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The Sovereign Files

Beginning this month, SPLC will provide regular updates on the most recent actions of Sovereign Citizen extremists. 

As this first update will illustrate, sovereign citizens are a diverse group of individuals whose activities and motives vary, but whose core tenets are the typically the same. They view United States citizenship, established government, authority and institutions as illegitimate and consider themselves immune from — and therefore above — the law.

A number of sovereign citizens engage in fraudulent activity, use paper terrorism to achieve their agendas and commit crimes under the mistaken belief that laws do not apply to them. Some plan or take part in protests against government agencies and institutions, like the ones organized by the Bundy’s in Bunkerville, Nevada and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. Some have resorted to violence, including acts of domestic terrorism when they felt their freedom was infringed upon.


Carlos Fountain

On February 1, the manager of Moundville Archaeological Park in Moundville, Alabama found a turbaned man, accompanied by a woman, digging a hole in one of the Native American mounds, a ceremonial platform, which dates back to around 1000 A.D. The park is managed by the University of Alabama

The man, Carlos Kendrick Fountain told the police he was a Moor. He claimed the couple’s goal was to put their feet into the earth. The hole they dug was a little over 1 foot deep and approximately 2 ½ feet wide. Damage to the soil was assessed at $1,839 and Fountain was charged with the desecration of venerated objects.



Gunther Glaub

On January 25, Gunther Glaub, of Castle Rock, Colorado was convicted of five counts of making false claims with the Department of Agriculture in a clear effort to defraud the government. Glaub was attempting to get the government to pay approximately $1.7 million of his debts, including his student loans and the purchase of three new vehicles, among them a Camaro and a Corvette.

Glaub’s sovereign ideas were on full display in his motion to dismiss, which cited his belief that “the federal government is liable for the debt of its citizens based on a misunderstanding of what occurred when the country went off the gold standard in 1933.”



Corey Robinson

The Manchester, Connecticut town hall was on lockdown on January 17 as a man walked through the building smashing display cases with a baseball bat, then sat on the stairs until officers arrived and arrested him. The man refused to give his name to the officers, but did tell them he was a sovereign citizen. 

One of the officers recognized him as Corey Robinson, a former classmate and confirmed his identity by looking through an old yearbook.

Robinson has been charged with criminal mischief, second-degree breach of peace, failure to submit to fingerprinting, interfering with police and carrying a dangerous weapon



Dudley Allen Hicks

Dudley Allen Hicks of Pensacola, Florida was charged with a capital felony on February 16 for sexual battery on a victim under 12 and sentenced to life in prison. After his arrest Hicks said he believes that child molesters are treated unfairly, that he had always been attracted to young girls and admitted to having an 8-year-old girlfriend when he was 16. Hicks told authorities he was a sovereign citizen, so the laws did not apply to him.



Peter Christian Jensen

Peter Jensen filed a lawsuit against the Bonner County County Clerk and Deputy Prosecutor on December 14, 2016 for $1.4 million in damages. He claimed in his complaint that their refusal to file divorce documents until filing fees were paid amounted to extortion, obstruction of justice and treason.

In his response, defendant and Deputy Prosecutor William Steven Wilson stated that “the complaint is based upon dubious ‘sovereign citizen’ legal theories not accepted in any modern courtroom.”

In 2016, Jensen sued Edward R. Pemble, an Idaho Transportation Department worker, for $6,689,940 payable in gold or silver after Pemble suspended Jensen’s driver’s license for failing to own liability insurance. In Jensen’s suit he claimed he followed Mosaic Law, saying he only obeyed the statutes of Yehovah. Jensen told the judge in the case that he thought the state of Idaho was an artificial person and that Pemble, in his capacity at the ITD “did “not have the authority to govern the actions of a natural person.”



John Jones Bey

John Jones Bey, who considers himself a Moor deserving of sovereign nation status, filed a writ of mandamus in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indian claiming his Moorish identity should preclude him from having to pay property taxes. He requested a refund on his paid taxes in the amount of $11.5 billion.

The judge’s Feb. 3 ruling stated “he is a U.S. citizen and therefore unlike foreign diplomats has no immunity from U.S. law. Indeed his suit is frivolous and was therefore properly dismissed; he was lucky to be spared sanctions for filing such a suit.”



Patrick Stein

Kansas Crusader Patrick Stein who holds sovereign citizen ideology is requesting the court release him from jail until his trial begins. He is currently being heldbehind bars, deemed a grave danger to the community for plotting to blow up a mosque and apartment building inhabited by Somali immigrants. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren oversaw the February 24 hearing.

During the hearing, Stein’s lawyer intimated that Stein believed that Obama would not recognize Trump’s win if Trump were elected by imposing martial law and militias would need to intervene.

On March 3, Stein’s co-defendants Gavin Long and Curtis Allen asked the court for more time to prepare for the trial which is scheduled for April 25. Stein is not on board and has asked the court to separate his case from theirs.


New Jersey

Paul J. Burnette

Self-proclaimed sovereign citizen Paul J. Burnette recently appealed his three-year sentence for unlawful possession of an assault rifle. On February 10, his appeal was denied. Burnette’s prior and equally unsuccessful legal actions have included attempts to sue Middlesex county prosecutors and his own lawyer, and bill a judge and a police officer $1 million each.


New York

Zachariah Latnie

Zachariah Latnie, 22, of Albany, New York attempted to sell a property he did not own. He entered the property, filed fake deeds with the County Clerk and posted documents on the door claiming that he owned the property. Latnie was arrested for trespassing and a multitude of charges related to this scheme.

Latnie claims he was following the advice of Moorish National Tex Mason who authored the book "Real Estate or Legal Fiction."

On February 11 Latnie was convicted of attempted grand larceny, burglary, possessing burglar's tools, conspiracy, tampering with public records, filing false deeds and falsifying business records.



On February 17, seven sovereign citizens from Anderson County were indicted and arrested for unlawfully filing liens and making false entries into records.

An investigation into the defendant’s use of paper terrorism came at the behest of Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark after he and his wife had liens unlawfully placed against them by one of the defendants.

Whether they sought to intimidate or retaliate”, says A.G. Clark, “a group identified as sovereign citizens in Anderson County began filing liens against Anderson County police officers, prosecutors, judges, court clerks, and other officials and employees who had any involvement in giving them a ticket, collecting their court costs, prosecuting their crimes, judging their case, etc.”

Defendants include:

·  Michael Robert Birdsell, 54, Andersonville - 8 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 8 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $150,000.

·  Austin Gary Cooper, 68, Clinton - 10 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 10 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $150,000

·  Lee Harold Cromwell, 67, Oak Ridge - 14 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 14 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $150,000.

·  Victor Douglas Bunch, 72, Powell - 17 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 17 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $150,000.

·  Christopher Alan Hauser, 51, Del Rio - 21 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 21 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $150,000.

·  Ronald James Lyons, 52, Newport - 30 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 30 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $150,000.

·  James Michael Usinger, 64, Greeneville - 22 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 22 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $150,000.

·  John Jeffrey Williams, 50, Powell - 3 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 3 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $25,000.

·  George Edward Williams, 76 Powell - 3 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 3 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $25,000. 

·  Kenneth Ray Foust, 73, Clinton - 3 counts Draw a Lien without a Legal Basis, 3 counts Forgery $250,000 or more. Bond $25,000. 

Defendant Lee Harold Cromwell is already in jail, convicted on February 15 of vehicular homicide and eight counts of aggravated assault. Cromwell killed one person and injured 11 others when he sped backwards in a community center parking lot after a 4th of July fireworks show. Cromwell claimed he had a problem with this throttle, but eye witnesses — including a mechanic — disputed this in their testimony, expressing that he intentionally “floored it” hitting the men, women and children in his path.

The first judge overseeing the case had to recuse himself after Cromwell filed a lien against him. The judge was not the only victim. Cromwell filed a total of $137 million in liens against local law enforcement agencies and officials, including the D.A. and his arresting officer, the I.R.S. and a Social Security service center.


West Virginia

Erick David Shute

On June 13, 2016, proclaimed sovereign citizen and death metal band frontman Erick Shute was charged with three counts of murder. Shute ambushed four men in  Great Cacapon, West Virginia where he was living. The men were clearing firewood nearby his property when Shute shot at them from behind a tree.

Shute fled the scene, taking police on an eight-hour manhunt. He was found in Pennsylvania after police tracked his phone, which Shute was using to post to social media while on the run.

Prior to West Virginia, Shute lived in New Jersey where his sovereign citizen beliefs were well known. Shute had signs on his property protesting taxes and flew an upside down flag. In 2011, he attempted to get his local police to sign a ‘peace treaty’ that would sanction him to drive without a license. His interactions with local law enforcement on the issue ended with his arrest and charges for resisting arrest, obstruction and aggravated assault.

The criminal trial for Shute, who is being held at West Virginia’s Eastern Regional Jail was recently scheduled for June 21.


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