[Vision2020] ‘Sovereigns’ Choose Not to Follow Rule of Law

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Sun Jun 12 07:49:47 PDT 2011

Courtesy of today's (June 12, 2011) Spokesman-Review.


‘Sovereigns’ believe they have no reason to follow rule of law

Deputies were prepared for the worst as they stood by in a Spokane County
courtroom earlier this month during routine hearings for mostly low-level

Their focus was on one of the more benign cases – possession and
distribution of marijuana.

But it wasn’t the nature of the allegations that got their attention. It
was the defendant, a self-proclaimed “sovereign” who doesn’t consider
himself a citizen of the United States even though he was born and raised

Adrian B. Shannon, 30, is among a growing number of people who question
the legitimacy of federal, state and local government agencies and employ
a series of legal maneuvers they believe exempt them from driver’s
licenses and birth certificates, paying taxes, or even criminal charges.

“People call it a movement, but it’s individuals, literally sovereigns,
that are all learning, ‘Hey we don’t have to put up with these ridiculous
laws, because we are the government,’ ” Shannon said.

As the number of sovereigns increases, government officials are taking
notice and trying to prepare, particularly after the shooting deaths of
two police officers in Arkansas by a sovereign follower. Although no
regional breakdowns are available, experts estimate the sovereign movement
has about 300,000 followers nationally, and its popularity – fueled by
seminars and videos – is growing.

The FBI considers sovereigns to be potential anti-government terrorists.

“It’s certainly something we’re definitely concerned about,” said Frank
Harrill, agent in charge at the FBI’s Spokane office. “I don’t want to
criminalize the belief system. But clearly, individuals who espouse and
adhere to this ideology have in the past and continue in some instances to
act out violently.”

Last month, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office held a training seminar on
hate crimes that included a brief presentation on the sovereign movement.

Shannon contends officials are overreacting. In his court hearing
recently, he managed to irritate a Superior Court judge with a series of
questions, but he never became violent in the heavily secured courtroom.
Sovereign beliefs, though complicated and unusual, are rooted in history
and don’t call for violence, said Shannon.

Others disagree.

“These people can be bloody dangerous,” said Mark Potok, director of the
Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery,
Ala.-based nonprofit that tracks extremist groups.

Reliance on ‘paper terrorism’
Law enforcement officials from across the region gathered at the sheriff’s
training center in Spokane Valley last month for an all-day seminar by Joe
Roy, an investigator with the Southern Poverty Law Center. The focus was
hate groups, which Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said are on the rise locally,
but it included a talk on the sovereign movement.

Roy showed photos of local residents believed to be involved. The training
has drawn heavy criticism from ultraconservative groups worried about
government profiling, Knezovich said.

State Rep. Matt Shea and state Sen. Jeff Baxter attended the seminar,
Knezovich said.

Knezovich added he’s long known of the presence of sovereigns in the
region. Just last month, he was subpoenaed to appear in traffic court by a
sovereign contesting a speeding ticket. Knezovich said he simply was asked
under oath whether he had taken an oath of office, which he testified that
he had. The speeding ticket was upheld.

“It was just the oddest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he said.

Knezovich had been advised of Shannon and his courtroom tactics before
Shannon drew the ire of Superior Court Judge Michael Price on June 1. The
jail’s transport team requested extra security for Shannon’s hearing.

In the courtroom, Shannon questioned the judge and the legitimacy of the
court docket after being asked to approach the podium for his arraignment.

“I’m not the Mr. Shannon named on the docket,” Shannon said in court,
referring to a common contention among sovereigns that names written in
all capital letters – as they’re commonly listed in court documents –
represent a government-assigned, corporate entity rather than an

“Well, whatever your name is, sir, get up here,” Price said.

“May I retain all my rights?” Shannon asked.

“Sir, get up here or you’re going to jail,” Price said. The unusual
exchange was brief – prosecutors have not yet filed charges against
Shannon, so Price told him he may be summoned to court later. He and
friends left the courthouse without incident as deputies followed.

Shannon believes he can beat criminal charges by employing a series of
legal maneuvers that some experts on extremist beliefs call “paper
terrorism” – filing liens and other documents against everyone involved in
their arrest and prosecution. It essentially involves using nuisance
tactics to make administration of legal proceedings against sovereigns so
cumbersome that government officials deem it too costly and time-consuming
to continue.

Shannon, for example, argues that he’s operating under admiralty law,
which is supposed to govern interactions between private and international
entities. He filed a 35-page, self-prepared document in Spokane County
Superior Court shortly after his May 17 arrest that demands a $1.9 billion
payment in silver from court and law enforcement officials involved in the
search of his Spokane Valley apartment and his subsequent arrest. The
document states that failure to respond is considered an acceptance of the

Shannon said he doesn’t expect to be paid. Rather, he expects the document
will lead to his charges being dismissed, if they are even filed.

Otherwise, the county could find itself spending time and money defending
against a breach-of-contract suit he plans to file, regardless of the
case’s legal merit.

“I basically plan on costing the city and county so much money that it’s
not economical to pursue this,” Shannon said.

Experts say the filing has no legal basis. Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza,
who authorized the search of Shannon’s apartment, said he hasn’t given the
filing much thought.

Dealing with sovereigns in court “isn’t that much different from what we
do with anybody who’s a little bit excitable or different,” Cozza said.

Contact with sovereigns
Last month’s law enforcement training seminar on sovereigns included a
video by the Southern Poverty Law Center featuring West Memphis, Ark.,
Police Chief Bob Paudert, whose son and another officer were shot to death
during a traffic stop involving a father and son who espoused sovereign
beliefs. The incident was featured in a recent “60 Minutes” report.

The driver of the car, Jerry Kane, had handed the officer a fake sovereign
driver’s license. Paudert said his son and the other officer were confused
by the document. Had they been trained on how to recognize so-called
sovereign citizens, they may have been more aware, Paudert said in the

Shannon, however, said he doesn’t believe in violence.

“I’m a nice guy – I don’t mean any harm to anyone,” he said. “I don’t want
to come across as crazy.” He said his views could take days to explain,
but that they are based on history and legal research.

He criticized the recent “60 Minutes” report, which included an interview
with a self-proclaimed sovereign citizen who said he believes he can shoot
police officers and politicians. Shannon and friends compare the fear of
violence among sovereigns with the belief that all Muslims are terrorists
– it’s a stereotype that isn’t true.

Shannon said he began researching sovereign beliefs and law after serving
six years in the Air Force, including time in Iraq. “I saw what our
government is doing and I saw what it’s capable of, and I can’t be a part
of that,” he said. “I’m not anti-government. I’m anti-corporate

Knezovich said he realizes not everyone espousing sovereign beliefs is
prone to violence. But he said their association with a movement that has
produced cop killers raises eyebrows.

“In any group you have your extreme elements, be it left, right or
center,” he said. “It’s usually the extreme element that gives the entire
group a bad name. It’s just like any other situation: One person may not
be violent, but the next person may decide to be violent.”

Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said his organization
researched sovereigns following the Arkansas police slayings and has
distributed more than 75,000 DVDs on the movement across the country.

“We just felt that cops were in danger and we should try to do something,”
he said. “What happened was we got an absolutely amazing level of demand
for that video. Virtually every police department we’ve talked to has had
some type of contact with sovereign citizens.”


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"The Pessimist complains about the wind, the Optimist expects it to change
and the Realist adjusts his sails."

- Author Unknown

More information about the Vision2020 mailing list