CASPER, Wyo. — Consider this all-capital-letters introduction of a 23-page federal lawsuit filed April 2001 by sovereign citizen Russell Jay Gould against the Internal Revenue Service:
"FOR THE CHARTER-VESSEL-CLAIM WITH THE TITLE: 42: U.S.A.-CLAIM: SECTION: 1986 FOR THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAW IS WITH THE STOPPAGE AND CORRECTION OF THE WRONG(S) FOR THE SAFEGUARD OF THE CLAIM(S) WITH THE U-NITY STATES OF THE AMERICA."
Neither did U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer, whose dismissal in August 2002 included these comments:
"(1) The documents filed in this matter are pure gibberish, and of no meaning, either at law or in equity."
"(4) This Court does not have time to be bothered with antics such as this."
The courts may not have the time. But many sovereign citizens do.
And the clerks of counties and courts have no choice but to take sovereigns' filing fees and enter their documents into the public record.
The FBI calls this tactic "paper terrorism" and says it clogs the court system with frivolous lawsuits; liens against public officials; and fake money orders, personal checks and other documents.
For years, sovereign citizens in Wyoming and elsewhere have filed documents with convoluted grammar, citations of obscure or outdated legal cases, affidavits of their refusal to acknowledge the federal government, "land patents" asserting their property independence from health and safety codes, and "presentments" from "grand juries" finding public officials guilty of treason and other crimes.
Some sovereigns' documents take a decidedly illegal tack, such as Cheyenne resident and firearms dealer Michael John Smith. In 2003, he filed bogus "UCC-1" financial statements to place nearly $2.9 billion of liens and secure debts on properties belonging to state and federal officials who prosecuted him for income tax evasion. The tactic Smith used for tax evasion included filing other bogus documents.
The U.S. Department of Justice did not look kindly on Smith's filings designed to harass federal officials professionally and personally, its attorneys wrote in November 2005. "The individuals named as debtors in the false financing statements face substantial hardship and costs associated with false information in the public record that may impede or impair their personal credit and/or detract from performance of duties."
After a jury convicted Smith on multiple counts in March 2008, Brimmer sentenced him to three years imprisonment and ordered him to pay $470,697 in restitution.
Sometimes those convicted of crimes will adopt the sovereigns' language and tactics to protest their imprisonment.
Douglas resident William Batton, a computer technician in Casper, is serving a 30-year prison sentence after his conviction in federal court in June 2009 for taking a boy to Chicago for sexual purposes two years earlier.
In October 2010, Batton filed a battery of documents in federal court protesting his conviction, including objections to the court stating his name in all capital letters -- the proof in sovereign thinking that he is fiction and not a real person -- and that he did not have a contract with the federal government.
"Be it known to all Courts, Governments, and other parties, that I, William John Batton, A Secured Party, am a natural, freeborn, flesh and blood human being, without Subjects. I am not in possession of any facts that can prove that I am subject to any entity anywhere, nor is any entity subject to me. I neither dominate anyone nor am I dominated," he wrote.
Those who receive and file public documents don't have the authority to determine their validity, and wouldn't want it anyway, Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto said.
Vitto said she has talked with other clerks in Weston, Lincoln, Fremont and Sublette counties who have seen documents -- with lower-case personal names, upper-case government names, strange punctuation, references to common law -- similar to those filed by Natrona County sovereigns, with some more vituperative than others.
"Some (clerks) feel some of their (sovereigns') comments are threatening," she said. "That's why we have so many sheriff's deputies (in the courthouse)."
Vitto and her staff members generally have had civil encounters with sovereign citizens wanting documents notarized and filed, and they don't want to do anything to provoke an incident.
"We smile and file," she said.