Well-known advocate for far-right ‘common law’ system sponsors legislation that would officially sanction pseudo-legal ‘contracts’ in state system.
New Hampshire has a long and unfortunate history of experience with sovereign citizens, dating back to the 1990s, when the radical antigovernment movement attracted a following in the state’s rural areas that culminated with a tragic shooting rampage.
The movement’s adherents, however, have lingered on the state’s fringes so long, and attracted enough followers in the intervening years, that now some of them not only have won election to the state’s Legislature, but are now introducing bills that would protect and enhance sovereign citizens’ extremist “constitutional” beliefs.
A sovereign citizen legislator from Hookset named Richard “Dick” Marple sponsored the bill, HB 1653, which would essentially protect such common activities by movement followers as filing phony liens against state and local government officials. If passed, not only would sovereign citizens have their imaginary “contracts” under which they file these liens recognized, but any municipality refusing to play along could be fined $10,000 by the state.
The bill uses the typically arcane and obscure language common to sovereign citizens’ pseudo-legal filings:
All contracts with sovereign "inhabitants" defined under Part II Article 30 of the New Hampshire Constitution and sojourners in this Republic shall have all elements of any contract being offered, fully and completely disclosed and explained; particularly those contracts involving an ens legis or strawman, as commonly referred. A sovereign inhabitant will be harmed by any unrevealed element if such inhabitant does not reserve his or her rights under RSA 382-A:1-103 and RSA 382-A:1-308; therefore these 2 citations are to be included above the signature line on the contract, with the words "all rights reserved" or "without prejudice RSA 382-A:1-306, RSA 382-A:1-103, UCC 1-103, UCC 1-308."
The bill goes on to stipulate that “the failure of any corporation to provide full disclosure of all elements of every contract as required by paragraph I shall result in the forfeiture of $10,000 to the state treasury.”
Marple pre-filed the bill in November. It will go before the Legislature in January 2018.
Among the state’s sovereign citizen contingent, Marple, an 85-year-old Republican with multiple stints in the Legislature, is something of a venerated figure, since he has been promoting the ideology since his earlier stints in the assembly dating back to 1999. Most recently he achieved a kind of notoriety for getting arrested over his refusal to buy a drivers license, and then haranguing the district-court judge at his hearing on the matter (which he eventually lost).
Marple previously had introduced a bill in the State House, in January 2017, that would have effectively ended vehicle registration in New Hampshire, while simultaneously jailing or fining 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.” The bill died in committee.
When he came to trial in April 2017, Marple created a classic sovereign-citien-style spectacle in the courtroom, yelling at the judge, claiming she had no jurisdiction because she had not filled out his “affidavit of truth,” calling her a “private profit making corporation,” warning her that she had been “convicted” of violations by a common-law court, and assuring her that he did not need to have a license. Despite the judge’s patient persistence in inviting Marple to participate in his trial, he refused, calling the proceedings a “fraud.”
As the judge left the courtroom, Marple turned to his supporters and claimed victory: “As she walks out and is defeated by being the first one to leave the battleground,” he said. Supporters in the audience applauded.
Two weeks later, 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.
One of Marple’s biggest supporters in spreading the sovereign-citizen ideology has been Ian Bernard “Freeman,” a Keene, New Hampshire.-based supporter of the movement who operates the website FreeKeene.com and whose video of Marple haranguing the judge went viral.
Freeman is a onetime libertarian activist who came to the state as part of the “Free State Project” and hosts a nationally syndicated Internet radio show, Free Talk Live, that at one time regularly promoted the project, in addition to running the website. The Free State Project is a libertarian initiative that urged adherents of the ideology to move to a single state that could become a model of the movement, with New Hampshire the chosen state; to date, it has boasted only modest success, though a number of legislators have been elected under its banner.
But then Freeman opined on air about age-of-consent laws – he doesn’t believe there should be any — and was given the boot from Free State Project, which severed all ties with him. Shortly afterward, police raided Freeman’s home amid rumors of a child-porn investigation, but no charges ever emerged from that raid, and Freeman has continued promoting sovereign-citizen ideology on his website.
One of Freeman’s former Free State Project cohorts, Christopher Cantwell, later gained national notoriety for his leading role in the “Unite the Right” event in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
Also, one of Marple’s co-sponsors on the current House bill, Rep. Ed Comeau, R-Brookfield, is a member of the Free State Project. When he ran in 2014, he promised to "construct the largest human network of surveillance on this government. My intent will be to put the power of the people to control their own destiny back in their hands. I will tirelessly work to ensure that the government is held accountable to the people."
New Hampshire’s unfortunate experience with sovereign citizens well precedes any involvement by the movement with the Free State Project, which began officially in 2005. In 1997, a sovereign citizen named Carl Drega went on a violent shooting rampage in which two police officers were killed and three more wounded, along with a judge and newspaper editor who were slain.