Hatewatch

Alabama ‘Sovereign’ Kingpin Loses Land, Prompting Worries

Not even antigovernment “sovereign citizen” James Timothy Turner, who has made a living teaching people sovereign tactics he claims will allow them to beat the banks, can save himself when it comes right down to it.

On Feb. 22, Hatewatch has learned, the People's South Bank in Ozark, Ala., foreclosed on two parcels of rural land totaling roughly 52 acres after Turner failed to make payments on a mortgage dating to June 2006. The same day the foreclosure was filed, the land was auctioned off on the steps of the Dale County Courthouse. The bank bought the land, and there wasn’t a peep of protest from Turner, a man who tells others how to defy the government. He didn’t even show.

But it’s the weeks ahead that have some in law enforcement worried. Will the man who has professed defiance of government for years stand idly by as the courts deliver an eviction notice? Or will the “president” of the Republic for the united States of American (RuSA), the nation’s largest sovereign group, stand firm against what he has called “the big tyrannical federal government” and its banks?

Law enforcement officials in Alabama told Hatewatch this week that they are concerned. Because Turner didn’t act to forestall the loss of his land, they fear he may have other plans. After all, Turner made his name in the movement lecturing followers on how to prevent exactly what just happened to him — foreclosure.

“There’s an eviction to be delivered. Is he going to peacefully clear the premise? Or is he going to stand there and not let us take it? That’s what he’s trained everyone to do,” said one official close the case, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. Several others in law enforcement expressed similar worries. Turner has declined repeated requests for comment.

This isn’t the first time Turner has drawn scrutiny. In 2010, while a member of a predecessor group, the Guardians for the free Republics, Turner signed and helped send letters to all 50 U.S. governors demanding they step down, or else. The aggressively worded letters launched the one-time commercial fisherman into the stratosphere of sovereign fame — and caused serious worries among federal law enforcement officials, who weren’t sure if any action would follow. None did, but law enforcement officials have continued to keep on eye on Turner.

As president of RuSA, Turner says the federal government is illegitimate, and that he is helping to “reinhabit” the true government. With a presence in nearly every state, Turner’s group has set about to form a kind of government-in-waiting for the day the federal government collapses. Given the threatening sound of that, plus a history of some violence from some RuSA member already, law enforcement officials are worried.

Last month, for example, Hatewatch confirmed that a man found dead with his 9-year-old son in the charred remains of their West Virginia trailer home –– a scene that bore all the signs of a murder-suicide –– had been a “congressman” in Turner’s group. In another case, police in Page, Ariz., last year shot and killed William Foust after he tried to wrestle away an officer’s Taser during an argument. By day, Foust was a prominent businessman. Privately, he was RuSA’s “chief justice,” the man designated to serve as the state’s leading legal officer.

Those deaths and RuSA’s increasing prominence nationwide have prompted the FBI, which has grown increasingly concerned about Turner and RuSA, to hold a news conference last month announcing they were dedicating more attention to the sovereign citizen movement. Sovereigns generally believe that they are immune to most federal criminal and tax laws.