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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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February 13, 2012 0

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.

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