The Sovereign Files: September 2017

In this month’s Sovereign Files, a man shoots at numerous law enforcement personnel and shuts down a highway over a dispute about his driveway, a fake psychic skips his own sentencing hearing to watch the eclipse, and a New Hampshire politician who refused to pay his traffic ticket calls a judge a “private profit making corporation” and says her court has no authority over him.

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, using paper terrorism to achieve their agendas and commit crimes under the mistaken hope or 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 freedoms were infringed upon.

CALIFORNIA

JOSHUA “BUCK” BROWN

What started as a court judgement over a driveway turned into an all out manhunt when Lake County man Buck Brown decided the rules didn’t apply to him and started shooting at the people tasked with enforcing them. Brown was in a longstanding dispute with his neighbor over a driveway, which was eventually adjudicated by the court. He was ordered to share the driveway and instead of complying, Brown created a new, illegal driveway on his property with an entrance off the local highway. He also put pieces of concrete on the shared driveway so no one could use it.

On the morning of August 14, Caltrans attempted to remove Brown’s illegal easement and was met with yelling by Brown, followed by gunshots, which were directed at Caltrans workers, highway patrol officers, and County Supervisor Rob Brown who is also a neighbor.

Brown took off on foot after shooting at a California State Parks officer. A manhunt for Brown ensued, the highway was closed near his home and residents were asked to shelter in place. Six hours later Brown was apprehended and charged with two counts of felony threats, two counts of negligent discharge of a firearm and two counts of assault with a firearm on a peace officer.


Joshua "Buck" Brown.

SEAN AND MELISSA MORTON

In January 2015, the Sean and Melissa Morton of Hermosa Beach were indicted by a grand jury on conspiracy to defraud the United States and related charges based on the couple’s repeated attempts to swindle the U.S. government and other entities.

The Mortons completed their 2005 through 2008 tax returns using information they knew to be false, including their filing status and income amounts. As a result, the IRS issued refunds to the couple that they were not entitled to.

Additionally, the Mortons submitted false financial documents to the IRS, the California Franchise Tax Board, county tax collectors and student loan and mortgage companies, which they attempted to pass off as legitimate. Sean presented a “Coupon for Setoff, Settlement and Closure” for $5,286,867.75 to the IRS. Melissa submitted one for $44,500. They also proffered “Non-Negotiable Discharging Bond and Indemnity” documents in the amounts of $10 million and $600,000, respectively.

The Mortons not only used these sovereign tactics for their own gain, but Sean taught others how to do it as well, telling his customers that all their debt would be eliminated. Sean was arrested in February, 2017, right after teaching one of these classes to a group of self-proclaimed conspiracy theorists.

The couple’s case went to trial and in April, 2017, they were found guilty on all counts. Sean responded by filing sovereign documents with the court, including lawsuits against prosecutors.

These actions did not amuse the Department of Justice, which recommended that the “Court here should determine the real consequences to taking actions designed to thwart the court system and the proper administration of justice, by finding that the defendant has engaged in obstructionist behaviors to impede the prosecution and sentencing of this matter, and increase his level by 2 levels.” They also requested that Sean be taken into custody directly after his sentencing hearing had concluded.

The court might have obliged, but Sean never showed up for his sentencing hearing on June 19, 2017, choosing to go on the lam instead. During that time, he posted on Twitter, appeared on an internet radio show and a YouTube show, then went to watch the eclipse with his wife at Desert Hot Springs Resort and Spa. He had checked in under the name of a man who had the screen rights to his books, Wm Alan Pezzuto, a producer and photographer who once had an altercation with his pet tiger that temporarily lost him the use of his hand.

Despite the alias, IRS Special Agents tracked the couple down on August 21, 2017. Sean and Melissa — who violated the conditions of her bail, which stipulated that she have no contact with Sean — were arrested and taken into the custody of U.S. Marshals.

The Department of Justice wrote in a September 6 memorandum that “From the date this criminal case was instituted against him and his wife to the date of their capture, defendant has willingly obstructed this proceeding.” They recommended Sean Morton serve 109 months in prison with five years of supervised release and pay a special assessment of $2,900 and $480,322.55 in restitution.

Sean and Melissa are being held without bond. Neither has been sentenced yet, but Melissa’s hearing date is set for September 19, 2017.

This is not the first time the Mortons have been in trouble with the law. In 2010, Sean was purporting to be a psychic called “America’s Prophet,” and he and Melissa solicited investors for his Delphi Investment Group by telling them that he could predict the stock market. The Securities and Exchange Commission found that his claims were demonstrably false and that the Mortons had diverted approximately $500,000 from the fund into their other companies, enriching themselves in the process.

In 2013, Sean was ordered to pay $11.5 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The Mortons responded in that case with sovereign rhetoric including the claim that the SEC had no jurisdiction over them.


Sean David and Melissa Morton.

MICHAEL C. SCHOOL

A commercial lien was filed against the Grass Valley Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customer service office by Michael C. School on August 21. This is his most recent action against PG&E in a battle that he has been waging for the past two years. It began in 2015 when School refused to pay his electric bill, which he called a monthly extortion fee. This led to his demand that PG&E remove all smart meters from within 400 yards of his home.

School claimed in the sovereign document titled “Constitutional Criminal Complaint Affidavit of Fact” that PG&E was “hindering [his] life, liberty and pursuit of Happiness with smartmeter Radiation & Surveillance.” He asserted that he was entitled to damages from them and the sheriff, including daily recurring fees, all payable in silver. He also requested the assistance of common law council in the matter.

When School did not hear back from PG&E for two months he doubled down, filing a lien against them for $15 million, reasoning that the employee he sent his demand letter to “stipulated liability with her silence.” He also filed an “affidavit of truth” alleging that the sheriff was in default of his oath of office and he and two PG&E employees were in breach of contract.

The latest lien threatens to foreclose on the property where PG&E’s Grass Valley office is located if they don’t pay their debt to School, which, according to the first lien and rate schedule is somewhere around $15 million and 1.8 billion ounces of silver.

INDIANA

CHRISTOPHER C. BYRNE

Christopher C. Byrne, who claimed he was a sovereign national, was arrested after driving around a parking lot with a loaded rifle, clip, ammo and bleach bomb ingredients.  

He was arrested for habitually violating traffic regulations and charged with illegally possessing weapons and ammunition. After pleading guilty to two counts, Byrne was sentenced to 37 months in prison on September 11, 2017.

ILLINOIS

CHERRON PHILLIPS/RIVER TALI BEY

When Moor Cherron Phillips aka River Tali Bey’s brother was tried on drug conspiracy charges several years back, she disrupted the proceedings, was permanently ejected from the courtroom and barred from filing documents related to his case.

Phillips, who in 1988 had a child with Orlando Magic basketball star Nick Anderson, sought to avenge her brother’s conviction by filing billions of dollars in fraudulent liens against a number of individuals in the criminal justice system. This included federal judges, prosecutors, miscellaneous officials and a court clerk who received a lien in the amount of $100 billion, which Phillips claimed was owed to her brother.

Phillips was tried on 12 counts of retaliating against federal officials by filing false liens. Her charges were based on the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 which sought to “improve judicial security for court officers and safeguard judges and their families.”

The law was created after the murders of multiple state judges, a court reporter, sheriff’s deputy and family members of Illinois Judge Joan Henry Lefkow. Lefkow’s mother and husband were murdered by lone wolf Bart Ross just three years after she was personally targeted for assassination by white supremacist Matt Hale of the Church of the Creator. Judge Lefkow also presided over the trial of Phillips’ brother.

During Phillips’ own trial, she represented herself, refused to recognize the legal process and filed a number of frivolous documents. One was a complaint against a number of judges, the prosecutor in her case, former Attorney general Erik Holder and former FBI Director James Comey. Phillips alleged that they were unlawfully detaining her and sent a judge a “Common Law Bill of Indictment,” which sovereigns believe is a legitimate process for indicting someone.

The judges in Phillips’ district were either targeted by her or associated with someone who was. As a result, her case was reassigned multiple times and the court of appeals for the Seventh Circuit was eventually forced to designate a judge from the Southern district to oversee the case.

Phillips was found guilty on 10 counts.

Before the judge handed down a sentence, he did extrajudicial research on the sovereign citizen movement in order to understand “the nature and circumstances of the offense” since he was unfamiliar with it. Then he issued a memorandum based on his findings, which described her as a paper terrorist and handed down an above-guideline sentence because the complaint she filed was not only retaliatory, but an “attempt to obstruct or impede the administration of justice.”

In October 2014, Phillips received seven years in prison for her crimes. She challenged her conviction, but was ultimately unsuccessful.  In August of 2017, her conviction was affirmed. 


Chevron Phillips. Photo by Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune.

NEVADA

THOMAS BENSON

April’s Sovereign Files reported that Thomas Benson of Las Vegas faced charges including interfering with a public officer and case interference. In August he was indicted on two counts of preventing or dissuading a person from testifying or producing evidence, two counts of interfering with a public officer and two counts of bribing or intimidating a witness to influence testimony.

Benson filed paperwork in federal court alleging that the Superior Court of the “united States of America (Continental)” which Benson believes he is a citizen of, had found the lead detective on his case, Detective Kenneth Mead in contempt, as well as filing a “ruling and judgement” against him. Benson fined Detective Mead a total of $50,500 in his filings.

His associate Marina Calove, who considers herself a Supreme Court Judge and signed off on some of Benson’s filings, was also indicted.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

DICK MARPLE

New Hampshire has voted in more than one State Representative who claims sovereign citizenship or is affiliated with those who do. One is Susan DeLemus, who served two terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She is a birther who thinks the Pope is the anti-Christ, and is married to convicted felon Jerry DeLemus who worked security during the Battle of Bunkerville. He is currently serving a prison sentence for interstate travel in aid of extortion and conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S.

Another is Dick Marple who represents the Merrimack District of New Hampshire. Marple is serving his fifth term despite his clear sovereign stance. When asked in a candidate survey whether the legislature should have more control over school funding, Marple began by saying “The so-called courts, which they are not, as they are acting as 'Administrative Tribunals' in a commercial venue, and do not adjudicate law.”

Marple failed to pay taxes for two years, claiming he was exempt, which lead to the town of Hookset taking ownership of his property in 2016. Marple also refused to pay the court fine for a 2014 traffic stop, which led to the suspension of his driver’s license. Marple’s case went to trial, but he failed to appear causing the court to issue a bench warrant for the errant Representative.

The police finally caught up with Marple on Election Day 2016, as he was waving campaign signs outside a local polling place. Marple was arrested that day, but was also elected to a new term in office. Shortly after, in January 2017, he introduced a bill in the State House “Eliminating the bureau of certificate of title and providing for the criminal prosecution for its supervisor.” This would effectively end vehicle registration in New Hampshire and jail or fine what Marple described as “the culprits that have unlawfully trespassed upon the people's right to travel and committed the common law crime of unlawful conversion of people's private property.” His committee, with a vote of 19 to 1 considered it inexpedient to legislate.

Marple’s many sovereign hijinks may have remained local news had a video of Marple’s April 2017 trial not gone viral.  Marple can be seen yelling at the judge, claiming that she has no jurisdiction because she has not filled out his “affidavit of truth,” calling her a “private profit making corporation” and telling her that he does not need to have a license. The very patient judge explained to Marple that she was following the laws like those he and his fellow legislators created and urged him to participate in his trial. Marple refused, saying he would not participate in a fraud and told the judge to recuse herself.

The judge continued to try and reason with Marple, but eventually, she left the bench and walked out of the courtroom. Marple then says “As she walks out and is defeated by being the first one to leave the battleground” and his supporters in the audience applaud.

The judge issued Marple his sentence by mail which included $310 in fines, all suspended provided he had no vehicle infractions in the subsequent six months.


Dick Marple. Photo credit Josh Rogers/NHPR.

WISCONSIN

JAMES STUART, JR.

The August 2017 Sovereign Files reported that sovereign citizen tax protestor James Stuart, Jr., failed to appear at is his probation revocation hearing and U.S. Marshals had to track him down.

Stuart appeared at the rescheduled hearing where he was sentenced to 17 months of supervised release, with the possibility of serving 12 if he petitions for early termination of his probation and the request is approved. Stuart is also required to follow the law in regards to any past due or future tax returns. The judge made this a condition of his release.