In this month’s Sovereign Files, a sovereign was forcibly removed from her car by Florida sheriffs, a drug trafficker committed paper terrorism from his jail cell, and a longtime tax protestor with a predilection for aliens was evaluated as competent, rather than crazy.
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 Bundys 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.
Crystal Ross was driving in Indian River, Florida, when a sheriff’s deputy noticed that the license plate on her Nissan sedan was unique. It read, “Private,” and “No license plate or driver’s license required.”
After she was pulled over, Ross refused to follow the officers’ directions, stating that she was a sovereign citizen and fell under no jurisdiction.
The officers on the scene had to forcibly remove Ross from the vehicle. They subsequently learned that her car was unregistered and that although she carried a driver’s license, it was suspended.
It turned out that Ross had been convicted of driving on a suspended license in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and her current suspension wouldn’t be up until 2019.
Ross was arrested and booked into Indian River County jail for knowingly driving on a suspended license, failing to register her car and non-violently resisting arrest.
Winston Shrout has been a leader in the sovereign citizen movement for decades, and this time his crimes have caught up with him. He is awaiting sentencing in a case that was brought against him by the state of Oregon in 2016. A grand jury found that Shrout was attempting to defraud financial institutions by using fake financial documents that he claimed had a monetary value. Shrout would send these documents to the U.S. treasury and financial institutions on behalf of himself and others. He also shared information on the process by teaching seminars, holding private consultations and in materials he sold on his website.
Shrout was convicted in 2017, but his sentencing was delayed, pending an evaluation of his competency. A court-appointed psychiatrist found him competent despite his belief in sovereign citizenship, his theory that he was sent to Earth to “destroy the Jesuits” and his certitude that he is currently a part of a galactic roundtable of humans and aliens. The doctor found that his beliefs were in line with certain subcultures and “Mr. Shrout's function is completely preserved.”
Shrout has remained free pending sentencing, but a prosecutor asked the court to remand him into custody on Sept. 27, 2018 for violating the conditions of his release. It had come to their attention that the defendant was planning a new seminar, scheduled for Oct. 19, 2018, which he had advertised on his website. The judge set Shrout’s sentencing for Oct. 22, and strictly reprimanded him against holding the seminar, but allowed him to remain free.
New York’s Attorney General Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) worked on an 11-month investigation known as Operation Gravy Train, during which 106 individuals were indicted for their parts in a drug trafficking scheme.
One of those arrested was Shaka Williams of Plymouth, New York. Williams was alleged to be a supplier of narcotics to residents of St. Lawrence County for additional distribution in the area. He was charged with second degree conspiracy, two counts of second degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia, two counts of third degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and fourth degree criminal possession of a weapon.
During his arraignment on June 13, 2017, Williams told the court he was a private and sovereign citizen and claimed they did not have jurisdiction over him.
While back in court on July 10, 2017, Williams made similar claims. This led the judge, Jerome Richards of St. Lawrence County, to state: “You want to challenge the court’s jurisdiction, we are not going to do it by word of mouth. … You file a motion and I will issue a written decision.”
Williams interrupted proceedings again during a Jan. 18, 2018 hearing, telling the court that he was not Mr. Williams, but a representative for him and that he did not consent to the hearing. The judge responded: “It doesn’t matter to me. If you want to go on with this foolishness, you go right ahead, because that is what it is.”
What was not yet evident was that William’s foolishness was even more extreme. The same day Williams was in court, July 10, 2017, he had filed a lien against Judge Richards, and filed a second one on Dec. 18, 2017 totaling $4.5 million. Williams bragged about the liens during his phone calls from jail, claiming he did it to make the judge’s “life miserable.” On June 21, 2018, Judge Richards recused himself due to the conflict of interest.
Williams was back in court on Aug. 16, 2018 with Judge Robert Main overseeing his Operation Gravy Train case, as well as the additional charges related to the paper terrorism. During the court appearance, Main remanded Williams into custody denying him bail.