Convictions piling up against 'common-law' crew

State prosecutors in Colorado have obtained guilty pleas or convictions against five of nine antigovernment sovereign citizens and common-law court activists accused of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy against assorted elected public officials.

Following a superseding indictment returned in June, prosecutors have struck plea deals with two of the defendants who have agreed to testify as prosecution witnesses against their former common-law associates.

The case is of national significance because the accused ringleader of the bogus “People’s Grand Jury” operation, Bruce Doucette, has been instrumental in setting up common-law courts and sovereign citizen networks in several states including Alaska, Colorado, Florida and Hawaii.

Doucette, who calls himself the “Superior Court Judge of the Continental uNited States of America,” also showed up in Oregon in January 2016 and met with Ammon Bundy and others who illegally took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. 

Doucette publicly said he went to join the Bundys and their militia supporters in Oregon to convene an “extra-legal citizen’s grand jury” to review “significant evidence” that public officials had committed crimes.

When nothing significant came from that, Doucette returned to Colorado where, in just a matter of months, he was facing real-life grand jury charges himself in a case brought by the Colorado State Attorney General.

The 56-year-old computer repair shop owner is scheduled to stand trial in February in Denver. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Doucette and eight of his common-law court disciples were charged in mid-June in a superseding indictment returned in Denver by an actual grand jury. The indictment accuses the defendants of multiple criminal counts including racketeering, attempting to influence a public servant, extortion, criminal impersonation, retaliation against judges and tax evasion. 

The indictment alleges members of the group filed false liens against various public officials, threatened to arrest them on treason charges and distributed defamatory flyers near their private homes if they were involved in court cases with members of the “People’s Grand Jury.”

Members of the ‘racketeering enterprise’ collaborated with each other “as part of a long-term scheme and endeavor” to attempt to influence various public servants, including Colorado state and municipal court judges, prosecutors, sheriffs, county commissioners and other public officials involved with legal matters with the defendants.

At the initial stage of the effort, a member of the group would file a grievance with a self-appointed “grand jury administrator,” such as Stephen Nalty. The complainant would then use that grievance as the basis to file a demand, notice, order or writ designed to oust the public officials from office or to dismiss a bona fide, pending legal action, the indictment said.

If the public officials didn’t respond, the People’s Grand Jury would then file “criminal complaints” and “consensual commercial liens” against the targets of their antigovernment wrath. “Besides Mr. Nalty, these documents were often signed or filed by Bruce Doucette,” the indictment says.

Since the filing of criminal charges last summer, prosecutors in the state attorney general’s office have secured jury convictions or guilty pleas one at a time. Co-defendant Steven Dean Byfield was convicted by a jury of 25 of the 26 felony counts he faced. On November 15 he was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Co-defendant Stephen Nalty was convicted on all 36 counts he faced and is expected to receive a lengthy prison sentence when he’s sentenced next week.

Brian Baylog also was involved in the scheme to bring phony criminal charges against public officials, and pleaded guilty to separate counts of attempting to influence a public servant, criminal extortion and retaliation against a judge. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Co-defendant Harlan Smith pled guilty to criminal extortion and was sentenced to probation in exchange for agreeing to testify against the remaining defendants, including Doucette.

Prosecutors also struck a plea deal with Janis Blease who pleaded guilty to tax evasion and offering a false instrument for recording. She also was given a probationary sentence after agreeing to assist prosecutors and testify in the trials against Nalty and Byfield.

Co-defendant Laurence Goodman is scheduled to stand trial on January 8. A trial date for David Coffelt is expected to be set at a hearing in December.

The ninth defendant, Steven Curry, was arrested in New Mexico where he faces unrelated criminal charges and eventual extradition back to Colorado according to a spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General’s office.