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James Timothy Turner, the enigmatic president of the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” group Republic for the united States of America (RUSA), has told his followers that despite his incarceration on federal tax charges, he is still very much their leader. And as for his legal problems? That’s simply the federal government squashing the “righteous” truth.
“The Lord has called for and annointed [sic] me for this position,” Turner says in a handwritten letter dated Oct. 15 and recently posted to the RuSA website. “His annointing [sic] has not been removed because I have been incarcerated.”
Last month, a federal grand jury indicted Turner on a host of tax charges, including allegations that he attempted to pay his own taxes with a fictitious $300 million bond and tried to assist others who wanted to get out paying taxes with similar bonds ranging from $10 million to $300 million.
Turner’s letter comes as RuSA experiences perhaps the biggest challenge to its survival amid increased law enforcement scrutiny and tremendous upheaval in its rank-and-file.
Fearing that Turner was a flight risk, a federal judge last month denied him bail, leaving RuSA, the largest and most organized sovereign citizens group in the United States, reeling.
As proof of that, RuSA has bumbled through plans to host an election to replace Turner – with some of his loyal acolytes publicly fearing that the end of the group is near. Kelby Smith, a spokesman for the group and one of Turner’s loudest supporters, said on an Oct. 17 telephone call with followers, “We as a Republic look very, very, very bad with our president sitting in jail.” He added, “Either the president gets out of jail, or the Republic is going to be split.”
Members of RuSA view the federal government as an illegitimate “corporation” designed to enslave American citizens in a system of financial snares, an idea with a storied history within the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. They also see Turner as a divinely anointed savior tapped to save a nation from turmoil.
That reality alone has prompted law enforcement worries that members of RuSA, some of whom have already been embroiled in criminal enterprises, will lash out violently as sovereigns have in the past. And Turner, who has historically calmed his followers when their rhetoric against the federal government intensifies, seems willing to stoke those fires.
“I am not in jail for violating the law,” Turner wrote in the letter. “I am in jail because I stood for righteousness and truth in government.” He then asked his followers to “pray that God will crumble the foundations and break the power and strength of the corporation and restore his righteous government in America.”
“I am praying daily that God will cut off all financial, military, political, and spiritual support for the municipal corporate government in Washington, D.C.,” Turner wrote.
There is no indication when – or even if – RuSA will hold an election to replace Turner. For his part, though, the sovereign president for the time being seems unwilling to let go of a movement he founded two years ago and took further than most had before – by forming a shadow government to lie in waiting for the collapse of the federal government.
For Turner, the fantasy has continued even in jail.