Sovereign citizen Bruce Doucette sentenced to 38 years in prison

One of the nation’s most-notorious sovereign citizens, who toured the country teaching antigovernment extremists how to set up bogus “common law” courts, faces 38 years in prison for a long list of crimes committed against public officials.

Bruce A. Doucette — the self-appointed “Superior Court Judge of the Continental uNited States of America” and the guru behind a massive “paper terrorism” scheme — had little to say standing before a real judge Tuesday in a Denver courtroom.

"I am not consenting to anything,” the gray-haired former computer repair shop owner said softly, restrained in handcuffs secured to a waist chain, at sentencing before state District Court Judge Michael Spear from Colorado's 18 Judicial District.

That antigovernment defiance, however, didn’t stop the judge from proceeding to sentence Doucette to 38 years of consecutive prison time, based on a laundry list of convictions against him returned by a jury in March.

Prosecutors asked the judge to send Doucette to prison for no less than 45 years but appeared pleased that the term he received will likely be a life-sentence for the 57-year-old former computer repair shop owner from Littleton, Colorado.

Doucette was sentenced to serve 20 years for participating in a racketeering enterprise likened to organized crime. He was sentenced to an additional consecutive term of four years for retaliation against a judge; five years for retaliation against another judge; five years for attempting to influence a public servant and, finally, another four years for retaliation against a judge. 

He was given concurrent sentences on a host of other, similar charges.

When given the opportunity to address the court, Doucette told the sentencing judge: “May Yahweh have mercy on your soul.” Such religious references frequently are espoused by Christian Identity adherents and white supremacists — an ideology Doucette previously hasn’t expounded.

The successful prosecution of Doucette and his band of “sovereign citizens” in Colorado marks a significant push-back by law enforcement against antigovernment activists who file liens against public officials and their personal property, extort and threaten them with arrest.

For several years, the FBI has regarded sovereign citizens — who epitomize a total disregard of state and federal laws — as the most significant domestic terrorism threat in the United States.  And, in fact, several law enforcement officers have been killed by sovereign citizens.

Beyond not getting a driver’s license or vehicle plates, Doucette and his band of antigovernment outlaws took it to another level.

Robert S. Shapiro, the first assistant attorney general for Colorado, who prosecuted the case, told the court that Doucette and his fellow sovereigns used a three-tier approach.

First, they attempted to influence public officials — sheriff’s, prosecutors, judges, county officials to dismiss criminal cases against their associates. When those attempts went ignored, the sovereign citizens attempted to extort the public officials — threatening them with arrests by a band of self-appointed “Continental uNnited States Marshals” who counterfeit their own badges to hang around their necks.

At one point, the gang disrupted a court proceeding involving one of their associates — causing sheriff’s deputies to clear the courtroom. 

Finally, members of Doucette’s common-law court groups resorted to “retaliatory behavior,” including filing of liens against property owned by the assorted public officials in various Colorado counties, Shapiro told the sentencing judge.

Doucette, dressed in a green jail jumpsuit, rocked sideways in his courtroom chair as the prosecutor detailed the “true threat” the defendant and his associates represented with assorted legal filings, their own team of “U.S. Marshals” and even neighborhood handbills between 2015 and 2017 when the indictment was returned.

Some of the targeted public officials “blew off” the threats, sometimes even joking about the silliness of it all, while others desperately feared for themselves and their families, installing security systems, becoming more hyper-vigilant and even buying firearms, the prosecutor said.

The FBI describes sovereign citizens as criminals if they go beyond First Amendment protected speech and begin acting upon their beliefs. The lead prosecutor said Doucette’s gang met that bar.  

After obtaining a state grand jury indictment against Doucette and eight others, Shapiro personally was sued in U.S. District Court in Colorado — a case that was summarily dismissed as being spurious. “I was just doing my job, but their suit was dismissed” as frivolous, Shapiro said.

“The people who subscribe to sovereign ideology, who act out on that ideology, that constitutes a true threat, and that according to the FBI constitutes an act of domestic terrorism,” Shapiro told Hatewatchin a brief interview after the sentencing.

One of the victims of Doucette’s scheme was a local judge who believed her life and those of her family members were threatened. “He is a domestic terrorist,” the judge said her own victim-impact letter that Shapiro read to the court.

Doucette headed what he called “The People’s Grand Jury in Colorado” before he and eight of his common-law court disciples were indicted last June after running what charging documents described as a racketeering enterprise for three years.

Co-defendants, Stephen Nalty and Steven Byfield, both of whom played lesser roles than Doucette, previously have been sentenced to 36 and 22 years in prison, respectively.

The case, prosecuted by the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office, involved a major investigative effort by federal agents assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force in the FBI’s Denver field office.

Although it hasn’t been publicly explained, it appears the flexibility of using existing Colorado state laws — with substantial sentences — was easier and more expedient that using more cumbersome federal laws and prosecutions. Similar federal prosecutions against antigovernment extremists have resulted in array of disappointments — from dismissals of charges to acquittals.  

About three years ago, Doucette was identified as the leader of the common-law courts enterprise, as he traveled the country telling others how to set up such operations. He traveled from Colorado to Oregon during the January 2016 illegal occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and others. 

In Oregon, he hoped to set-up a common-law court that would issue indictments, get judgments and liens against various public officials, but his plan didn’t get much traction during the Malheur occupation.

Back in Colorado, his common-law court “enterprise” — described as a form of organized crime — involved an illegal, “long-term scheme” that attempted to influence and intimidate various public officials in Colorado. 

Targets of the enterprise included state and municipal court judges, prosecutors, sheriffs, and other public officials involved in legal matters involving the defendants. At one point, even Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was targeted.

In April 2017, a Colorado state grand jury returned a 40-count superseding indictment listing additional criminal predicate acts.

The indictment accused the defendants of multiple criminal counts including racketeering, attempting to influence public servants, extortion, criminal impersonation, retaliation against judges, forgery, mail fraud, filing false legal documents and tax evasion.

The participants filed a flurry of handcrafted documents they believed were legal, including writs of garnishment and commercial liens against assorted public office holders. At one point, the common law court gang boldly proclaimed a judge was “under citizen’s arrest.”

Without a defense attorney by his own choosing, Doucette testified in his own defense during a two-week jury trial that ended March 9 in Denver. 

Doucette told jurors he “wanted to restore the Republic and remove corruption that has enslaved” Americans, peppering his remarks with talk about the Declaration of Independent, the Bill of Rights and proud sovereign citizens like himself. He said his law comes from Yahweh and the 10 Commandments.