Man who doesn’t be­lieve in gov­ern­ment sen­tenced to 70 months in prison

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY JAMES VAR­NEY

A Colorado man who fan­cied him­self a “sovereign cit­i­zen” out­side the reach of U.S. law in­stead finds him­self a con­victed felon fac­ing time be­hind bars af­ter a fed­eral judge last week sen­tenced him to 70 months in prison.

Rocky Hut­son, 59, thus joins a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple who dis­cover their ar­cane in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Amer­ica’s found­ing doc­u­ments and laws do not im­mu­nize them from the en­force­ment of said laws.

So-called sovereign cit­i­zens pop up with some con­sis­tency on fed­eral dock­ets, with con­vic­tions span­ning the map from Sara­sota County, New York, to Alabama, and from Mis­souri to Seat­tle.

In Colorado, Hut­son was part of an elab­o­rate scheme in­volv­ing stu­dent loans, small busi­ness loans, car loans and home mort­gages. He cre­ated phony fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments, then called banks and in­sisted they were real and had value, pros­e­cu­tors said.

All told, Hut­son was guilty of sub­mit­ting $14.7 mil­lion of false pay­ment claims to the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, and $6.3 mil­lion of bo­gus checks to var­i­ous fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

He spent a con­sid­er­able por­tion of his ill-got­ten loans on a col­lec­tion of 17 Har­ley-David­son mo­tor­cy­cles and tried to buy a shop­ping cen­ter worth $7 mil­lion, pros­e­cu­tors said.

A jury con­victed him on 14 counts of fi­nan­cial crimes, in­clud­ing bank fraud.

“Amer­i­cans have ev­ery right to be­lieve what­ever ide­ol­ogy they want,” said U.S. At­tor­ney Bob Troyer. “But they don’t have the right to hide be­hind any ide­ol­ogy to ma­nip­u­late oth­ers in vi­o­la­tion of the law and for their own per­sonal gain. That’s what the de­fen­dant did, and he’ll be pun­ished for it.”

Self-pro­claimed sovereign cit­i­zens and mem­bers of the “con­sti­tu­tion­al­ist na­tion,” “freemen” and other fringe groups ar­gue they are not bound by laws passed by fed­eral, state or lo­cal gov­ern­ments, whose le­git­i­macy they ques­tion.

The in­ter­net is re­plete with amus­ing videos of such al­legedly in­de­pen­dent sorts try­ing to avoid speed­ing tick­ets and the like, only to have au­thor­i­ties lose pa­tience and, in sev­eral cases, smash the car win­dow to ar­rest the re­cal­ci­trant driver.

The out­laws try to rely on pro­vi­sions of the fed­eral rules of civil pro­ce­dure, such as Rule 5.1 gov­ern­ing “a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge to a statute.”

As a group calling it­self “Con­sti­tu­tion­al­ist Na­tion” de­clares on its Face­book page, “this is how you chal­lenge all there[sic] un­con­sti­tu­tional stat­ues[sic] on both state and fed­eral level, any writ­ten opin­ions given by a court of record that sup­port your claim as re­lated to the con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge in ques­tion.”

Hut­son took an­other ap­proach in his trial.

He ar­gued his “Sovereign Cit­i­zen Move­ment” be­liefs, or SCM, were a re­li­gion, and said he was there­fore pro­tected by the First Amend­ment and by the Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act.

“For the SCM, re­jec­tion of Fed­eral law is based on an ide­al­iza­tion of law as an ex­pres­sion of di­vine power, and this di­vine power su­per­sedes the sec­u­lar laws,” his lawyer told the judge in court fil­ings. “They be­lieve Fed­eral laws are prod­ucts of a cor­rupt in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the true di­vinely in­spired law. For the SCM, law is di­vinely or­dained and un­der­writ­ten; it has a tran­scen­dent and trans­for­ma­tive power.”

The gov­ern­ment said it was bunk, and Hut­son’s sovereign cit­i­zen be­lief was more po­lit­i­cal than reli­gious.

“It does not in­volve sac­ri­fic­ing self­in­ter­est to a higher power or spirit. To the con­trary, the be­lief sys­tem seems to be en­tirely about for­ward­ing Hut­son’s ma­te­rial self-in­ter­est,” Mr. Troyer told the court.

The judge sided with the gov­ern­ment.

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