursday in Omaha, Neb., of seven counts of conspiracy to file and filing false liens against two federal judges, three federal prosecutors and a criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service. The defendant faces the likelihood of several years in prison when he’s sentenced in December.
Due was accused of directing co-defendant Donna Kozak and another woman of filing bogus liens totaling $18.9 million against the home and property of U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Smith Camp.
Due prepared the false liens at his home in Georgia and directed Kozak and Collins to file the documents in Boyd County, Neb., where the federal judge presided over a 2012 trial of two antigovernment tax protesters.
Kozak, Due’s co-defendant, awaits sentencing after being convicted Aug. 1 by a federal jury in Omaha of two counts of conspiring to file false liens against federal officials’ property.
The sovereign citizen filings directed by Due – with the potential of causing economic hardship for those targeted with the “paper terrorism” – came three days before Judge Camp sentenced two antigovernment tax protesters.
The false filings also attempted to encumber the property of U.S. District Court Judge John Gerrard, U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas Semisch and Michael Norris and IRS Special Agent Ashley Thompson.
The court clerk’s office show Due didn’t back off after he was indicted, continuing his barrage of paper terrorism against the U.S. government and its officials, filing most of the nearly 500 separate document filings in the expansive court case.
At one point, he wrote that “Randall David Due, in the Flesh and Blood in Proper Person, do not consent to be an accessory party to Fraud … and/or violation of my certain un-a-lien-able Rights endowed by my Creator and secured by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and by our soldiers who swear an Oath to defend this Nation and its Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
But after Due’s conviction last week, trial judge Robert T. Dawson ordered an end to the foolishness. “Because of the overwhelming number of filings of documents, pleadings, notices, protests, etc. in this case, the Court Clerk is instructed to not file any document or anything within this file unless it has been approved for filing by the undersigned,” the judge said in his order.
The sovereign citizen filings carried out by Due and other co-conspirators were retaliation for an earlier Justice Department prosecution of two antigovernment tax protesters with sovereign citizen leanings.
David L. Kleensang, 63, and his wife, Bernita M. Kleensang, 61, both of Hays Springs, Neb., were convicted of attempting to defraud the U.S. government out of $49 million. They were sentenced to six-year prison terms in 2012.
At their trial, prosecutors convinced a jury that the Kleensangs had not filed any tax returns from 2003 to 2006 and 2008 through 2011. In “do-it-yourself” lawsuits that are typical of sovereign citizens, the Kleensangs said they did not have to file tax returns because they were not federal employees and didn’t live in the District of Columbia.
However, in 2008, the Kleensangs filed 67 returns with the IRS, demanding refunds ranging from $2.5 million to $5 million. The Kleensangs claimed they made the filings to “get justice” and compensation for lawsuits they filed in state courts.
A man who called Dallas police to inform them he was part of the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement even as he was engaging officers in an armed standoff was eventually arrested after taking shots at officers and locking down an upscale North Dallas neighborhood.
According to the Dallas Police Department blog, the man –– a 60-year-old Corinth resident named Douglas Lee Leguin –– began taking shots at Dallas firefighters on Monday as they arrived near the scene of a reported Dumpster fire in the well-to-do neighborhood. The firefighters were not hit and put out a call for assistance.
In short order, the Dallas SWAT team and a host of police officers descended upon the scene, and the man continued to fire shots. However, no officers were injured in the incident. Eventually, negotiators persuaded the man to surrender.
Leguin was charged with seven counts of aggravated assault. According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, he had placed a number of explosive devices around the property where he engaged police in the standoff. Those devices were defused or detonated. Reportedly, the same man had encountered a babysitter in the neighborhood with an 8-year-old girl and had threatened both of them before starting his rampage.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Leguin had called police during the standoff to tell them that he belonged to the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement, which believes that most government institutions are illegitimate, as are the laws they enforce.