The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
Ernie Wayne terTelgte likes to style himself as a Montana mountain man, dressing in buckskins, boots and tricornered hats and sometimes bearing an old muzzle-loading musket. He likes to elaborate upon his theories about so-called sovereign citizenship in a florid 18th-century style. But it isn’t a silly nostalgia act. The Bozeman man has, in fact, been challenging Montana’s courts and legal system in the name of his extremist belief system all while adopting anachronistic clothing and calling himself the “Natural Man.”
Asked to explain why he was fishing without a license, terTeltge told a judge: “I was searching for something to put in my stomach as I am recognized to be allowed to do by universal law,” he said. “I am the living man and I have the right to forage for food when I am hungry.”
This all could be written off as the peculiar antics of another kook with convoluted legal ideas – something not unheard of in Montana – but for the fact that terTeltge has amassed supporters locally and regionally. His fight with the courts over what began as a simple fishing citation has become the latest cause célèbre among the far right in the Mountain West, including the region’s antigovernment “Patriots” and associated militias.
Some have gone so far as to begin organizing “citizen grand juries,” another tactic of the sovereign citizen movement, which purport to allow ordinary citizens to present cases to the local sheriff and sit in judgment of local government officials. Indeed, terTeltge himself has played a leading role in helping to organize these “juries” in the Bozeman area.
These activities have a long history in Montana, including the Montana Freemen of the 1990s, some of whom were from the Bozeman area and who practiced a similar kind of “sovereign citizenship” theory in promoting their illegal moneymaking schemes. Indeed, one of terTeltge’s cohorts in forming a “citizen grand jury”, a Bozeman man named Steve McNeil, was heavily involved with the Freemen and was arrested at one of their trials in Billings in 1996. Other extremists, such as neo-Nazi Karl Gharst, have used “citizen grand juries” to threaten the Montana Human Rights Network. ( continue to full post… )
An armed, 65-year-old, self-described “sovereign citizen” was fatally shot in the head this week during what’s being described as a gunfight with local sheriff’s deputies in a suburb of Cleveland.
Israel Rondon’s death came after a 5-year legal battle he waged in a fruitless attempt to convince various courts of his belief that government agencies and laws have no control over so-called sovereign citizens – or a freeman, as he liked to call himself.
As numerous other law enforcement encounters with activists in the United States have shown, the seemingly harmless paperwork filings favored by antigovernment sovereigns can escalate into deadly violence very quickly. Seven law enforcement officers have been killed in the United States since 2000 by members of the sovereign citizens movement, which has been deemed a “domestic terrorist” movement by the FBI.
When six deputies went to Rondon’s residence in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, on Tuesday to arrest him for probation violation, “he came after the deputies with a rifle and opened fire,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in Thursday’s editions.
NewsChannel5 reporters noted that every corner of Rondon’s home and its foundation was spray-painted with words and numbers from U.S. code: “Title 18 1581-241 USC”. That particular code – dealing with slavery, peonage, and forced labor – is frequently cited by sovereign citizens, who believe that such citations release them from obligations as citizens of the United States, including paying their taxes or obeying traffic codes.
A preliminary investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation found that two deputies fired shots, at least one of which struck Rondon in the head, the newspaper reported. No deputies were injured.
Like so many sovereign citizens who believe they don’t need a driver’s license to operate a vehicle, Rondon’s first encounter with the law came during a traffic stop on Sept. 9, 2009, according to the Cleveland newspaper. ( continue to full post… )
A self-described “sovereign citizen” who was awaiting trial for filing fraudulent tax returns was sentenced to 20 years in prison this week in Texas for attempting to have the federal judge in his case assassinated.
Phillip Monroe Ballard attempted to hire a hit man for $100,000 because he feared U.S. District Judge John McBryde would sentence him to prison for filing false federal income tax returns.
While in jail, the 72-year-old Ballard devised a plan, drew a map and arranged for a $5,000 down payment to have the judge shot with a high-powered rifle as he entered the federal courthouse in Fort Worth, court documents disclose. If that plan failed, Ballard wanted the judge’s car bombed, the documents allege.
The FBI got wind of the assassination plot in 2012 when a fellow inmate approached prison officials and notified them of the conspiracy. Ballard was indicted on May 15, 2013, and convicted of solicitation to commit murder by a federal jury on Dec. 11, following a two-day trial in Fort Worth.
During the trial, Ballard’s defense attorney said his client never actually intended to kill a judge, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported this week.
Ballard has been part of the growing, antigovernment sovereign movement for more than a decade, initially posing as an attorney and advising clients that federal income tax laws didn’t apply to them, court documents say. Sovereigns typically believe that most federal criminal and tax laws don’t apply to them. ( continue to full post… )
A Georgia judge didn’t mince words when he sentenced two “sovereign citizens” who illegally attempted to use frivolous court filings and squatting to take possession of homes.
Their actions “were nothing but thievery and burglary,” Cobb Superior Court Judge A. Gregory Poole told Susan Lorraine Weidman, 52, of Kennesaw, Ga., and co-defendant Matthew Lowery, 29, of Alpharetta, Ga., at sentencing hearings last Friday, the Marietta Daily Journal reported.
“This was no experiment,” the judge said. “You had folks breaking into houses, changing the locks and outright thieving. It was just incredulous to me that a citizen could think she could get away with this.”
Assistant District Attorney John Melvin told the court that “Weidman, as the ringleader, brought a lot of pain to a lot of people. You see a pattern of activity over several years in which Ms. Weidman refuses to get it,” the Marietta newspaper reported.
Then the judge sentenced Weidman to 20 years in prison and Lowery to 10 years. ( continue to full post… )
It sounded too good to be true, like something from a Burt-Reynolds-meets-Duke-of-Hazzard movie: A cross-country “Cannonball Run”-style road race, sponsored by a Southern “colonel” whose wealth comes from making copper moonshine stills, with a big $50,000 prize waiting at the end. And sure enough, as with most schemes cooked up by so-called “sovereign citizens,” it fell apart upon close scrutiny.
The race – dubbed “Cannonball One,” and described as a “coast to coast race from sea to shining sea” – required an entry fee of $90, and the website promoting it used weasel language about the prize, saying participants could “potentially win up to $50,000”. The competition, scheduled for June 1, had no check points, and any kind of road vehicle, including motorcycles, would be accepted. You could buy your entry tickets through eBay.
The man promoting the race, Vaughn Wilson of Alma, Arkansas, is a self-styled “colonel” who poses for portraits in a white Col. Sanders-style suit. He appears to make most of his income from selling copper moonshine stills that he custom builds to owners’ specifications, according to the website where he markets them.
If Wilson’s scheme sounds a bit outlandish even to ordinary members of the public, it was obviously outrageous to people in the auto-racing community, especially those who had participated in a variety of cross-country races themselves over the years. This included Matt Farah, senior editor over at the auto-racing website The Smoking Tire, who knew, as he described it in his subsequent piece, that “a proper ‘Cannonball’ in the traditional sense is a coast-to-coast, underground race. No hotels. No stopping. Invite only. Low key. Tell no one. Don’t advertise it, or we’ll all go to jail. Wait a year to release your time so the statute of limitations on speeding expires first.” ( continue to full post… )
Part of Richard Mack’s shtick has always been seeming normal. Even as he spouts far-right conspiracies about the New World Order, his suit-and-tie demeanor and slick authoritativeness give him an aura of credibility that many right-leaning audiences find compelling, if not persuasive.
Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that last weekend Mack was invited to moderate a debate in the Clark County sheriff’s race in Las Vegas, sponsored by the Libertarian Party of Nevada. And it certainly isn’t any surprise, given the fact that Mack is the leader of the far-right “constitutional sheriffs” movement, that he used that respectable-seeming podium to steer the conversation far to the right.
Mack asked a number of conspiracy-minded questions with anti-government “Patriot” movement leanings, opening with: “When government becomes venal and oppressive and out of control, can the people of Clark County count on you for peace, safety and protection?” He later asked the candidates: “Is forcing a law-abiding citizen to register their firearm unconstitutional, and will you take action to abolish the handgun registration process?”
The candidates’ answers all sturdily affirmed their opposition to such laws. One candidate, former Detective Gordon Martines, denounced the state’s gun-registration laws: “My neighbors, my friends and my family are not going to get carted off to some federal institution because of some pretend legislation. Over my dead body.”
Fortunately, for the people of Clark County, the candidates have had more grounded conversations elsewhere. At a later debate sponsored by the county’s three largest labor unions, the conversation focused on questions about sales taxes, “their leadership qualities and department morale.”
‘Sovereign’ Pleads Guilty, Expects to Spend Less Than a Year in Jail for Plot to Kidnap Police Officers
A sovereign citizen who plotted to abduct police officers in Las Vegas and execute them has pleaded guilty to his seventh felony conviction but likely will end up spending less than a year in jail.
David Allen Brutsche, a convicted sex offender from California who moved to Las Vegas to sell bottled water on the street, pleaded guilty Monday to felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping, The Associated Press reported.
Brutsche, 43, and a woman described as his roommate, 67-year-old Devon Campbell Newman, were arrested by Las Vegas police last August after a four-month undercover investigation.
Police said Brutsche, with six previous felony convictions, “was committed” to the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement, considered by the FBI to be a “domestic terrorist movement.” ( continue to full post… )
Antigovernment extremists have always feared those elusive black helicopters. Now they can add government surveillance drones to their paranoia list.
In what’s being called the first case of its kind in the United States, a Predator drone operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection played a role in the arrest of a farmer who is an adherent of the anti-tax “sovereign citizens” movement and his three sons, all of whom were sentenced earlier this month in Lakota, N.D.
The case started on June 23, 2011, when a neighbor’s six cows wandered on to Rodney Brossart’s 3,600-acre farm in eastern North Dakota and Brossart didn’t immediately return them. Brossart, whose run-ins with the law and his neighbors are reportedly legendary in that part of North Dakota, was accused of threatening and fighting with deputies who went looking for the missing cows before arresting him. ( continue to full post… )
A neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, was evacuated Wednesday after authorities arrested an armed “sovereign citizen” facing eviction and then found bombs and bomb-making supplies when they searched his foreclosed home.
Mark Kulis, 55, was armed but arrested without incident by Franklin County sheriff’s deputies who waited for him to leave the residence before making the arrest at a nearby car wash, officials said.
Then, after investigators found flash powder and at least five assembled improvised explosive devices while serving a search warrant at the suspect’s home, nearby homes were ordered evacuated. One of the homemade bombs, rigged to a motion sensor, was found in an oven in the kitchen, WBNS-TV in Columbus reported.
It wasn’t clear what purpose the bombs were meant to serve. ( continue to full post… )
The arrest in late November of a prominent “Freeman” leader in Canada has underscored the recent rise of the “sovereign citizens” movement north of the border, as well as law-enforcement authorities’ concerns about that development.
Dean Clifford, a self-described “contractor from Winnipeg” who tours Canada giving lectures to paying audiences on how to avoid paying taxes by declaring oneself a “Freeman on the Land,” was arrested by Canadian authorities on Nov. 24 at a hotel in Hamilton, Ontario, shortly after giving one of his talks. He was charged with failing to show up for court hearings regarding his July 19 arrest for alleged traffic violations, and remains under arrest today.
Clifford is well known in the Canadian movement of sovereign citizens, which is composed of antigovernment activists who generally believe they do not have to follow most tax and criminal laws (many sovereigns, in both the United States and Canada, refer to themselves as “freemen.”) His videos, featuring Clifford holding forth on various means by which ordinary people can “divest” themselves of government control and taxation, are popular among followers in both Canada and the United States, where the sovereign citizen movement has long been associated with right-wing extremists and antigovernment violence. ( continue to full post… )