A self-described “sovereign citizen” who was awaiting trial for filing fraudulent tax returns was sentenced to 20 years in prison this week in Texas for attempting to have the federal judge in his case assassinated.
Phillip Monroe Ballard attempted to hire a hit man for $100,000 because he feared U.S. District Judge John McBryde would sentence him to prison for filing false federal income tax returns.
While in jail, the 72-year-old Ballard devised a plan, drew a map and arranged for a $5,000 down payment to have the judge shot with a high-powered rifle as he entered the federal courthouse in Fort Worth, court documents disclose. If that plan failed, Ballard wanted the judge’s car bombed, the documents allege.
The FBI got wind of the assassination plot in 2012 when a fellow inmate approached prison officials and notified them of the conspiracy. Ballard was indicted on May 15, 2013, and convicted of solicitation to commit murder by a federal jury on Dec. 11, following a two-day trial in Fort Worth.
During the trial, Ballard’s defense attorney said his client never actually intended to kill a judge, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported this week.
Ballard has been part of the growing, antigovernment sovereign movement for more than a decade, initially posing as an attorney and advising clients that federal income tax laws didn’t apply to them, court documents say. Sovereigns typically believe that most federal criminal and tax laws don’t apply to them.
While in the Federal Correctional Institute in Fort Worth in 2012, Ballard approached a fellow inmate, disclosing that he was a “sovereign citizen, immune from all laws of the United States.” Then Ballard asked the other inmate if he knew someone who would carry out a contract killing, the documents say.
Ballard said he was in prison for filing false tax returns and interfering with the IRS and was worried that Judge McBryde would give him a lengthy prison sentence.
The other inmate disclosed the plot to Bureau of Prisons officials who notified the FBI in Fort Worth.
Visiting Judge Donald E. Walter of Louisiana, who heard the murder-for-hire case, sentenced Ballard on Monday, giving him the maximum 240-month sentence. The tax fraud charges against Ballard are still pending.
In another sovereign citizen case, a judge in Ohio this week sentenced 49-year-old Robert Carr to jail for illegally entering abandoned and foreclosed houses and laying claim to them.
Carr was sentenced to seven months in jail, giving him credit for 110 days he has already served, the Raw Story reported this week.
Carr was indicted last December after authorities discovered he attempted to gain possession and ownership of 11 homes in the Cincinnati suburbs of Springdale and Forest Park.