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February 13, 2012 Off

Triple Murder Suspect Uses Sovereign Citizen Arguments in Court Hearing

Source: Mari­copa County Sheriff’s Office
Phoenix res­i­dent Michael Lee Crane, 31, charged with the mur­ders of an elderly cou­ple from Par­adise Val­ley, Ari­zona, and a sus­pect in a third mur­der, recently used argu­ments from the anti-government extrem­ist “sov­er­eign cit­i­zen” move­ment when appear­ing in court fol­low­ing his arrest. 
On Jan­u­ary 26, 2012, after being called to a fire at a res­i­dence, Phoenix police dis­cov­ered the body of a cigar sales­man, Bruce Gaudet, who had been shot to death. Sev­eral days later, police in Par­adise Val­ley, after find­ing a burn­ing car on Jan­u­ary 30 that belonged to Lawrence and Glenna Shapiro, went to their home to dis­cover it too was on fire. They also found the burned and bound bod­ies of the elderly Shapiros, who had been shot to death.   Pre­lim­i­nary bal­lis­tic reports sug­gest a match between the bul­let cas­ings in each incident.
Crane has been charged with two counts of first-degree mur­der (he has not yet been charged in con­nec­tion with the Gaudet mur­der), two counts of kid­nap­ping, two counts of armed rob­bery, one count of bur­glary, and one count of arson. Five other peo­ple have also been charged in con­nec­tion with the case, pri­mar­ily on charges of theft or traf­fick­ing in stolen prop­erty. 
On Feb­ru­ary 10, Crane and two other defen­dants appeared in a Mari­copa County court to deter­mine their bonds. Court­room video reveals that Crane attempted to use “sov­er­eign cit­i­zen” argu­ments in his appear­ance before the mag­is­trate. The sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment is an extreme right-wing anti-government move­ment that believes that the legit­i­mate gov­ern­ment was long ago infil­trated by a con­spir­acy and changed into an ille­git­i­mate, tyran­ni­cal gov­ern­ment. Con­se­quently, sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that this “ille­git­i­mate” gov­ern­ment has no author­ity or juris­dic­tion over them. In the past sev­eral years, the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment has been expe­ri­enc­ing a sig­nif­i­cant resur­gence of adher­ents and activ­ity, includ­ing crim­i­nal activ­ity. 
Asked by the judge for his name, Crane spelled his entire name out, spec­i­fy­ing upper and lower case letters—sovereign cit­i­zens believe that if their name is writ­ten in all upper case let­ters, it is actu­ally not refer­ring to their “flesh and blood” per­son. Crane also declined to have an attor­ney appointed for him, which is com­mon within the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. 
At the end of the pro­ceed­ing, the judge asked Crane if he had any ques­tions. Crane replied no, but that “I have a state­ment I’d like to make.”  He announced that he wanted to “reserve my right to Uni­form Com­mer­cial Code 1–207 and the Uni­form Com­mer­cial Code 1–103.”  Sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that the “con­spir­acy” replaced con­sti­tu­tional law with com­mer­cial law and that there­fore the Uni­form Com­mer­cial Code (UCC) gov­erns all legal mat­ters.  Many believe that all legal pro­ceed­ings are also com­mer­cial trans­ac­tions.  Almost all sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that they can avoid enter­ing into “com­merce” with the ille­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment by reserv­ing their rights under UCC 1–207 (now renum­bered to UCC1-308). 
The judge did not seem to rec­og­nize this com­mon sov­er­eign cit­i­zen ref­er­ence and merely informed Crane that the UCC did not apply.  Crane tried to get the judge to con­firm that his appear­ance was a “com­mer­cial affair,” but the judge reit­er­ated that it was actu­ally a crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing. “Mmm, okay,” Crane replied doubt­fully. “That’s what you say.”
It is pos­si­ble that Crane, who has a past crim­i­nal his­tory, became exposed to the argu­ments of the move­ment while incar­cer­ated, as the move­ment has been spread­ing rapidly in pris­ons and jails across the coun­try over the past decade.