Yet another member of the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement, whose adherents believe the majority of U.S. tax and criminal laws do not apply to them, died violently this spring after attacking law enforcement agents in a dispute that began with a routine traffic stop.
Sheriff’s deputies in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, were trying to serve an arrest warrant on Israel Rondon on March 25 when the self-declared sovereign citizen opened fire on them. At least two deputies reportedly shot back, and Rondon died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Rondon’s beef with law enforcement began when police discovered during a 2009 traffic stop that Rondon was carrying a concealed handgun without a permit. In the years that followed, Rondon insisted on representing himself on a variety of criminal charges including assaulting a police officer, carrying a concealed weapon in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, and violating zoning and building codes. During the same period, the 65-year-old filed at least eight lawsuits accusing banks, agencies, and officials of violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. He also attempted to extract damages from the Social Security Administration and Supplemental Security Income program, a local court, and the Middleburg Heights Building Department.
As is usually the case with sovereigns’ legal efforts, Rondon’s lawsuits were all dismissed by judges who described them as rambling, incoherent, and without legal basis. Police were trying to serve an arrest warrant related to a probation violation when Rondon opened fire. No deputies were injured in the firefight.
Traffic violations were also at issue when Michael Rinderle, 29, was charged in April with threatening to financially ruin a New Jersey judge. Enraged that his common-law wife had been cited for traffic violations, Rinderle, who as a sovereign citizen believes traffic laws are part of a massive government conspiracy to control those who have not declared their sovereignty, allegedly threatened the judge via E-email and filed unjustified property liens against him and 27 others, including court staff and law enforcement personnel.
This was not the first time Rinderle had allegedly threatened a judge. In January, the Wisconsin man was accused of threatening to file a fraudulent lien against a Muskego, Wis., municipal judge who suspended his license after he repeatedly failed to appear in court on traffic charges. At that time, Rinderle also faced charges of fleeing an officer in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, two sovereign citizens received stiff sentences for attempting to rent out foreclosed homes in Cobb County that did not belong to them. Susan Lorraine Weidman, 52, and Matthew Lowery, 29, broke into homes, changed the locks, and laid claim to the properties by filing false paperwork, an increasingly common sovereign tactic. When challenged, they invented a law firm and lawyers through whom they threatened legal action.
Weidman, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison and another 20 on probation under Georgia’s state RICO statute, characterized the situation as “a failure to communicate between me and law enforcement,” though Cobb County Superior Court Judge A. Gregory Poole retorted that Weidman’s crime had been “no experiment.” Meanwhile, Weidman’s accomplice, Lowery, of Alpharetta, Ga., was sentenced to 10 years in prison and another 10 on probation.