A Michigan woman has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for harboring a sovereign citizen who fired shots at Florida state troopers when they tried to stop him last year, an act that once again shows the danger faced by officers when they encounter extremists from the bizarre world of sovereign citizenry.
Yvonne Theresa Clark, 35, of Royal Oak, Mich., pleaded guilty on Friday to interfering with an officer and conspiracy to interfere with an officer. She was one of five people arrested for harboring Brody J. Whitaker, 37, a month after he opened fire on two troopers who pulled him over on Interstate 75 in Florida’s Sumter County. As part of a plea agreement, Clark will spend 90 days in jail.
According to news reports, Whitaker claimed to be a sovereign citizen almost immediately after his arrest, declaring during his April 2010 arraignment, as his public defender urged him not to speak: “I am a sovereign. I am not an American.” While his motives for firing on state troopers are unknown, Whitaker might have felt – as sovereign citizens do – that the police had no authority over him and he was resisting a tyrannical government. After firing four shots at the officers, Whitaker managed to escape on foot. U.S. marshals eventually tracked him to a residence in Winsted, Conn., where he was captured by SWAT teams and heavily armed state troopers.
No one was injured in Whitaker’s antigovernment rebellion. That wasn’t the case in West Memphis, Ark., where Jerry and Joe Kane, father-and-son sovereign citizens traveling the country on the seminar circuit, shot and killed police officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans during a traffic stop on Interstate 40. After shooting Paudert and Evans, a scene recorded in graphic detail by the officers’ dashboard camera, the Kanes fled in their white minivan and were killed hours later in a shootout with police.
Sovereign citizens, who likely number in the hundreds of thousands nationwide, are a particular brand of antigovernment extremists who believe they – not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials – get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. While Clark was not determined to be a sovereign citizen during her sentencing, she was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment. Whitaker, who also claimed he was the “grandson of God,” fought his extradition but ultimately was returned to Florida to face criminal charges.