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‘Moorish National’s’ Spectacular Escape Ends in Ignominy

Of all the sovereign citizens in all the towns in all the world, Joseph Banks is the most likely to have a movie made about him.

Of all the sovereign citizens in all the towns in all the world, Joseph Banks is the most likely to have a movie made about him.

The prolific bank robber and self-professed “Moorish national,” a black nationalist version of the radical and growing antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement, made a daring jail break from a federal high-rise lockup in downtown Chicago a week before Christmas.

Joseph Banks

On the ground, the men hailed a cab at 2:45 a.m. and disappeared.

And why not break out? Sovereign citizens believe they are not subject to most federal tax and criminal laws.

At his bank robbery trial a few days before the Hollywood-style breakout, Banks essentially renounced his American citizenship, proclaiming himself a sovereign citizen of the Republic of Illinois.

He was convicted anyway.

Kenneth Conley

It took two weeks to capture Banks’ cellmate. Banks wasn’t so lucky. He was back in handcuffs in about 48 hours.

And once again, the Moorish national was a sovereign prisoner.

Meanwhile, other sovereign citizens have continued to cause headaches for law enforcement and the judicial system across the country in recent months.

In April, aiming squarely at the sovereign citizens movement, Georgia’s governor signed a law that will make it a felony to file fraudulent property liens against public officials or employees, a popular sovereign tactic known as “paper terrorism.”

Sovereigns have hit Georgia hard in recent years. In one of the first cases of its kind, 12 sovereigns in North Georgia were charged in March with stealing property worth millions of dollars, including mansions and an Atlanta strip mall. The defendants were charged under federal racketeering statutes.

Two convicted bank robbers — one of them a self-described “Moorish national” — rapelled down 15 stories of Chicago’s downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center. Within two weeks, both men were back in custody.

In a setback for the government, three of the defendants were recently acquitted on all counts.

In Nevada, according to Security Management, a website that specializes in security issues, sovereign citizens are using mobile phones to summon fellow sovereigns to routine traffic stops to document the encounters with video cameras.

The tactic raises serious officer safety issues, Security Management reported, pointing out that since 2002, according to the FBI, sovereign citizens have killed six police officers.

Most of the estimated 300,000 sovereign citizens in the United States are not violent. But they can certainly be bizarre.

When deputies in Brunswick County, N.C., tried to pull over a woman who claimed to be a sovereign citizen from Myrtle Beach, S.C., in mid-December, she refused to stop and instead called the 911 operator, according to WECT-TV.

“I have a contact with you guys if you want to go ahead and declare a false sense of emergency — it’s $300,000 per incident,” she reportedly told the operator in a 10-minute call. “I need to make sure you guys are willing to pay the fee that you already owe before I pull over.”

A few minutes later, she repeated her demand.

“If you want to pay $300,000, then I’ll pull over,” she said.

Up to six police cars joined the pursuit that reached speeds of 70 mph before the woman finally stopped. Instead of $300,000, she was hit was a slew of charges — felony flight to avoid arrest, driving with a revoked license, careless and reckless driving, driving left of center and driving while intoxicated.