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April 20, 2012 0

Georgia Passes Tougher Bogus Lien Law

A new mea­sure came into force in Geor­gia this week, when Gov­er­nor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 997, mak­ing it a felony to file bogus liens against pub­lic offi­cials and law enforce­ment offi­cers. The act amends the Geor­gia code to cre­ate a new crime, that of mak­ing false lien state­ments against pub­lic offi­cers or pub­lic employ­ees, and pro­vides a pun­ish­ment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
The bill had orig­i­nally been spon­sored by a group of Repub­li­can state rep­re­sen­ta­tives and received strong bipar­ti­san sup­port in both the Geor­gia House and Sen­ate. The aim of the bill was to help counter the grow­ing prob­lems caused by the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment, an extreme right-wing anti-government move­ment whose adher­ents believe that cur­rent gov­ern­ments are ille­git­i­mate and have no author­ity over them. Though the move­ment has existed since the 1970s, in the past few years it has expe­ri­enced a sur­pris­ing resur­gence, includ­ing a growth of vio­lent and crim­i­nal activity.

Por­tion of doc­u­ment filed by Robert Eugene Stephens
attempt­ing to copy­right his own name,
a com­mon sov­er­eign cit­i­zen tactic

Though the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment has a strong asso­ci­a­tion with vio­lence, it has an even stronger asso­ci­a­tion with what has come to be called “paper terrorism”—the use of bogus legal fil­ings or doc­u­ments or the mis­use of actual ones in order to harass, intim­i­date, or retal­i­ate against per­ceived enemies.

For 30 years, bogus liens have been one of the most pop­u­lar paper ter­ror­ism tac­tics, often used to harass police offi­cers, pros­e­cu­tors, offi­cials, and judges with whom sov­er­eign cit­i­zens come into con­tact. To give one recent Geor­gia exam­ple, in Octo­ber 2011 Geor­gia Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion agents arrested sov­er­eign cit­i­zen Robert Eugene Stephens of Min­eral Bluff on 12 crim­i­nal counts related to a series of bogus liens Stephens allegedly filed against a vari­ety of local and state offi­cials, includ­ing a county clerk, a local judge and her sec­re­tary, the county tax com­mis­sioner, and even the Speaker of the Geor­gia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives (which prob­a­bly didn’t hurt the chance the sub­se­quent law had of passing).

A num­ber of states still don’t have bogus lien laws on their books, while the laws of other states make the crime only a mis­de­meanor and some states with bogus lien laws have been lax in enforc­ing them. The result has been a flood of bogus liens across the entire coun­try in the past sev­eral years.

The Geor­gia law could still be strength­ened fur­ther, as it does not pro­tect pri­vate cit­i­zens and busi­nesses, who also can be the vic­tim of bogus liens filed by sov­er­eign cit­i­zens.

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March 30, 2012 0

Hutaree Militia Verdict Shows Sedition Charges Risky

In a rebuke to fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Vic­to­ria Roberts on March 27 threw out sedi­tious con­spir­acy charges against seven Michi­gan mili­tia mem­bers whom the gov­ern­ment had accused in 2010 of plot­ting to start a war with the U.S. government.

Only weapons charges remained against two defendants–David Stone, Sr., the leader of the so-called Huta­ree Mili­tia, and his son, Joshua Stone—and they pleaded guilty the fol­low­ing day to pos­sess­ing a machine gun. Accord­ing to Roberts, though there was evi­dence to con­clude that “some­thing fishy” was going on, the gov­ern­ment did not present enough evi­dence to prove that defen­dants had “reached a con­crete agree­ment to forcibly oppose the United States government.”

The Huta­ree case illus­trated vividly how prob­lem­atic the very issue of sedition—currently defined in U.S. law as a con­spir­acy to over­throw or destroy the U.S. gov­ern­ment, to oppose by force its author­ity, or to delay by force the exe­cu­tion of U.S. laws—is in the United States. From the very first sedi­tion law, the Sedi­tion Act of 1798, such acts have been highly con­tro­ver­sial. One of the major prob­lems has always been dis­tin­guish­ing between speech and conduct—it is for this very rea­son that cur­rent sedi­tion law spec­i­fies “by force,” though it has not made attempts to imple­ment the law much easier.

In recent decades, another rea­son why sedi­tion tri­als are often prob­lem­atic is that increas­ingly jurors find it dif­fi­cult to believe that defen­dants could have pos­si­bly thought they could suc­cess­fully wage war against the gov­ern­ment. After the Huta­ree trial, one of the jurors told a reporter that “I was shocked by their effort to bring the defen­dants to trial…Do you think a group that small can go up against the mighty U.S. government?”

The mod­ern track record of sedi­tion cases in the United States has been rel­a­tively poor. In 1941, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment indicted 28 union activists and left-wing extrem­ists for vio­la­tions of the Sedi­tion Act and a related act, the Smith act, but the jury acquit­ted all of the defen­dants of the sedi­tion charge. In 1944, 30 right-wing extrem­ists and Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers were accused of vio­lat­ing the same acts, but their lengthy trial ended in a mis­trial. In one of the few suc­cess­ful sedi­tion cases, a num­ber of rad­i­cal Puerto Rican lib­er­a­tion activists were con­victed of sedi­tious con­spir­acy in the mid-1980s for an exten­sive ter­ror­ist campaign.

How­ever, in 1987, 14 promi­nent white suprema­cists charged with sedi­tious con­spir­acy were acquit­ted in what came to be called the “Fort Smith Sedi­tion Trial.” In 1995, Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” and nine other Mus­lim extrem­ists were con­victed of sedi­tious con­spir­acy for plans to com­mit a vari­ety of ter­ror­ist acts in the greater New York area, as well as other vio­lent acts actu­ally committed.

The his­tory of sedi­tion cases in the United States sug­gests that other types of con­spir­acy or other crim­i­nal charges might well be a bet­ter pros­e­cu­tion strat­egy when deal­ing with extremist-related plots and conspiracies.

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March 28, 2012 2

Alleged Cop-Killer May Be Anti-Government Extremist

Source: Ogden Standard-Examiner
In the lat­est twist to a deadly shootout that stunned the res­i­dents of Ogden, Utah, a recently revealed search war­rant affi­davit pro­vides evi­dence that sug­gests the defen­dant, Matthew David Stew­art, 37, may have been an anti-government extremist.
The shootout began on Jan­u­ary 4, 2012, after police launched a raid on Stewart’s res­i­dence to exe­cute a search warrant—an infor­mant had alleged he was grow­ing mar­i­juana (16 plants were report­edly later found).  Accord­ing to police, Stew­art hid, open­ing fire on offi­cers as they searched his res­i­dence.  Six offi­cers were hit, some more than once, and Ogden police offi­cer Jared Fran­com was wounded fatally.  Stew­art allegedly con­tin­ued fir­ing as the offi­cers fled the res­i­dence.  Police even­tu­ally wounded and sub­dued him in a back­yard shed. 
Stew­art was charged with aggra­vated mur­der, seven counts of attempted aggra­vated mur­der, and pro­duc­tion of a con­trolled sub­stance in a “drug free zone,” along with a dan­ger­ous weapons enhancement.
In March, author­i­ties released an affi­davit explain­ing the results of the search.  Accord­ing to the affi­davit, Stewart’s for­mer girl­friend said that Stew­art was “into” con­spir­acy the­o­ries and that he believed the fed­eral gov­ern­ment had no right to col­lect taxes (the pri­mary belief of the anti-government extrem­ist tax protest move­ment).  She claimed that he had not paid his own fed­eral or state taxes since 2005 and that, if he were “forced” to pay taxes, he would “kill IRS employ­ees.”  Accord­ing to the girl­friend, Stew­art claimed that Okla­homa City bomber Tim­o­thy McVeigh was “misunderstood.”
The affi­davit fur­ther claimed that police recov­ered “computer-generated doc­u­ments” related to anti-government extrem­ism, anti-police Web sites, Okla­homa City bomb­ing Web sites, instruc­tions for mak­ing potas­sium chlo­ride (used in explo­sives), and a map to the clos­est IRS build­ing (where Stew­art once worked as a secu­rity guard), among other items.  Accord­ing to the affi­davit, police also dis­cov­ered “what appeared to be the mak­ings of a bomb,” which were later removed and det­o­nated by the bomb squad. 
Last sum­mer, accord­ing to police, Stew­art had allegedly told some­one that if police ever raided him, he would “go out in a blaze of glory and shoot to kill.”  After the release of the affi­davit, a neigh­bor of Stewart’s told a local tele­vi­sion sta­tion that Stew­art had allegedly talked about mov­ing to Mon­tana and “get[ting] myself a compound.”
Offi­cer Fran­com was the first police offi­cer to have been killed by a sus­pected domes­tic extrem­ist since May 2010, when two West Mem­phis, Arkansas, offi­cers were killed by anti-government “sov­er­eign cit­i­zens.”  Since 2000, 27 police offi­cers have been killed in the United States by domes­tic extremists. 

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