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County Auctions Off Property of Washington ‘Sovereign Citizen'

David Darby. (The Columbian/Zachary Kaufman)

It may have taken three weeks, three auctions and a handful of headaches, but the Clark County, Wash., Treasurer’s Office was finally able to auction off antigovernment “sovereign citizen” David Darby’s property this week.

Trudy Rouse, a spokesperson for the treasurer’s office, told Hatewatch that the property had been successfully auctioned to a buyer from Richland for $52,445 on Tuesday.

“They’re kind of wondering, why would I jeopardize it for $22,000,” the amount in back taxes that he owes,” Darby told Hatewatch. “The reason is, I own the land. They did not even put a lien against my land. They just said that I owed money and then auctioned it off. Well, they can’t really do that. So I’m going to take it into court.”

He added: “I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t think I could win.”

Darby, an elderly man who has been active in far-right politics in Clark County since the 1990s, when he organized militias locally, says he believes filing the federal suit will entitle him to force his case into a “common law court.”

“That’s why they don’t want me to come in to court, because they know I will bring common law into the court,” he said. “Once we get into court, the judge is going to have to handle the court in the common law mode.”

Darby’s fight with Clark County dates back to 2009, when he stopped paying taxes after, he says, he discovered the “truth” about becoming a “sovereign citizen” and the supposed illegitimacy of both federal and state governments. Darby claims that Washington state’s original constitution, drafted in 1878 and containing clauses that negate state and local taxes, is the only legitimate ruling document for Washington, and not the 1889 constitution now observed by the state.

Darby’s property first was auctioned on Sept. 16, ending a long legal battle in which Darby’s claims were largely rebuked. However, that buyer turned out to be a friend of Darby’s, who attempted to pay for the property in cash, was refused, and then backed out when fees were added to his check payment.

That buyer, a Vancouver man named Richard Grady, told Hatewatch that he believed Darby had a legitimate claim. He said he had known Darby for several years because they both like to work on cars—Darby is a noted Jaguar collector—and “because he has been involved in the sovereign citizens movement.”

“He has a valid, legitimate claim based upon the original Washington constitution, and I agree with that argument because I’ve been involved in a similar case in Oregon,” Grady told Hatewatch.

A second auction was held on Sept. 23. Clark County Treasurer Doug Lasher said that the second buyers backed out after driving out from the Pasco area to view the property, telling him that the place reminded them of the horror film “Wrong Turn” (in which several young people become lost in a wooded area and area attacked by cannibals). “Their kids were crying because they didn’t want to be there,” he said.

Darby says that he is waiting for the new buyer’s title to become official, at which point he intends to sue Clark County for damages in federal court, which is what he claims to have wanted all along.

“I’ve got to get ahold of the new buyer, and I will sit down with him and show him that the county fraudulently sold the land,” he told Hatewatch. “They did not explain that there are two similar lawsuits over this, and he is going to have to prove that the deed of trust or anything in the color of law will actually trump a land patent.”

Land patents, a bogus legal technique once promoted by the Posse Comitatus as a way to erase farmers’ debts, are now widely used by the sovereign citizen’s movement.

In 2009, Darby filed a number of “sovereign citizen” documents with Clark County that he claims established his “land patent” on his property, something explicitly recognized under the 1878 Washington constitution that Darby claims is the state’s real ruling document.

What’s next? Darby earlier told Hatewatch that he would give up the property if he lost his case in federal court, and would not engage in armed action as other sovereign citizens have: “I’m not going to do anything radical,” he said. “I have no intention of anything like that.”

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