‘Sovereign Citizen’ Guru Back in Custody, Facing New Charges

An antigovernment “sovereign citizen” indicted nearly three years ago in a money laundering case is back in custody and being returned this week to U.S. District Court in Nevada.

Shawn Talbot Rice surrendered and was arrested on Dec. 22 after a day-long standoff with FBI agents and local police in Seligman, Ariz.

Taken before a federal judge last week in Flagstaff, the 46-year-old Rice was ordered detained without bond after he admitted in court that he’s a flight risk and has no respect for the U.S. judiciary. Now, he faces the prospect of additional federal charges.

Rice was ordered returned to Las Vegas where he and co-defendant Samuel Lynn Davis were indicted in March 2009 on charges of conspiracy and money laundering. The charges resulted from a three-year-long sting operation conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Nevada.

From March 2008 to March 2009, court records allege, Davis and Rice laundered approximately $1.3 million in reported bank fraud funds provided by undercover FBI undercover agents investigating a network of heavily armed antigovernment sovereign citizens. The FBI currently considers such extremists — men and women who generally believe they do not have to pay taxes, use driver’s licenses or obey many criminal statutes — to be the greatest domestic terrorism threat in the United States, particularly posing risks to law enforcement.

Davis and Rice were told the money they were asked to launder specifically came from the theft and forgery of stolen bank checks, court filings say. The money was laundered through a trust account controlled by Davis and a purported religious organization account controlled by Rice. Davis took $74,000 and Rice got $22,000 for their money laundering services before learning the entire operation was an FBI sting.

Davis, 56, of Council, Idaho, has admitted his guilt. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 31 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas to 30 counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy. Judge James Mahan sentenced Davis to 57 months in prison and ordered him to pay $95,782 in restitution to the FBI. Davis was allowed to remain free and “self-report” to a designated federal prison by Jan. 31.

Meanwhile, Rice has been free without bail since being released on July 28, 2009, after convincing the court that he wanted to act as his own defense attorney. Rice did just that, filing dozens of virtually incomprehensible sovereign-citizen-style pleadings. For example, one of his filings on Jan. 6, 2010, was from the “Office of the Embassy in Trust with the Most High Yahwey Taking Action to Redeem Equal Weights and Measures.”

The following month, he took a 1921 U.S. silver dollar to the court clerk and said it was his “living bond” from “the one supreme Court shawn Talbot [sic; sovereign citizens often lower-case their names or part of them], a living man as being a private civilian on the county within the original judicial districts, not assisting, aiding, harboring or accompany any military force in the field.”

As his nonsensical legal filings continued, federal prosecutors asked the court to revoke an order allowing Rice to act as his own attorney. But Rice didn’t show up for that hearing. Finally, on June 16, 2010, a federal judge issued a bench warrant for Rice’s arrest, but he couldn’t be immediately located by federal marshals and FBI agents. It’s not publicly known what eventually led federal investigators to the house in Seligman where Rice was arrested without violence after hours of negotiations.

Even while he was a fugitive, Rice continued pelting the government with his brand of what’s been termed “paper terrorism.” Last July he filed what appeared to be a lawsuit under the “Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act,” naming more than 80 defendants – everyone from President Obama to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.

Like they’ve done in response to his other frivolous filings, federal prosecutors are expected to ask a judge to dismiss that suit.