Georgia Bill Attacks ‘Paper Terrorism’ as FBI Takes Aim at ‘Sovereigns’

As antigovernment “sovereign citizens” continue to defy the law across the country, government officials are fighting back.

In April, Georgia enacted legislation making it a felony to file fraudulent liens against the property of public officials or employees, a sovereign tactic known as “paper terrorism.”

State Rep. B.J. Pak, a Republican, introduced the bill at the request of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Violators of the law, which goes into effect July 1, can be imprisoned for up to 10 years, fined up to $10,000, or both.

In one case in Georgia, Temple Police Chief Tim Shaw was harassed, threatened and hit with false liens totaling more than $800,000 by a sovereign citizen angered by a traffic citation. Other sovereigns who were being prosecuted under the RICO Act filed baseless property liens and lawsuits against government officials involved in their case. In such cases, officials can become entangled in legal proceedings that can take years and thousands of dollars to sort out.

The measure comes as sovereign citizens pose an increasing threat to law enforcement. In February, the FBI announced it was dedicating more resources to the movement, which the agency has designated as “domestic terrorist.” Six law enforcement officers have been killed by sovereigns since 2000, and Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols held sovereign beliefs.

“We are focusing our efforts because of the threat of violence,” said Stuart R. McArthur, a deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division.

Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times reported that in two unpublished studies, the Homeland Security Department and the National Counterterrorism Center ranked the movement as a major threat, along with Islamic extremists and white supremacists.

B.J. Pak
Georgia lawmaker B.J. Pak proposed a bill, which was enacted, that would severely punish so-called "sovereign citizens" who engage in "paper terrorism" by filing unjustified poverty liens against their enemies.
Sovereigns typically believe the U.S. government is illegitimate and that it actually is a corporation working to enslave hard-working American citizens. Many think that a convoluted system of declarations can emancipate a person from all manner of laws and taxes. Financial scams and tax fraud are common charges against sovereigns.

Despite the extremist ideology and the very real violence the movement has produced, former Fox News personality Glenn Beck mocked the FBI’s warning about the sovereign movement, suggesting that it was a subterfuge to steal away freedoms.

“I don’t believe a word of that, do you?” he asked viewers of his Internet TV show. “Let’s call a spade a spade. Let me tell you what this is, I believe, all about. It is deflection, again, to set the American people up. It goes right back to, ‘Yes, but can I scoop American citizens up and hold them without trial?’”

As much as Beck would like to mock it, pronouncing sovereigns a threat is hardly deflection. The following are recent criminal cases involving sovereigns.

• In Fort Worth, Texas, James Michael Tesi was found guilty in January of assaulting a police officer in a shooting outside his home. According to news reports, Tesi and the officer exchanged at least 15 shots in July when the officer tried to arrest him on traffic warrants. Tesi, who was shot in the leg and face, claims he is a “Moorish American,” not a U.S. citizen.

• In Raleigh, N.C., a former high school teacher was convicted on seven counts of attempting to evade state income taxes. Gloria Tatum-Wade, 72, filed a claim with Guilford County saying she was a sovereign citizen and exempt from taxes. Of course, she wasn’t. She was sentenced to two consecutive terms totaling, at minimum, 14 months in jail.

• A sovereign in Skagit County, Wash., was sentenced to three years in prison for assisting in filing false tax returns. Long-time tax defier Timothy Garrison, 60, pleaded guilty to two counts that he prepared tax returns that helped a couple dodge more than $88,000 in taxes. As he was sentenced, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, “You are free to believe anything. You are free to question authority. What you don’t have is the ability to break the law and not suffer the consequences.”

• In an example of how comically delusional sovereigns can be, police in Phillipsburg, N.J., arrested Robert Merritt for urinating outside of a convenience store. When an officer approached, Merritt replied that he was a sovereign citizen — and the officer could “kiss my black ass.”