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A federal judge on Monday determined that James Timothy Turner, the self-declared president of the nation’s largest antigovernment “sovereign citizen” group, was a flight risk and ordered him held until his trial next year. Turner is the founder of the Republic for the united States of America (RuSA), an intricately organized network of supporters united in their complete disdain for the government.
Shackled at the wrists and ankles and wearing a crimson jumpsuit emblazoned with the words “COUNTY JAIL,” Turner, of Ozark, Ala., pleaded not guilty to seven charges of federal tax crimes, including efforts to defraud the federal government and skipping out on his tax liabilities in 2009.
When asked during the hearing in Montgomery, Ala., if he understood the charges against him, Turner answered coyly. “There is an entity charged, your honor.” The dozen or so supporters who had come from around the country to see the proceedings whispered to each other and nodded their agreement. The man who had taught them how to stand up to the federal government was at work.
In the end, however, none of the tactics that sovereign citizens typically use to stymie the courts –– tactics Turner had become famous for teaching –– worked. U.S. District Judge Wallace Capel Jr., who will oversee the case when it goes to trial on March 18, 2013, denied Turner bail and said that while he may not be a danger, there was no doubt that he was a flight risk.
“I don’t think he recognizes the authority of the court,” Capel said. “If anyone plays poker, there’s always a tell.”
Turner burst onto the sovereign citizens scene in 2007 with a series of seminars claiming he could help his clients get out of paying mortgages, credit card debt and income tax bills. In 2010, he went further than most sovereigns before him had and formed RuSA, which set out to establish a shadow government that he claimed would lie in wait for the day the federal government crumbled.
According to the federal indictment, Turner attempted to pay his own taxes with a fictitious $300 million bond and assisted others who wanted to get out of paying taxes with similar bonds ranging in “value” from $10 million to $300 million.