Sovereign citizen Richard Ulloa was to be sentenced for terrorizing police and bank officials in upstate New York with fake bills he hoped would stop a foreclosure on his home. Then he had an odd sort of epiphany.
“I’ve come to the realization I need therapy,” Ulloa, 52, told U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy during a sentencing hearing on Tuesday. He then went on to confess that a jail therapy program for alcoholics and drug addicts helped him realize he had a “delusional disorder” and that he never should have represented himself in his trial.
Ulloa was one of seven sovereign citizens, antigovernment extremists who believe they get to decide which laws to follow, charged with fraud in relation to an investigation in upstate New York. Ulloa was convicted of filing financial liens against a police officer and a local justice in Rosendale, N.Y., for $552 million, and against mortgage lenders for $2.8 billion following a foreclosure on his property. The case was profiled in a 60 Minutes report that reprised many of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s findings on the sovereign movement.
The judge didn’t buy Ulloa’s jailhouse conversion that he now realizes the absurd underpinnings of the sovereign movement. Prosecutors told the Associated Press Ulloa was likely trying to “cloud the record,” and Judge McAvoy ordered Ulloa undergo a psychological evaluation.
Ulloa is right about one thing – sovereign citizens have delusional ideas. The movement is comprised of people who believe they have uncovered an understanding of the law that has been secretly hidden from the public. Followers of the ideology often inundate courts and legal offices with enigmatic declarations, liens and UCC filings that rely on convoluted and antiquated legal language, a tactic known as “paper terrorism.” In doing so, each sovereign believes they are freeing themselves from the “bondage” of modern government.
That may have been the case this week in Pennsylvania, where Erie County Councilman Ebert G. Beeman decided to fight two traffic tickets. Already in hot water with the IRS for $2.1 million in back taxes, Beeman mailed two citations for driving on a suspended license to a district judge with the words “refuse for cause” written in felt pen on each.
Beeman also wrote on the tickets, which were copied to the Erie Times-News, a declaration pulled directly from the sovereign lexicon. “I am a living, breathing man who works, earns and creates values on the land known as Erie County, Pennsylvania,” he wrote. “The documents I am returning are an example of unproductive, parasitic consumption.”
Despite claiming to be ignorant of the sovereign citizen movement, the councilman has previously said the state does not have the right to require he have a Social Security number, and has said he doesn’t think he can be lawfully bound to have a driver’s license. Many sovereigns view drivers’ licenses and social security cards as blind contracts with the government. By refusing to enter into such agreements, they believe, they are exercising ultimate freedom.
Hatewatch left telephone messages seeking comment at Beeman’s home in Waterford, Pa., which were not returned. His trial is scheduled on Aug. 2.