In this month’s Sovereign Files, a Utah sovereign citizen has a standoff with police, a sovereign guru gets hard time, a man in Louisiana claims to have monkey blood in his possession and Ryan Bundy sues the U.S. Attorney General and four former members of the government.
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 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. Others have resorted to violence, including acts of domestic terrorism, when they felt their freedoms were infringed upon.
Neil Andre Butler
On Oct. 26, Neil Andre Butler of Jacksonville, Fla., was sentenced to 15 months behind bars for possessing and passing fraudulent U.S. Treasury checks.
Butler was a real estate investor who borrowed money to flip houses, with the hope of making a profit. He was unsuccessful. To pay his creditors, he sent them more than $250,000 in bogus checks.
His activities came to the attention of the FBI, who investigated. Butler was prosecuted and went through a bench trial. According to the State Attorney’s office he used multiple sovereign citizen defenses during his trial, including denying that the court held jurisdiction over his case.
Ernie Clay Hargrove
On November 4, Ernie Clay Hargrove was approached by police in Sterlington, Louisiana, while taking photographs of cars inside a parking lot.
Hargrove told an officer that he was looking for his cars, which he valued at over $250,000. He also volunteered that he was a sovereign citizen.
The officer observed that Hargrove’s eyes were dilated and his speech was incoherent.
The officer gave Hargrove a pat down and found two unknown substances, one a liquid and one a powder, Hargrove told the officer the powder was Comet cleaner and the liquid was monkey blood.
Hargrove was taken into custody and charged with disturbing the peace.
Ryan Bundy, who famously participated in two armed standoffs against the government, one at his family ranch in Nevada and one at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, is currently suing members of the federal government.
This includes the current and former Attorneys General Jeff Sessions, Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder, former FBI Director James Comey and former Director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze.
Bundy uses some sovereign terminology in the lawsuit, calling himself “a natural man, who at all times was and is a Nevada State nations [sic], who lives upon the land known as Nevada.” Bundy alleges these individuals conspired to violate his civil rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He claims he was “subject to stereotyping and subsequent prosecution by Defendants in retaliation for their exercise of his Faith and membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” which he says burdened his faith.
Bundy filed the lawsuit Oct. 31, with the assistance of his counsel, right-wing lawyer, conspiracy theorist and antigovernment extremist Larry Klayman. He is demanding a jury trial.
The plaintiff’s response to show cause is due Nov. 21.
Two years after Sovereign guru Winston Shrout was indicted for attempting to defraud financial institutions and the U.S. Treasury, he was sentenced for his crimes.
Shrout was sentenced to ten years, half the time the prosecutor requested. The judge noted that for Shrout, 70, this could be a life sentence. Shrout’s sentence will begin on Nov. 25.
David D’Addabbo of Logan, Utah, was stopped for traffic violations, including a homemade license plate. He was already well known to law enforcement. He sent regular letters to his local paper that included sovereign citizen themes, served time in prison for threatening a government agent and previously threatened to get into a shootout with police.
As a result, the officer who stopped D’Addabbo was extremely cautious, which turned out to be necessary. D’Addabbo refused to cooperate and the routine traffic stop became a two-hour standoff at the local 7-Eleven During that time, D’Addabbo said he would rather die than go to jail, according to Capt. Tyson Budge of the Logan Police Department.
Police brought in the sheriff of Cache County to mediate the standoff. For many sovereign citizens, the county sheriff is the highest level of authority they will recognize. D’Addabbo agreed to surrender to the sheriff. His truck was impounded, he was issued a citation and he may be charged with additional crimes, depending on the outcome of an investigation into his actions.