Torture-murders defendant takes sovereign citizen defense

An accused double-murderer — described as one of Florida’s most “notorious criminals”  — apparently now thinks he’s a sovereign citizen.

“I am a sovereign man … not a public figure,” Steven Lorenzo told a judge Wednesday in Tampa at his arraignment on murders charges related to the 2003 sadistic murders of two gay men who were drugged, raped, tortured and murdered.

Lorenzo, using a line straight out of the antigovernment sovereign citizen handbook, told the judge the court system and its laws were “fiction,” that he would represent himself, with no need of a court-appointed defense attorney.

Judge Mark Kiser asked Lorenzo if he really understood what he was doing, the Tampa Bay Times reported in today’s editions. The newspaper described Lorenzo as “one of the most notorious criminals in Tampa Bay history.”

“It's almost always unwise to represent yourself in court,” the judge told the 58-year-old accused murderer, who steadfastly maintained he didn’t want a lawyer.

“This is a fiction, corporate court,” Lorenzo told the judge. “I am not a corporate person. I am a living, breathing being.”

Lorenzo refused to enter pleas to the two murders charges. “I will not plea. I'm here to settle. I'm not here to plea.”

Nonetheless, the judge entered two not guilty pleas and set the next court date for late October.

Lorenzo has been in federal prison, serving a 200-year term, since his conviction in 2005 on nine counts of administering a date rape drug, GHB, and a 10th count of conspiring with Scott Paul Schweickert to commit violent crimes.

Last year, Schweickert pleaded guilty to murder charges brought in the deaths of Jason Galehouse and Michael Wachholtz, both 26, who were killed in 2003, the Tampa Bay newspaper reported.

As part of a plea bargain, Schweickert agreed to testify against Lorenzo in exchange for a life sentence. The murder charges recently were filed against Lorenzo, and he was transferred from federal custody to face the state charges.

Once returned to the Hillsborough County Jail, Lorenzo refused to have booking officers take his mug shot, and was ordered held in “administrative confinement,” denied phone and jail canteen privileges.

 “I guess he's decided he's now a sovereign citizen and wants to behave like one,” jail commander Kenneth Davis told the Tampa Bay newspaper.

Jail officials decided they wouldn’t force Lorenzo to sit for a mug shot, because he isn’t going anywhere. “Once he decides he wants candy bars, he'll let us take his picture,” the jail commander told the newspaper.

The brutality of the dismemberment, torture-murder case has gripped Tampa Bay for 14 years.

Schweickert met Lorenzo online in 2003 and the two discussed their interest in “bondage, torture and sadomasochistic sexual activity with men,” Schweickert’s plea agreement said. The two developed a plan to meet single gay men and make them “permanent slaves.”

“According to our plan and agreement, once we became tired of, or bored with, a ‘permanent slave,’ Steven Lorenzo and I would either sell the permanent slave to another practitioner of homosexual sadomasochism or kill” him, the plea deal said.

Schweickert admitting helping lure Galehouse and Wachholtz, on consecutive nights in December 2003, from a Tampa gay nightclub to Lorenzo's home in Seminole Heights, where they were given drug-laced drinks, sexually tortured and killed, the Tampa Bay newspaper reported last year.

Schweickert told investigators he helped Lorenzo dismember Galehouse's body with an electric saw and dispose of the parts in trash bins throughout the city. His remains were never recovered. Wachholtz' body was found in his abandoned Jeep in an apartment complex.

The case received widespread attention, with speculation that other gay men may have been victimized. 

Photo credit: Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Wire