Filing bogus liens from prison against federal judges cost Montana Freeman Daniel E. Petersen more time in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in Minneapolis sentenced Petersen on Tuesday to seven and one-half years under a 2008 law that makes it a felony to retaliate against any government officer by filing false liens.
Petersen’s prosecution was the first of its kind nationwide, Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said in a statement.
“Over the years, Petersen and his accomplices have repeatedly broken the law in an effort to enrich themselves. Those who have tried to stop them, including members of law enforcement and the judiciary, have been singled out for retaliation,’’ Jones said.
“This prosecution, hopefully, will impress on Petersen and others that, regardless of their beliefs, they will be prosecuted if they break the law, and their attempts at retaliation or intimidation will not succeed,’’ Jones said.
A jury in October convicted Petersen, 67, of Winnett, on six counts of filing a false lien or encumbrance against a federal judge. Petersen represented himself.
One of the judges Petersen targeted was U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour of Washington. Coughenour presided over the Montana Freemen trials in Billings the mid-1990s. Coughenour sentenced Petersen in 1996 to 15 years for conviction on 19 of 20 counts that included bank fraud and armed robbery of television news crews in Garfield County.
The two other judges Petersen targeted were federal district judges in Texas.
Petersen’s 15-year sentence expired the day he was arrested in the anti-retaliation case, a spokeswoman for Jones said. Petersen was arrested on April 16, 2009, while in custody in Colorado and has been in custody since then.
In Montana, Petersen and LeRoy M. Schweitzer were leaders of the Freemen, a militant group that rejected government authority. The group tried to set up a government called “Justus Township’’ on a foreclosed ranch in Garfield County and held classes on how to make bogus liens and checks for people who came from across the country.
The Freemen filed hundreds of phony liens for billions of dollars against public officials and others, threatened federal officials and cranked out bogus checks in a scheme to defraud banks and others. The FBI arrested Petersen and Schweitzer in an undercover operation, which triggered an 81-day armed standoff with other followers at Justus Township. The standoff ended peacefully.
While serving his sentence in a federal prison in Minnesota, Petersen created a scheme to retaliate against Coughenour and two other judges and to make money.
Federal prosecutors said an investigation by the FBI and the Marshals Service found that Petersen invented a company he claimed held assets including a $100 trillion default judgment against the United States. He raised money selling “shares’’ in the non-existent company to fellow inmates and others. The shares were supposedly backed by “redemption certificates’’ Petersen claimed could be redeemed as soon as he collected on the judgment owed him by government.
Petersen got his supposed judgment through his self-created court after former Secretary of State Madeline Albright declined to respond to his demand for $100 trillion, plus $1 billion per day in interest, for unlawfully confining him, the prosecutors said.
Petersen then began filing liens against real property owned by three federal judges and offered bounties for the arrest of the judges and offered rewards to anyone who brought the three to Minnesota to answer his liens.
Prosecutors said Petersen ignored repeated warnings while in custody that his actions were unlawful.