An antigovernment “sovereign citizen” will spend 40 months in prison for threatening to use “deadly force” to arrest various government officials, including the mayor of Kirkland, Wash.
David Russell Myrland, sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, has made his living for the past 20 years through the unauthorized practice of law and by teaching others how to cheat on their federal income taxes, federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.
More recently, the 53-year-old man has been involved with a sovereign citizen group called “Assemblies of the Counties,” in Skagit and Pierce counties in western Washington. Generally, sovereigns say they are not subject to most national laws and do not have to pay taxes, a belief that often brings them into conflict with law enforcement authorities. The Assemblies of the Counties has been tied to threats made against Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. A so-called “common law jury” involving members of the group recently declared militia leader Francis Schaeffer Cox “not guilty” of felony charges he faces in Alaska. Its ruling has no legal meaning.
Myrland pleaded guilty to the federal charge in August after freely admitting to federal agents that he threatened government officials in the belief that Washington state law allows him to arrest any person he thinks committed a felony.
Further, the sentencing memo said, Myrland believed the “powers of a citizen’s arrest allowed him to force entry to the homes of any ‘felon’ and use any force required, including deadly force, to arrest them,” the court documents say.
Myrland’s close friend and fellow Assemblies of the Counties member is accountant Timothy Garrison, of Mount Vernon, Wash. Garrison pleaded guilty last month to preparing false income tax returns that cheated the U.S. government out of an estimated $2.5 million. He is scheduled to be sentenced in February.
After Myrland was arrested Jan. 25 on a federal charge of “transmission of a threatening interstate communication,” federal agents searched his home and found illegal drugs and 22 ammunition magazines and 2,000 rounds of ammunition for a 9mm pistol.
The search also turned up “a considerable volume of quasi-legal documents pertaining to threats to arrest government officials,” including an “extraordinary writ of probable cause” to arrest Washington’s governor, the court documents say. Agents also found similar arrests warrants for the arrest of Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride and a Kirkland assistant city attorney.
“The law applies to everyone,” U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez told Myrland at sentencing Friday, “and the consequences of breaking the law apply to everyone as well.”
Myrland could have faced as much as 87 months in federal prison, depending on whether the court concluded he had accepted responsibility for his crime – something prosecutors said didn’t occur. Ultimately, federal prosecutors recommended 48 months, and the judge settled on the 40-month term.
The high-profile prosecution brought comment from Jenny A. Durkan, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. “Our cherished right to free speech does not extend to the freedom to make threats against our public officials and law enforcement officers,” she said. Myrland’s crimes “had real victims,” Durkan added. “For too long, Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride and other city officials have had to live with the specter of Mr. Myrland’s armed associates invading their homes.”
Durkan said she “applauded the courage” of the mayor and other city officials who attended the sentencing hearing in Seattle and described to the judge “how this defendant’s selfish campaign of threats and quasi legal filings has altered their lives.”
After the threats were made, the mayor was provided with extra police protection at additional cost to Kirkland taxpayers.
Myrland’s campaign of threats began after he was arrested in 2010 when he was pulled over by Kirkland police for driving without a license plate or driver’s license – a common practice for the growing number of sovereigns throughout the United States, most of whom believe the government has no right to regulate their travel on the open road. (As a result, conflicts with law enforcement officials frequently develop on the road. In May 2010, a sovereign duo murdered two West Memphis, Ark., police officers who had pulled them over.) Myrland had a 9mm semiautomatic pistol and a loaded magazine on the seat beside him.
During that traffic stop, Myrland repeatedly claimed that Washington State traffic laws didn’t apply to him, and that if he was arrested he would be “constitutionally authorized to come to the officer’s residence and arrest him at any time,” prosecutors said in court documents.
Myrland later took his encounter with Kirkland police to his associates in the sovereign citizens group. The group has an armed wing called the County Rangers whose members are required to own firearms and possess realistic-looking but fake badges and law enforcement credentials.
Members of the Assemblies of the Counties believe the American “common law” government set up by the founding fathers has been secretly replaced by a new government based on admiralty law – the law of the sea and international commerce. They also believe that judges know about this secret government takeover, but deny sovereign citizen legal filings because of “treasonous loyalty to hidden and malevolent government forces,” according to documents filed in Myrland’s case.
“In today’s heated climate, intemperate statements and threats to government officials are unfortunately not uncommon,” federal prosecutors said. But what distinguished Myrland “from the garden-variety threat case is that he was not just acting by himself, but [with] others in the so-called ‘sovereign citizen’ movement, who share his odd belief system.”
When Myrland is released from federal prison a little more than three years from now, federal authorities say they will be concerned. “Unfortunately, Myrland’s arrogance, his anger and his inability to even consider the possibility that he is in the wrong in this matter come through in various letters to the court and probation [officers],” the sentencing memo said. “The evidence amply supports [the] conclusion that Myrland remains a danger to the community and is a virtual certainty to re-offend.”