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.
When a motorcycle cop in San Diego stopped a woman for speeding this March, she told him she was a sovereign citizen then fled the scene. The officer—who was trained to recognize the danger sovereign citizens can pose—went on high alert. “They think they have a right to use force against us. They killed officers in Wisconsin and Georgia because the officers stopped them,” said one Sergeant from neighboring Escondido, whose department has seen a number of sovereign citizens while on patrol.
The case of Steven Lorenzo and his accomplice Scott Schweickert is big news in Tampa where the men were arrested for drugging and raping multiple men from the area. In 2005, Lorenzo was sentenced to 200 years in prison. In 2007, Schweickert received a sentenced for 40. The men were also suspected in the 2003 murders of two men, Jason Galehouse and Michael Wachholtz, but police needed more time to make the charges stick.
In 2013, Schweickert was indicted on murder charges and sentenced to life in prison. He avoided the death penalty by agreeing to testify against Lorenzo.
Lorenzo was indicted for murder this year and is awaiting trial. He says he is a sovereign citizen and U.S. laws don’t apply to him, and plans to represent himself in court.
Richard Price Tucker
Richard Price Tucker of Clay County, Florida—who says he has copyrighted his own name—has committed paper terrorism while serving a prison sentence for manufacture of methamphetamines. The victims were Fourth Circuit Court judges, a county clerk and a legal secretary who he fraudulently made financially liable for his debts.
This action has cost Tucker dearly. He was charged with six counts of unlawfully filing false documents or records against real or personal property, and agreed in a plea deal to an additional 10 years in prison. He will be sentenced on April 19.
David Lee Blanshan
Registered sexual predator and sovereign citizen David Lee Blanshan got a small amount of good news in the most recent case against him. On March 14, the court reversed one of the charges he is facing.
Blanshan’s original charges stemmed from an encounter he had with Minnesota law enforcement in March 2015. A State Trooper stopped the vehicle Blanshan was riding in because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. When the officer attempted to identify the people in the car, Blanshan refused to give his last name and repeatedly said “I do not choose to loiter with you.”
The Trooper ordered Blanshan out of the car. Blanshan failed to comply and instead locked himself in the vehicle. The driver unlocked the doors after a Sheriff arrived on the scene, and the Trooper pulled Blanshan from the vehicle. Blanshan resisted, swatting and blocking the Trooper’s arms and kicking at his legs.
The Trooper restrained Blanshan by tasing him before placing him under arrest. This incident garnered Blanshan fourth degree assault and obstruction of justice charges as well as the seatbelt violation.
The Minnesota appeals court heard a variety of arguments from Blanshan, including one challenging the court’s consideration of his sovereign citizen views as character evidence. They disagreed with him on this, citing the example that a person’s association with skinheads and their “corresponding criminal conduct was relevant at sentencing.” They did agree with Blanshan that the assault and obstruction charges were part of one course of conduct and ruled to vacate the obstruction charge.
When police came to investigate a car crash in New Rochelle on March 31, the driver, Wayne Hall, tried to provide them with a sovereign citizen-style card in lieu of a driver’s license, registration and insurance. The card stated “The Right to Travel. The Right to Mode of Conveyance, the Right to Locomotion and police cannot make void the exercise of Rights.”
As this occurred, a female friend of Hall’s named Jameika Hutchinson arrived and began videotaping his interaction with the police. She later intervened when officers tried to take Hall into custody for an outstanding warrant.
Hall violently resisted their efforts and Hutchinson joined in, hitting the officers and trying to pull them off of Hall.
Police were forced to pepper spray Hall in order to subdue him.
Hall and Hutchinson were both charged with assaulting police officers, obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. Hall was also charged with resisting arrest.
Frances Jo Mehner
Frances Jo Mehner of Albuquerque was apprehended after going on the run with her husband. Mehner—who claims her name is “Frances Jo of the House of Mehner”—was indicted for filing a false tax return for $958 million and change.
Mehner attempted to have the indictment dismissed by filing court documents filled with sovereign citizen jargon that the prosecutor called “incomprehensible.” She also filed a counter claim against the U.S. government, calling it a foreign corporation.
The plea deal Mehner agreed to on March 22 was unique; time-served, one year probation, rules making her file all tax returns on time, through an attorney and a prohibition regarding filing liens or paperwork against a number of government employees.
In Las Vegas, a man named Thomas Benson says he is not a sovereign citizen, although he could be a poster boy for the movement. In March Benson was indicted in a scheme popular among sovereign citizens, claiming possession of a property he did not own. He filed a lease for a home that was in foreclosure and owned by the bank. In the past, Benson sold “legal kits” to people being evicted, another widespread sovereign citizen business practice.
Benson filed a $499,999,999.99 lien against his own business registered in Missouri and an ecclesiastical deed poll in Kansas, which sovereigns believe will settle all of their debts and encumbrances. He also sued the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for towing his vehicle, which he was driving without a license. Benson used a common sovereign defense, saying he was “traveling,” not driving. He accused the police of a number of crimes—including kidnapping—and brought a claim against them in the amount of $12 million, payable in silver dollars.
As with most sovereigns, Benson refuses to sign his name using a standard signature. He has used coats of arms, crests, red thumbprints and blue footprints instead.
Benson faces seven counts, including burglary, theft, offering a false instrument for filing, interfering with a public officer and a charge related to case interference.
A man was stopped on the interstate on April 30 with a loaded gun in his pants. He refused to identify himself, only saying he was a sovereign citizen. Law enforcement learned the firearm was stolen and booked the man into jail on a $50,000 bond.
Innis and another man, Alphonso Mobley, Jr., both sovereign citizens, concocted a plan that literally blew up in their faces. They plotted to set off a bomb at a school and then rob a bank while local law enforcement was busy dealing with the bomb. They intended to put racist messaging near the bomb that would make it look like cop-hating anti-Semites had planted it.
The plan was foiled in April 2016 when the bomb-making materials went off prematurely, costing Mobley his hands and burning down the house the men were squatting in, which alerted the police.
On March 13 of this year Innis was sentenced to 12 years in prison and forced to register as an arson offender.
Mobley’s case is still pending.
The second Malheur occupation trial wrapped up on March 10. The jury found two of the defendants, Jason Patrick and Darryl Thorn guilty of conspiracy. The other two defendants Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan were acquitted.
Patrick and Thorn were found to have conspired to keep federal employees from doing their jobs. They were also found guilty of willfully damaging government property for digging trenches at the refuge using an excavator they found there. Thorn was found guilty of possessing firearms and dangerous weapons in a federal facility.
“We are gratified that justice has been served and thank the jury for their service,” said Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.
The men will be sentenced on May 10.
Former U.S. Postal Worker and sovereign citizen Larry Singleton of South Carolina was convicted of tax fraud on March 17. He faces up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Singleton tried to use a fake check to pay his tax bill, buy a car, and make a bank deposit for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also told the IRS his identity had been stolen and argued that it should change his tax liability.
As mentioned in last month’s Sovereign Files, 10 sovereign citizens in Tennessee were arrested in a crackdown. The men had filed approximately $2 billion in bogus liens against a number of public officials.
A special prosecutor in Davidson County is handling the prosecution. The defendants face a total of 320 counts for forgery and drawing liens without a legal basis.
Tennessee is also seeking to minimize the damage that spurious liens will cause its government officials in the future. Two members of the state’s House and Senate have sponsored SB 0726 which seeks to create “a streamlined process for certain public officials to contest Uniform Commercial Code financing statements that they believe to lack any legal basis”.
As of March 21 SB0726 has been recommended for passage with amendments in a 9-0 vote.
On March 8, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals stated that a complaint filed by prisoner Brandon Collins was “rambling”, “largely incoherent” and “frivolous.” Collins, who was convicted of 1st and 2nd Degree Child Sex Assault, wrote that he is a trust, and that attorneys and judges are conspiring to keep it quiet that the federal government was, in fact, dissolved in a bankruptcy in the 1930s.
In their response, the appellate court wrote that Collin’s appeal did not analyze or challenge the court’s decision and it left them with nothing to review. Additionally, they warned Collins that any more frivolous litigation would result in their barring him from future filings in their courts.