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Mark Pitcavage

Director of Investigative Research

Anti-Defamation League

Summary of Contents: This report examines issues related to competency in the courtroom when
ideological extremists are involved, especially adherents of the so-called sovereign citizen movement,
whose anti-government beliefs are often confused by court personnel and mental health personnel alike as
individual delusions rather than as an explicit ideology with a long history. This report was originally
created under the auspices of the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training Program in 2000.

Strange Territory: Ideology and Incompetency in the Courtroom

By Mark Pitcavage, Ph.D.

Copyright 2000-2011


Jeffrey Joseph Wright was being persecuted by enemy alien agents. Wright told the
Palm Beach County traffic court so himself. They pulled him over in the fall of 1996 and
charged him with four counts of driving without a license, one count of failure to show
proof of insurance, one count of expired tags, and two counts of failure to wear a seat

Wright, a 45-year old handyman, vigorously defended himself. He told the court that he
was a free, private Christian who had a God-given right to travel unfettered by any
regulations. He was not a slave to the laws of the illegitimate state of Florida. He
made repeated motions to dismiss because, he said, the state of Florida had no
jurisdiction over him.

This was just the latest in Wright s fight with all governments, federal and local alike.
After a dispute with a contractor s licensing board, he ignored them and went into
business for himself, leading to his being charged with being an unlicensed roofing
contractor. He was evicted from his apartment and his fiancée left him. His life seemed
to be spiraling out of control.

His actions and words certainly caused County Court Judge Robert Parker to doubt his
competence. Parker stopped the proceedings and sent Wright to jail, ordering him to
undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Wright spent nine days in jail but passed the mental

But back in court, Judge Parker was not convinced. Florida was admitted to the Union
some 145 years ago, he said. I think we need an evaluation on this. I think we re
headed toward some strange territory. 1

It s not hard to agree with Judge Parker that he was moving into strange territory.
When an excited and angry middle-aged man shows up in traffic court to complain about
enemy alien agents and to argue that no court in the state has any jurisdiction over him,
one would find it hard to fault Parker for thinking that perhaps there was something
wrong about Wright.

Yet despite the judge s doubts, Wright passed his psychiatric evaluation. And, in fact,
Wright was mentally competent. The claims that he made certainly sounded bizarre, but
they did not come Zeus-like from his own mind, but were in fact beliefs shared by a
fringe political movement, whose adherents number in the tens of thousands. Wright,
like other believers, had access to a wide array of books, pamphlets, Websites,
videotapes, and other materials that explained the philosophy of this political movement,
usually known as the sovereign citizen movement or the common law movement, and
whose central tenet is the illegitimacy of much of the current systems of government. In
fact, the Palm Beach County clerk of courts purchased materials from this movement to
figure out what was in their minds and what was in their thinking. 2

Homicide Investigator Earl Bakke, who investigated Wright as a suspect in a hit-and-run

incident and in fact issued most of the citations against him, understood that Wright
simply subscribed to an unusual belief system. He just thinks he s a freeborn American
citizen who doesn t need a driver s license or insurance or tags. I just beg to differ with
him. Even Wright s strange allegation about alien enemy agents can be explained;
sovereign citizens often adhere to a strange interpretation of the 1917 Trading with the
Enemy Act and other laws which they use to construe that public officials are agents of a
foreign government.3

So Wright was not mentally incompetent, but was acting essentially exactly the way one
would expect a sovereign citizen to act in court, and indeed, the way in which hundreds
of such individuals have repeatedly behaved. In fact, the United States has seen since the
early 1990s a great upsurge in extreme right-wing activity, an upsurge marked by
spectacular incidents such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1996 Montana
Freemen standoff, the 1997 Republic of Texas standoff, the 1999 rampages of Buford
Furrow and Benjamin Smith, as well as countless minor incidents involving people like
Jeffrey Wright. The upsurge involved not only increased activity on the part of
traditional extremist groups, such as those in the white supremacist movement, but also
involved the spawning of new movements, such as the militia movement and the
common law court movement.

One result of this increased level of extremist activity has been an increased presence of
anti-government extremists in the courts. Indeed, adherence to some extreme right-wing
philosophies almost guarantees an eventual appearance in court, for ideologies like the
sovereign citizen ideology teach that virtually all laws are illegitimate and should not be

followed. Since these illegitimate laws include all regulations governing traffic,
licensing, zoning, permits, and building codes, among others, one can easily see how
quickly adherents can run afoul of various federal, state, or local laws.

Yet because the right-wing fringe is still a fringe, despite the upsurge, understanding of
these unusual philosophies on the part of others has not increased considerably. All too
often, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys are alike flabbergasted by courtroom
outbreaks and utterances of sovereign citizen and other extremist defendants. The
statements made by such defendants have little legal or logical basis viewed from the
standpoint of the legal system and are often made by individuals who are extremely
agitated and angry, and who may not be entirely coherent but are merely spouting
statements that they have learned from others. As a result, it is not at all an uncommon
occurrence for an attorney or a judge to request a mental evaluation for such defendants
to see if they are competent to be in court.

Unfortunately, forensic psychologists are often just as unfamiliar with such fringe
political ideologies as are the courtroom participants. Often, during evaluations, they
come to understand that though the person being evaluated may have very unusual
beliefs, they are in fact indicative of adherence to an unusual ideology and not indicative
of mental competence. However, in some cases, mental health professionals have failed
to understand the distinction and have labeled some political beliefs to be delusionary.

As editorial comments, such labels might be fitting for some of the strange beliefs of
extremist movements. However, as evaluations of mental health, misdiagnoses on this
basis can have quite adverse effects. Two undesirable consequences in particular come to
mind. The first is that political ideology misdiagnoses of mental incompetency may
result in delayed or even denied application of justice to criminals who may have
broken serious laws. The second consequence, quite different in nature but equally
undesirable, is that such misdiagnoses may result in people being held in mental
institutions as a result of their political beliefs. Such situations understandably bring to
mind the Soviet Union and the incarceration of dissidents in mental institutions.

The purpose of this study, then, is to highlight some of the issues involved when ideology
and competency conflict, to illustrate some of the recent incidents involving these
conflicts, and to provide suggestions on how better to recognize and distinguish ideology
from insanity or lesser forms of mental incompetency. It should be noted from the outset
that this study s author is neither a legal professional nor a mental health professional.
This study does not seek to second-guess professionals in either of those fields, but rather
to bring to bear experience in dealing with political extremists.4

Extreme Actions vs. Extreme Beliefs

When one expresses political beliefs that are commonly held in a community, there is
little that is controversial about them. No one would be subjected to a mental evaluation
because in court he or she expressed opinions favorable of a flat tax. Regardless of the

desirability or lack thereof of such a tax, the issue is one familiar to many people. When
the political issues involved, however, are issues to only a tiny fraction of the population,
while the vast majority have never even heard such statements expressed, much less
become familiar with the background of the ideology behind such issues, eyebrows
increasingly may be raised. As the size of the group of adherents to an ideology
decreases, the odds increase that other people will think such beliefs strange, bizarre or
even delusional.

If the number of adherents to a belief system were no larger than one, then one might
legitimately question such a system, and wonder what mechanisms gave birth to such
uniquely unusual beliefs. In such a case some form of insanity or mental incompetency
could theoretically have a role in the development of such beliefs. However, when
members of a group, even a small group, possess the same beliefs, it becomes much more
difficult to argue that insanity or mental incompetency plays a role in the possession of
such beliefs, unless one is willing to posit mass insanity.

The question, unfortunately, is much more complicated than this, however. One may
argue that unbalanced individuals may be attracted to fringe groups or belief systems.
Alternatively, one could conceivably argue that participation in such an extreme group
could help to unbalance the mind of a member. Moreover, might illegal actions
committed by a group member stem from acceptance of an extreme ideology or from
irrationality inspired by poor mental health? These are difficult issues to resolve.

The court s history of unraveling such complexities has not been a very pretty one.
When belief systems ideological or also theological collide in the courtroom with the
issue of mental competency, the result is often confused, drawn-out, and questionable.
One of the best examples of how the ideology-incompetency conflict can make even cut-
and-dried cases into nightmares is the tortured history of the case of David Lewis Rice.

On Christmas Eve, 1985, David Lewis Rice arrived at the home of prominent Seattle
attorney Charles Goldmark. The 27-year-old drifter used a toy gun to force entry into the
residence, handcuffed the family, then subdued Goldmark and members of his family
with chloroform. Rice then brutally assaulted them with a knife. When guests for a
Christmas Eve dinner arrived soon after, they found the family in the master bedroom.
Goldmark s wife Annie and their ten-year-old son Colin were dead. Goldmark and his
twelve-year-old son Derek, both with head injuries, survived the initial attack, but died of
their wounds in the hospital, Chuck relatively soon after arrival and Derek lingering on
for a tragic 37 days.5

After handcuffing Goldmark, Rice stole his pocket money and took his bank card.
Thinking it was just a robbery, Goldmark urged Rice to leave before the dinner guests
arrived. But Rice then chloroformed the family and assaulted them with a knife and a
steam iron taken from the Goldmark house. For Rice, it was not a robbery. The
Goldmarks were not random victims. Rice chose Goldmark because Rice was under the
impression that Charles Goldmark was a Jew and a Communist (a mistaken impression;
Goldmark was neither).

Rice, an unemployed steelworker originally from Colorado, was a member of the
Washington chapter of a right-wing extremist group known as the Duck Club. Started by
a Florida millionaire named Bob White in 1980, the Duck Club railed against
international conspiracies led by entities such as the Trilateral Commission that wanted to
institute one world socialist rule. It opposed paper money and supported various tax
protest notions. By 1984, it was almost defunct, but the Seattle chapter was still extant.
It was this chapter that Rice had become involved with and that had helped fill him full of
conspiracy and anti-Semitic theories. This chapter too had apparently informed Rice that
Goldmark was a Jewish communist, presumably because of famous accusations made
against Goldmark s parents a generation earlier that resulted in a highly-publicized libel

After the murders, Rice fled the Goldmark house (leaving behind the handcuffs, murder
weapons and his fingerprints), then drove to an ATM machine to use the card he had
taken from Goldmark. However, he had taken a business card but Goldmark had given
him the PIN number for a personal card. The machine wouldn t work. That night and
the next day, Rice wandered about the city, writing various confessions to the crime and
leaving them in public places. He was convinced that he would not be taken alive
because he had just killed an important communist who controlled the authorities. He
felt he couldn t go home an apartment he shared with Anne Davis, a Duck Club
treasurer. Eventually, Rice ended up at the home of Homer Brand, a tax protester who
was in charge of the Seattle Duck Club chapter. Rice told Brand about the murders;
Brand sent Rice away, but did not inform the authorities.

Rice then went to the apartment of Robert Brown, an acquaintance he knew through
Davis. Because Rice did not tell him about the killings, Brown allowed him to stay for
the night. The next morning, however, Brown saw some of Rice s writings, which both
confessed and threatened suicide. Brown met with friends who told him about the
Goldmark murders and Brown then called the police.

The police quickly arrested Rice, finding the handcuff key in his pocket. Rice was
charged (eventually) with four counts of aggravated first-degree murder. Shortly after his
arrest, Rice began confessing to the crime. He also confessed to a variety of newspaper
and television reporters who came to see him, telling them his opinions about Jews and
about the Duck Club. By December 31, Seattle homicide detective E. M. Davis was able
to tell the court that Rice had indicated that his motivation for the assaults was political,
i.e., his belief that Goldmark was a communist and Jewish. Homer Brand corroborated
Rice s remarks, telling reporters that Rice said, I ve just dumped the top communist.
There were four involved. 6

Since the evidence was overwhelming and the suspect had confessed, the case seemed
cut-and-dried. In mid-January, King County prosecutors announced that they would seek
the death penalty. Meanwhile, however, Rice s defense attorney, William Lanning,
asked the judge to appoint a psychologist to evaluate Rice, even though Lanning admitted
that he didn t think he could meet the criteria of the legal definition of insanity. This

was certainly likely to be true; after all, Rice had told reporters that he knew murder was
wrong, but that this was different; it was the act of a soldier in wartime.7

The psychologist, Dr. Kenneth Muscatel, examined Rice and determined that the
defendant had schizoid and paranoid features and thought friends from outer space
sometimes urged him to do things. But Muscatel felt that Rice was sane. Rice could
describe what happened with awareness and cognizance, and knew that what he was
doing was wrong. He was easily influenced by the Duck Club and its right-wing, anti-
government ideology, and had perhaps been manipulated by it. Even the outer space
friends Rice mentioned, Muscatel noted, said things that actually turned out to be
information that he found in actual pamphlets and publications, and information that he
discussed with and found support in from some of the important individuals in his life. 8

Muscatel had in fact perfectly understood the difference between ideology and insanity.
The point is, Muscatel reported, that Mr. Rice did not cook up this stuff by himself,
out of touch with society Rather, he belonged to a subgroup of individuals who
believed in and supported these ideas. In fact, these people validated these ideas as
rational and important. Lanning, though, filed Muscatel s evaluation in court, as well as
a request for a neurological examination of Rice to determine if he suffered from
organic brain damage. A few days later, Rice pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.9

With this, the contest between King County prosecutors and David Lewis Rice became
much more complex. No longer was it a question of whether or not Rice had committed
the murders, but rather what frame of mind Rice had been in when he killed the
Goldmarks. For prosecutor William Downing, the focus would be on political issues
and political thinking, and how they have affected [Rice s] mental status. Did Rice
commit an extreme act because of extreme political views? Or did the Duck Club and its
ideology cause him to go over the edge ? Or perhaps did the same insanity which
caused him to kill the Goldmarks also cause him to seek out the Duck Club? 10

During the trial, which took place in May and June 1986, the prosecution focused on the
planning and organization behind Rice s actions. It revealed that Charles Goldmark had
not even been the primary target; rather, another Seattle luminary was. However, Rice
could not locate his house and so sought ought Goldmark instead. His actions were
deliberate and planned. I knew what I was going to do. I knew what I had to do. I was
going to kill the Goldmarks, Rice confessed on tape. Downing told the jury that Rice s
political beliefs could be seen as crazy, but that they should not be taken as evidence of
insanity. We can easily say it is wrong, Downing said, but that does not mean it is
delusional. 11

The defense argued, however, that Rice did what he did because of mental illness. The
extreme right did not cause his illness, said defense attorney Anthony Savage, but his
mental illness provided fertile ground for their philosophy. The defense played a
videotape of Rice talking to a psychologist in which Rice suggested that he had not
intended to kill the Goldmarks, but when Annie Goldmark said that he was going to kill
the family, his subconscious heard her and took the suggestion. Explained Rice,

what happens is things shut down and I get into a more or less suggestive state until my
mind answers the question. In his closing arguments, Anthony Savage told the jury that
the issue was not the illegality of the crime. It s whether or not you feel the rightness of
what you re doing because of a mental defect. This man has a mental defect. If his
conception of right and wrong results from this, then we are dealing with insanity. 12

The jury did not buy it. After only five hours of deliberation, jurors rendered a verdict of
guilty. A few days later, they sentenced him to death. Rice himself was not there to hear
the sentence he was in a hospital having his stomach pumped after swallowing some
tobacco in his jail cell. At the time of sentencing he was nonresponsive and suicidal.
Jury foreman Joel Babcock said, We all as a group felt that Rice was an intelligent man
who showed methodical thinking. He may be insane today, but we were dealing with
December 24. 13

Presumably, the case would end there. There were, naturally, appeals, but on June 19,
1989, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Rice s appeal, letting stand a 1988
Washington state Supreme Court ruling that Rice s mental illness, if any, did not prevent
his execution and that there was sufficient evidence to support the death penalty.
However, a few months later, a federal district court judge ordered Rice to undergo
further psychiatric evaluations, three of them. The psychiatrist selected by Rice s
attorneys and the one selected by the state agreed that around the time of sentencing
Rice s mental illness may have made him unable to participate in his defense. This set
off a complicated chain of appeals and decisions at various levels of the justice system.
In May 1992, the Washington Supreme Court again dismissed a Rice appeal, this time
that a piece of evidence about his mental health was withheld during the trial. In
November 1992, Rice lost an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that this
evidence allegedly withheld might have pointed to life in prison rather than death as an
appropriate sentence.14

However, in August 1993, U.S. District Judge Jack Tanner who had earlier ordered the
three evaluations set aside the death penalty for Rice because he was not present when
the sentence was read by the jury (being in the hospital). An appeals court upheld this
decision in 1995, and also ruled that Rice s first attorney (since deceased) had provided
ineffective counsel in not persuading Rice not to confess. In October 1996, the U.S.
Supreme Court upheld (by refusing to hear) a Circuit Court decision to reinstate the death
penalty, ruling that Rice s absence during sentencing did not compromise his rights.
However, a year later, Judge Tanner stunned the Pacific Northwest by throwing out
Rice s entire conviction, on the grounds that Rice did not have effective assistance of

With this last monkey wrench thrown into the proceedings, and the prospect of an
entirely new trial for Rice, with prosecutors having once more to establish his sanity, the
prosecution threw in the towel. They entered into a plea agreement with Rice in May
1998 in which he would plead guilty and be sentenced to life in prison without the
possibility of parole. Fourteen years after the quadruple murders, Rice s fate was finally
fixed, and even then he had avoided the executioner. The reason was as simple as the

appeals process was complicated: the question of where his political ideology ended and
insanity began was difficult for many people to resolve.

Religion is often an equally difficult concept to reconcile with competency, particularly

where extreme or unusual religious beliefs are involved. No case illustrates this more
than the case of Dan and Ronald Lafferty. The Lafferty brothers, who came from the
Provo, Utah, area, were adherents of a fringe Mormon sect known as the School of
Prophets. Dan Lafferty was also a prominent tax protester who, like many right-wing
extremists, did not believe in paper money.16

The School of Prophets was a sect that believed in, among other things, direct
communication with God. In 1983, Ron Lafferty began hearing God, and God instructed
him to murder his sister-in-law and her daughter. They were two of a list of people, a list
that included Mormon leaders who had excommunicated Ron. The two brothers (along
with two accomplices who later plea bargained) cut the throats of the two women on July
24, 1984. Several weeks later they were caught and arrested. Ronald Lafferty claimed
the court had no jurisdiction over him; only God had that.17

Obviously, competence would become an issue in this trial, especially because Dan and
Ron both wanted to represent themselves and Ron attempted suicide while awaiting trial.
Were the instructions from God signs of mental illness or the impressions of an extremely
religious man? Psychiatrists examining the two had mixed opinions on the brothers
mental health. Dan did represent himself, was convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.
When a defense attorney asked the court to rule Ron Lafferty incompetent for trial,
Lafferty was angered and asserted that he would rather be found guilty than crazy. The
judge eventually agreed he was competent. Prosecutor Wayne Watson agreed: He was
lucid, he communicated effectively with his lawyers throughout and he made decisions
about his defense as the case went on. Ron was convicted and sentenced to death.

Various appeals and attempts to stave off execution prolonged the episode for years, to
Ronald s discontent (he preferred being executed to the endless mind games ). In 1992,
these efforts made their way to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. This court, however,
interpreted Lafferty s claim that God s court was more legitimate than man s to be a sign
of incompetence. They relied on an evaluation of Lafferty which concluded that though
Lafferty understood the nature of the proceedings and their consequences, he was unable
as a result of his paranoid delusional system to interpret them in a realistic way. The
court thus set the decision aside in order to begin the trial over again, with new
competency evaluations.18

This put the prosecution in a very difficult position, that of, as Utah Attorney General
Paul Van Dam explained it, figuring out how the federal court means us to balance
practical understanding, which Lafferty clearly had, against religious belief. Now,
stated Van Dam, the state has to judge the validity of someone s religious beliefs
before it tries them. Complicating the matter further was that during the 1990s,
Lafferty s mental state, whatever, it had been in 1984, had slipped considerably, and he
was now prone to outbursts and hallucinations. However, in 1996, he was retried, found

guilty a second time, and once more sentenced to death, a sentence that has not yet been
carried out.19

Ideology vs. Incompetency

The Rice and Lafferty cases were obviously unusual cases, both involving the death
penalty and both involving people who, if not insane, were not completely mentally
healthy. But they illustrate very well how the mere question of mental health can interact
in complex and frustrating ways with ideology and religion.

In most cases, of course, it is not an insanity defense that is at issue, but rather a question
of competence. Competency questions come into play usually in two ways: 1) is a
defendant able to understand the charges and assist in the defense, or 2) if the defendant
wishes to defend him or herself, is he or she competent to do so? Competency questions,
unlike insanity questions, deal with the defendant s state of mind not at the time the
alleged crime or crimes were committed, but rather at the time of the trial. The basic
standard for determining competency stems from Dusky v. U.S., in which the court stated
that the test must be whether [the defendant] has sufficient present ability to consult with
his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and whether he has a
rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him. In 1993, the
Supreme Court ruled that this standard also applied to issues such as competency to
appear pro se, a frequent issue in proceedings involving anti-government extremists.20

The standard of competency would thus seem to be one that would not be too difficult to
meet, yet it would appear that many right-wing extremists have difficulty meeting that
standard, at least in the eyes of the court, judging by the number of times mental
evaluations have been ordered for such individuals. The reason for this, however, lies not
so much in the actual mental health of the defendants, but rather the nature of the
ideology that they possess, particularly when such individuals belong to the sovereign
citizen movement. The tenets of this movement unfortunately conflict with the tenets of
competency standards in several different ways.

In essence a sovereign citizen is an adherent to a political ideology derived from the

Posse Comitatus and other tax protest and extremist groups of the 1970s and 1980s. Such
groups posited that as a result of a lengthy conspiracy designed to replace the original,
legitimate government (the de jure government) with an illegitimate, tyrannical one
(the de facto government), there are now two types of citizens: Fourteenth
Amendment citizens and sovereign citizens. Fourteenth Amendment citizens are
people who have unknowingly subjected themselves to the jurisdiction of the de facto
government and are thus subject to the laws and taxes of the federal and state
governments. Sovereign citizens are people who are subject only to the common law.
They have absolute mastery over all their property (including freedom from taxes,
regulations, licenses, zoning restrictions, permits, etc.), they have to pay virtually no
taxes except tariffs, and they are not citizens of the United States but are non-resident
aliens with respect to that illegal corporation. The only court which has jurisdiction

over them is a common law court, and they can never be arrested or tried for a crime or
matter in which there is no victim to lodge a complaint.21

In terms of courtroom behavior, the key sovereign citizen belief is the court he or she is
in is an illegitimate court that has no jurisdiction over the sovereign citizen. Thus
regardless of the mental alertness of the defendant, he or she may be unlikely to agree
with any decision or action by the court. Most sovereign citizens believe that a court
only has power over them if they agree that it has jurisdiction over them, so they may be
energetic and strident in opposing virtually any effort by the court to conduct proceedings
or maintain order. Similarly, sovereign citizens are at best highly distrustful of lawyers,
and this includes defense attorneys. Public defenders assigned to assist sovereign citizens
will often be made very unhappy by the hostility with which their clients regard them. In
most cases, in fact, sovereign citizens will demand the right to defend themselves, rather
than have a title of nobility represent them.22

Anti-government extremists often have other belief systems that come into conflict with
the competency standards. One common belief is that God s laws supercede man s
laws, or even that only God s laws are legitimate. Such beliefs are common among
believers of a racist religious sect, Christian Identity, which permeates the extreme right-
wing in the United States. They are also common among other groups, such as the
Embassy of Heaven. The Embassy, led by a former computer analyst who now styles
himself Paul Revere, is located outside of Salem, Oregon, but has adherents across the
nation. Revere argues that one owes obedience only to the Kingdom of Heaven and
should remove all ties with earthly entities. Consequently, followers refuse to pay taxes,
to have drivers licenses or license plates, or to acknowledge in any way the various
earthly authorities. The Embassy conveniently sells its own license plates and drivers
licenses for its ambassadors.

All of these beliefs cause adherents of these extreme ideologies to engage in courtroom
behaviors and verbal statements that would strike any uninformed observer as bizarre.
One of the best examples of such behavior came in 1994-95 in Ohio, after Patrick Rudd
was arrested on charges of attempted grand theft and issuing money orders without a
license. Rudd, a sovereign citizen originally from Rhode Island, had been selling bogus
money orders to people that he claimed would pay off their mortgages and other debts.
In March 1995 Rudd appeared at a hearing involved with his case. He carried a Bible
and threw kisses to his supporters in the courtroom. At the hearing, his public defender
asked to be removed from the case, saying that they could not agree. Rudd told the judge
that he wanted to defend himself, calling the defender an enemy, and boasting that I
don t practice law; I get it right the first time. Rudd made a number of unusual legal
arguments, including the notion that neither the judge nor the attorneys had any legal
standing, because Ohio was not actually a legal state. Asked to respond to Rudd s
arguments, the prosecutor said he didn t have one. The only thing I ve understood out
of his mouth is, This is St. Patrick s Day, the prosecutor said. I don t know how to
respond. I can t respond to something I can t understand. 23

Legal filings and motions are equally difficult for court personnel to understand. Often
they approach the level of gibberish and are frequently identified as such. Typically they
combine a variety of out-of-context legal citations (many often from cases in other states
or otherwise inapplicable to the case at hand), coupled with references to the Bible, the
Magna Carta, and various other sources and documents. A document from a Nebraska
common law court, for instance, includes language such as, pursuant to this no-trespass
by express and explicit on-waiver of extradition in our county of Nebraska, we, the state,
in fact the undersigned, with the aid of our posse, will make immediate arrest upon any
officer from [the] other jurisdiction for speedy trial in our one Supreme Court. In
Texas in 1996, a family practitioner, Dr. George Stokes, made filings during a sexual
harassment case that insisted his trial was a fraud because he was tried under the wrong
name (his name, he claimed, had a comma between his middle and last names) and
because the court was a military court proven by gold-fringed flags in the courtroom.
Said his former attorney, whom Stokes fired, I am totally in the dark about [the
motions]. They are devoid of meaning in the system of justice. It is no wonder that
judges and attorneys faced with stacks of such documents and motions sometimes
wonder about the mental health of the person who created them. However, such items
indicate adherence to an extreme philosophy, as well as a great deal of creative energy,
far more than they would indicate mental illness.24

Often, however, such courtroom behavior and unusual language results in requests for
mental evaluations. For instance, in 1995, William Stump II, member of an extremist
group known as the Blue Ridge Hunt Club and on trial on weapons charges in Virginia,
tried to subpoena President William Clinton to his trial in Pulaski. Stump, representing
himself, essentially wanted to put the federal government on trial for the crimes he
thought it had committed. This caused Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Wolthuis to request
a mental evaluation, suggesting that calling for Clinton to appear heightens the
government s concern of Stump s competence to stand trial and his competence to serve
as his own counsel. 25

Stump responded that he was perfectly competent to stand trial. I understand this court
is illegal, he added, this proceeding is illegal; I understand Thomas Jefferson thinks this
proceeding is illegal. The judge agreed that Stump was competent: I don t think what
I would characterize as his extreme views in any way lessens his ability to understand the
proceedings any more than it does any other layman not trained in the law. 26

When Montana Freemen leaders LeRoy Schweitzer and Daniel Petersen, Jr., were
arrested in late March 1996, setting off the 81-day standoff which followed, they
disrupted every courtroom into which they were brought, making demands based on their
legal theories. They also obstructed the criminal justice system in other ways as well,
refusing food and water and refusing to bathe, thus causing authorities to consider asking
for a competency hearing. Such questions were common for anybody associated with
the Montana Freemen, in large part because of the bizarre legal theories so vigorously
espoused. In Utah, at the same time that Schweitzer and Petersen were in jail in Billings,
Montana, an associate of theirs, John Perry Chaney was in jail awaiting trial on
conspiracy charges for helping a friend marry Chaney s thirteen-year-old daughter.

Chaney, also a member of a fringe Mormon group, claimed that the Constitution forbade
the government from interfering with contracts such as marriage contracts. I am
incredibly scrupulous about obeying the law, Chaney said. These people are being
animated by Lucifer who is their God. The judge in Chaney s case ordered him to
undergo a mental evaluation to determine if he was competent to stand trial and to
represent himself.27

Within the Freeman compound near Jordan, Montana, were Russell Landers and Dana
Dudley, two peripatetic patriots who had lived in many states, often operating various
affinity fraud schemes designed to attract other extremists. Charged with fraud in
Colorado and New York, their courtroom antics resulted in judges in both cases ordering
mental evaluations. Landers was sent to a mental institution in New York in 1995 and
both he and Dudley spent time in a Colorado mental institution later that year. Each time,
they were found to be competent.28

Another Freeman associate in California befuddled observers as well. John Patrick

McGuire, a militia leader and common law court activist was jailed in March 1996 for
weapons violations and threatening judges. During the pretrial proceedings, McGuire
refused to recognize the authority of the courts over him. He also objected to what he
considered was improper use of his name. Eventually he changed his name to
Sovereign Christian John Patrick ben John Lawrence Nation McGuire Sovereign
Steward Over the Laws and Domain of Del Rosa Castle Within the Area of American
Soil the Several Republics. The prosecutor in his case, Larry Ornell, had perhaps the
most succinct description of McGuire s political philosophy. He has an alternate view
of American society, Ornell said.29

McGuire s name changes earned him a visit with a psychiatric hospital. But followers of
the activist said he was not crazy but consumed. He was ruled competent to stand trial,
although he did not convince all jurors that he was mentally healthy. He needed more
psychiatric evaluation than to be on trial, one juror who was concerned about the threat
he posed told reporters.30

The arrests surrounding the Freemen standoff and the bogus checks that Freemen
followers tried to pass in most states around the country resulted in a flood of
prosecutions. The concurrent growth of the sovereign citizen movement resulted in
adherents being brought to court for other reasons as well. In many of these cases, judges
and attorneys were confronted for the first time with the unusual sovereign citizen
ideology. The result was frequently a court-ordered mental evaluation for the sovereign
citizen. In fact, such evaluations were so frequently ordered that one group, the Embassy
of Heaven, began advertising two audiotapes for sale on their website, T9843, the Nut
Case tape, which contains many lighthearted stories of Pastor Paul s experiences with
being considered a nut-case. You re not alone, and T9842E, the Mental Evaluation
tape, which shows what happens when the court wants to examine you to see if you are
crazy. 31

A few examples from the past several years illustrate the range of behavior prompting
such evaluations:

December 1995. Common law court activist Everett Stout of Chester County,
Tennessee, is arrested for having passed a bogus $1 million Montana Freeman
check to the county clerk. At the request of his court-appointed defense attorney,
who no doubt was bewildered by Stout s strongly held opinions on the legitimacy
of the federal and state court systems, Stout is ordered to have a mental evaluation
to determine his competency to stand trial. Rather than appear for the evaluation,
Stout flees (and was still at large as of May 1998).32
April 1996. Three Orlando tax protesters, Jack Warren, Jack Franz and Larry
Moore, receive stiff sentences for threatening judges and filing bogus liens.
During the sentencing, Judge Robert Mehrige, Jr., orders them to undergo
psychiatric evaluations and tells one of them, I am not a psychiatrist, but your
conduct here I m not sure, Mr. Warren, if you are well or ill. The three had
used a variety of sovereign citizen arguments in court, including that the
indictment did not refer to them because the names on it were in all capital letters
and that the gold fringe on the flag in the courtroom meant that the court was a
military court.33
Summer 1996. Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren, involved in
numerous legal battles over his common law activities in west Texas, engages in
bizarre theorizing so much so as to prompt District Attorney Albert Valadez to
request a psychiatric evaluation of McLaren. Have you ever heard him talk
about how Texas is illegal and no one has authority over him and how he s a
member of this fictitious republic? Valadez asks reporters later. I just wanted to
make sure he was OK. However, the judge never rules on Valadez s motion.34
June 1996. Ohio common law court activist Thomas Beachman, is jailed for
contempt after he fails to comply with a court-ordered psychological evaluation
following an arrest on various traffic charges. Beachman s later actions, which
included refusing to sit at the counsel table, refusing to remove an American flag
placard the size of a notebook, and according to Municipal Judge Marvin
Romanoff, refusing to cooperate with the court in any meaningful manner, give
some indication as to the behavior that prompted the court order. Eventually,
Beachman is found competent to stand trial, but the charges are dismissed before
the trial can begin.35
June 1996. Thomas Morrell, a sovereign citizen and would-be Congressional
candidate from eastern Tennessee, appears in court after being arrested for
walking through his neighborhood wielding an ax handle. In court, Morrell
refuses to cross the bar because to do so would be to enter into a military court.
He stands behind the bar waving a flag he calls a flag of peace, as opposed to
the gold-fringed flag in the courtroom. He wants to know if his name on the
subpoena is written in all capital letters. Morrell is asked to undergo a psychiatric
evaluation and passes. Prosecutor H. C. Bright asks that Morrell have another
evaluation. We have already gone through this evaluation, sir, Morell tells the
judge. The problem is a different viewpoint. 36

April 1999. Mark Drake, leader of a common law court in Topeka, Kansas,
claims that the state government is not legitimate and that gold fringe on flags in
the courtroom is a sign of Admiralty jurisdiction. In court for holding an illegal
meeting in the Capitol building (to swear Drake in as the de jure governor of
Kansas), Drake demands that his case file list his name in capital and lower case
letters rather than in all capital letters. Assistant District Attorney Joel Meinecke
tells the judge he may ask for a psychiatric evaluation.37

As the above examples indicate, court officials are often prompted by the unusual
behavior of extremist defendants to refer them for psychiatric evaluations. However,
most such referrals result in defendants being declared competent, the reason being that
their behavior generally stemmed from certain political beliefs rather than mental illness.
Generally speaking, courts that are familiar with this ideology and have experienced its
symptoms before are much less likely to make such referrals.

Adverse Results of Competency Evaluations

Although various extreme right-wing movements are currently enjoying a resurgence,

extremist defendants obviously represent a distinct minority of defendants. Since only a
fraction of defendants are referred for competency evaluations, this means that evaluating
psychiatrists and psychologists are even less likely than court personnel to have
previously encountered defendants with an extreme right-wing ideology. Luckily, most
of the time, evaluators are able nevertheless to distinguish between unusual political or
ideological views that a subject might hold and opinions and behaviors that might stem
from mental illness.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Occasionally an evaluator, unfamiliar with the
underlying ideology, apparently assumes that the subject is actually experiencing
delusions. After all, the subject is making extravagant claims about government and the
courts and the law that are clearly false, and probably doing so in a very excited and
agitated manner. This seems to have been the case with Douglas Dyson. Dyson was an
active member of a common law court based in Kosciusko County, Indiana. This
Kosciusko County Common Law Venue was an energetic group, even indicting local
prosecutors and judges and ordering authorities to remove them from office. In early
1997, Dyson was convicted of nonsupport and sentenced to a maximum three-year
sentence. After sentencing, Dyson was transported to the Indiana Department of
Correction s Reception & Diagnostic Center. Here Dyson would be evaluated to
determine which security classification he would fit into in other words, whether he
would be sent to a minimum-security prison or not. The professional who evaluated
Dyson claimed that Dyson had a delusional and paranoid ideation that is fairly
extensive. The evaluation is not available, but according to a newspaper covering the
incident, the evaluator apparently was referring to Dyson s belief in common law courts,
his fixation on gold-fringed flags in the courtroom, and other sovereign citizen beliefs.
Dyson received a Level 1 classification, allowing him to go to a minimum security
facility, but a high blood pressure reading forced him to go to a Level 2 facility for health

monitoring. But when his blood pressure went down two months later and he was
considered for work release, the classification director at the prison ordered a new
psychological evaluation because of the statements made in the earlier one. Upset that
the evaluation would be used to justify keeping him at a Level 2 facility, Dyson refused
to take another evaluation. As a result, his security level was official increased from
Level 1 to Level 2, precluding him from work release the next month. Another hearing
several months later denied him reclassification. These actions kept Dyson in prison for
a year longer than he otherwise would have had to serve. Because the complete
evaluations are not available, it is impossible to say with certainty, but it certainly appears
that Dyson s unusual political beliefs played a large role in the mental evaluations and
classification hearings that he underwent.38

Of all the possible consequences of political extremists being diagnosed incorrectly, two
would seem to be the most serious. The first possibility is that extremists who commit
serious crimes may be able to delay or even evade justice because of inaccurate
competency evaluations. The second possibility is that such competency evaluations
might result in mistreatment of defendants. Such occurrences could have consequences
more far-reaching than for the individual involved, as they could be used as rallying cries
by others in the movement.

One example of an unfortunate evaluation of competency may have occurred in Ohio in

1998. On May 2, 1998, George Wolf driving a camouflage-painted truck without any
license plates came across an ambulance blocking his way as it backed out of a
driveway in Monroe Township in far northeastern Ohio. Wolf drove around the
ambulance, ignoring calls to stop, and fired at volunteer firefighters as he drove by.
James Krenisky suffered a wound to the lower back, while Justin Tuttle received a nearly
deadly wound when a .45 caliber bullet entered the top of his head and exited between his
eyes. Amazingly, Tuttle survived and eventually recovered with few lasting ill effects
other than a loss of his sense of smell and taste.39

A SWAT team from the Ashtabula County sheriff s department surrounded Wolf s house
and arrested him. Newspapers quickly discovered something of Wolf s views. He was a
Christian Identity adherent who liked to distribute literature from the Christian Identity
group known as Scriptures for America, based in LaPorte, Colorado, and headed by
Pete Peters. He was a frequent listener to anti-government broadcasts on shortwave
radio. Not long before the shooting, his girlfriend of eight-years left him because of his
extremist views. I told him you can t have a revolution by yourself, she explained to

Led into court for his arraignment, Wolf launched into standard sovereign citizen
complaints. He demanded that the judge tell him if the court was an admiralty court and
complained about the gold fringe on the flag in the courtroom. He refused to be advised
by his public defender and was eventually ejected from the courtroom by the judge. At a
second arraignment hearing several days later, Wolf was again ejected for shouting anti-
government sentiments. He was indicted on three counts of attempted murder, three

counts of felonious assault, one count of having a weapon while under a disability and
one count of disrupting public services.41

However, within a few months of his arraignment, Wolf had been ruled mentally
incompetent to stand trial. A psychologist with the Northeast Ohio Psychiatric Center
examined Wolf at the request of an Ashtabula County judge. The psychologist diagnosed
Wolf as having a delusional psychosis and said it was unlikely Wolf would participate in
his defense. He believes the courts have no legal authority on him, said the
psychologist. As of 1999, Wolf was still in a mental facility in Columbus, Ohio.42

The complete evaluation of Wolf is not available, so it is not known to what extent other
aspects of his behavior may have affected the psychologist s diagnosis of mental
incompetence. However, if the psychologist did indeed believe that Wolf suffered from
delusional psychosis because he felt that the courts had no legal authority over him, it
would seem as if the psychologist evaluated Wolf s political beliefs more than his mental
health. If this indeed is the case, then Wolf has so far escaped trial for a serious crime.

A much less serious crime was that committed by Amos Lamb in Calloway County,
Kentucky, in February 1999. Amos Lamb was a sovereign citizen who had refused to get
Social Security numbers for his children or to accept any contracts with the
government such as a drivers license or license plates. He was arrested for driving
without a license (and related violations). However, Lamb declared himself a citizen of
heaven and refused to give any information to the police. He also disputed the way his
name was spelled in all capital letters on court documents.43

In early March, Lamb was sent to Western State Hospital in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, for
an evaluation. Conducting the evaluation of Lamb was Marco Baquero. An examination
of Baquero s evaluation of Lamb reveals that much of the evaluation was apparently
based on a misinterpretation of Lamb s political beliefs as signs of delusion. Baquero
described Lamb as a visibly disturbed person who refused to give Baquero his age.
When asked what his birthday was, Baquero replied that he had blocked it out of his
mind because that s only hearsay. This must have seemed very unusual to Baquero, but
in fact the notion that one cannot really know the date of one s birth is a common tenet of
the sovereign citizen movement.44

Baquero asked the sheriff s deputy present about the nature of the charges, i.e. driving
with an invalid license plate and without a drivers license. Lamb responded that he was
a citizen from heaven and carrying the license plates from the church, apparently a
reference to bogus license plates obtained from the Embassy of Heaven in Oregon. Lamb
informed Baquero and the deputy that he could not follow the laws of the state of
Kentucky, but only the laws of the church and of heaven. Baquero noted that Lamb was
very religiously preoccupied, but admitted that Lamb denied hearing voices or seeing
things that were not really there. The client also says that he doesn t have any
psychiatric hospitalizations in the past, Baquero wrote, This is dubious since he is
obviously very psychotic. 45

Baquero described Lamb as having a tendency to become agitated when questioned
about his beliefs, saying that Lamb s affect was intense at times and inappropriate to
situation. Lamb s speech was pressured when he talked about his religious beliefs,
but Lamb did not show loosening of associations. However, Baquero noted, Lamb
believes that he is a citizen of heaven. He is very paranoid and suspicious as well as
guarded and he would not tell this clinician any data about his personal life. Lamb did
not express any suicidal or homicidal tendencies; he was uncooperative with cognitive
functions but seemed to be oriented and fully alert and aware. However, his judgment is
obviously very poor and it is affected by his delusions. 46

In regards to Lamb s competency, Baquero was dubious. Baquero argued that Lamb did
not fulfill either the factual criteria or inferential criteria of competency to sand trial.
Mainly the patient is unable to understand his current legal situation. He is equally
unable to understand the charges made against him or understand the legal issues or
procedures of his case He would not be able to tolerate the stress at the trial or while
awaiting trial. He would no be able to refrain from irrational behavior during the trial. 47

In conclusion, Baquero wrote, Lamb was severely mentally ill It is the belief of this
clinician that the patient was not competent at the time of the commission of his
infractions Because of the severe delusions that the patient is suffering from, he is
unable to understand the severity of the offense made and to have any sense that he broke
the law. 48

As a result of the evaluation, Lamb was committed to sixty days at Western State
Hospital for treatment. Yet a review of Baquero s evaluation of Lamb reveals virtually
nothing as evidence of severe delusions other than Lamb s unusual political opinions,
opinions that though bizarre to most people, are nevertheless shared by thousands. At
Western State Hospital, Lamb was subjected to drug treatment against his will. Accounts
vary as to what drugs might have been used, but may have included Prolixin,
Haloperidol, and/or Zyprexa. In any case, they resulted in a variety of unpleasant side
effects, including sleeplessness, drooling and muscle twitches.49

By April, news of Lamb s plight had gotten out to fellow believers. A church in
Indianapolis often listed as an extremist group publicized Lamb s incarceration in its
newsletter and gave out Baquero s phone number. Homer Fletcher, pastor of Lamb s
church in Paducah, Kentucky, and someone who shared Lamb s political beliefs, filed a
court motion on Lamb s behalf that tried to explain the beliefs behind Lamb s actions.
He explained that Lamb s fixation on capital letters was because Lamb believed that such
spelling represented a fictitious person like a corporation. He also explained Lamb s
objections to answering questions during arraignment as well as his refusal to give a date
of birth. His views are different from the average person, Fletcher explained. Some
of the things Amos believes, I believe. Are they going to lock me up? 50

Fletcher also organized a protest in front of the Calloway County Judicial Building in
May. By this time not only the Indianapolis Baptist Temple but also the Embassy of
Heaven had begun publicizing Lamb s case. Twenty people showed up for the protest, at

which Fletcher declared that various attorneys and hospital physicians were guilty of
treason, rebellion and insurrection. Lamb s supporters were angry at the diagnosis and at
Lamb s treatment. This is not Nazi Germany, proclaimed Paul Revere of the Embassy
of Heaven in his newsletter, This is not Russia. This is happening in our own
backyard. Others were also disturbed by what had apparently transpired. A Kentucky
Libertarian, for instance, complained to a Louisville newspaper that I have always
thought it was horrible that the Soviet Union put people who did not believe in the right
of government to control their lives in mental institutions. Now this is happening in
Kentucky. The government has declared that if you harmlessly live by your religious
convictions, you are insane. 51

Lamb was eventually released from the hospital on May 15. By this time, hospital
personnel, besieged not only by protesters but also by phone calls from around the nation,
were eager to see him go. So too were the authorities. On May 20 he was released from
jail on a $500 unsecured bond, after a way was devised for him to sign his name to bond
papers that kept with his beliefs. Lamb signed his name with a semi-colon between his
middle and last name. So eventually the system recognized that it was not mental illness
but rather unusual political beliefs that caused Lamb to act the way he did.52

Distinguishing Ideology-Based Beliefs

A presumption in this study is that defendants should not be declared mentally

incompetent for beliefs and actions stemming from clear political ideology. Even in
cases where theoretically such beliefs would hurt a defendant, as in the case of a
sovereign citizen defending him or herself to the jury with the argument that the court
system is illegitimate and has no jurisdiction over him or her, declaring such an
individual incompetent would certainly harm the integrity of the criminal justice system.
A person need not agree with the judicial system in order to be tried by it. To suggest
that someone should be declared incompetent to stand trial merely because one does not
believe that the court is legitimate would seem to be a pernicious decision.

Nevertheless, it is not always easy to distinguish between beliefs that stem from a
political ideology and beliefs that may stem from mental illness. Sometimes, in fact, a
defendant may possess both. This issue is made especially difficult when evaluating
extreme right-wing defendants because many of the beliefs that they might hold are at
least superficially similar to the opinions of a paranoid or deluded person, including a
belief in persecution, in vast conspiracies, or anti-government sentiment. Nevertheless,
in most cases, it seems to be possible to distinguish reasonably well between the two. In
July 1998, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., opened fire in the Capitol building, murdering
two Capitol Police officers. Media speculation at first raised the possibility that Weston
might have been an anti-government extremist. But it was soon revealed that Weston had
a long history of mental problems, and psychiatric examinations revealed that although
Weston believed in conspiracy theories, he had delusions that could not be linked to any
ideology or political philosophy. He sought a ruby satellite, ostensibly locked in a
Senate safe, which would end cannibalism and a deadly disease called Black Heva.

He believed he was commander in chief of the Armed Forces, in control of time, and a
brilliant scientist, among many other delusions. Not surprisingly, he was ruled
incompetent to stand trial. Similarly, in April 1998, Marvin Patrick Sullivan shot and
killed a police officer in northern California with a high-powered assault rifle. Police
searching his apartment discovered weapons and bomb-making paraphernalia, exactly the
sort of items that might be stored by an angry militia member. However, Sullivan too
had a prior extensive history of mental illness and believed, among other things, that he
was an astronaut working for NASA. He too was ruled incompetent.53

Still, some cases are always going to be difficult calls to make. Nothing shows this more
clearly than the case of the Bottoms brothers, Sean and Brian. On April 24, 1995, only a
few days after the Oklahoma City bombing, a Nashville police officer driving by an
apartment building was flagged down by a third brother, Kevin Bottoms. Bottoms was
disturbed at conversations his younger brothers were having in the apartment, including
their boasts that they could have built a better bomb than the one that blew up in
Oklahoma City. Kevin Bottoms further revealed that the apartment the three brothers
shared was full of weapons and bomb-parts and that his two brothers had discussed
kidnapping two prominent Nashville media personalities. Police searching the building
found pipe bombs, weapons, and various instructions for making bombs. The brothers
were arrested. Police discovered that both Brian and Sean Bottoms had extensive records
that ranged from traffic offenses to aggravated assault to car bombing.54

Unfortunately, they were arrested initially only on misdemeanor explosives possession

charges and were allowed to bond out. They promptly fled the state and were picked up
in Texarkana, Texas, a few days later. Once arrested and brought back to Tennessee,
Brian s competency became an issue. A psychiatrist initially found Bottoms competent
in July 1995 but changed his mind after another exam in March 1996. Sean Bottoms
testified that Brian prophesied storms and tornadoes to hit Texas and spoke in tongues,
and Brian told the psychiatrist that he could control weather patterns and volcanic
eruptions. Brian himself told the judge overseeing the case that he was the prophet Elijah
and that the judge s actions could trigger mass destruction from God. He also believed
that three comets proved his innocence. Brian Bottoms denied he was incompetent.55

But Sean and Brian nevertheless possessed anti-government sentiments. They apparently
considered themselves part of the militia, even though they did not belong to any
organized militia group. They believed that the United Nations was engaged in a
conspiracy to gain world domination. In court, Sean Bottoms wore a shirt with a yellow
star on it and the words Auschwitz Dachau in Indiana USA on the back. Brian
Bottoms fired his court-appointed lawyers and attempted to prove his own sanity, arguing
that the prosecution, the judge, and others, were conspiring to deny him due process.
However, the judge was not impressed. His distrust is an extreme condition that borders
on paranoia, extreme paranoia, Judge Robert Echols said. He certainly has more
intellect than many other defendants, but the report suggests his defense will be based on
delusional thinking and paranoia, not reality. He ruled Brian incompetent. Eventually,
in May 1997, Brian was released without a trial. Doctors testified that Bottoms now took
medicine that calms him and slows his thoughts, and Bottoms no longer believed in a

plot against him. However, his mental problems still kept him from helping his lawyer
prepare for trial. Because he could not go on trial, but was not ruled a danger to others,
because of the medication, he was released, with the condition that he stay on his
medication. Meanwhile, proceedings continued for Sean Bottoms, who was convicted on
eight federal weapons counts on February 5, 1997 and sentenced to six years in prison.
The Bottoms case involved two brothers, both with extreme political views, but one of
whom also combined those views with what was apparently mental illness. Such
combinations make it very difficult to make accurate judgments.56

There are steps that can be taken, however, to maximize the chances for an accurate
diagnosis. Perhaps the most important of these is to find out if unusual or bizarre beliefs
are primarily of the subject s own creation, or if he or she has received these beliefs from
outside sources, and such beliefs are widely shared by others. In cases involving such
beliefs, examiners should try to identify any groups or organizations that the subject
might belong to, receive literature from, or sympathize with. When confronted with
beliefs or assertions that seem very strange, the examiner should attempt to find out from
where these beliefs originated. A subject may be able to point to books, pamphlets, or
Websites that explain these beliefs in detail. He or she may be able to point to
organizations or groups that propagate these ideas. The presence of such materials or
groups would strongly suggest that those beliefs are not delusions, although they may
certainly be peculiar or unpopular. On the other hand, if the subject can identify no
source for these beliefs other than revelation or insight, then their unusual nature would
be more significant.

A list of common beliefs and behaviors that anti-government extremists can exhibit and
which therefore do not in and of themselves suggest incompetence or delusions include:

Refusals to cross the bar in the courtroom.

Objections to a flag in the courtroom because it has a gold fringe on it.
Statements to the effect that the court is an admiralty, maritime or military court.
Arguments that the courts have no authority over the defendant because the
defendant is a state citizen, a sovereign citizen, a preamble citizen, or some other
special class of citizen.
Attempts to bring arguments regarding the Uniform Commercial Code into a
criminal trial.
Accusations that the judge or attorneys are enemy agents or are guilty of treason.
Demands that the bailiff arrest any court personnel.
Objections that court documents spell the defendant s name with all capital
letters or last name first or in some other specific way (such as without
punctuation between the middle and last names).
Demands to be allowed to carry a flag into the courtroom (often called a flag of
peace ).
Arguments that attorneys are titles of nobility and therefore not U.S. citizens.
Statements such as I am not representing myself, I am myself when attempting
to be a pro se defendant (or, to use the terminology they prefer, in propria

Arguments that defendant cannot be tried because he is not a resident of
Washington D.C. or a federal territory.
Refusals to state one s date of birth, often on the basis that it is hearsay.
Attempting to invoke the common law on inappropriate occasions.
Objections to being in court under an Article III judge.
References to any level of government or any government agency as an illegal
Demands that a friend or self-styled legal expert or constitutional scholar be
allowed to represent them in court.
Claims that the court has no authority over them because they are not Fourteenth
Amendment or federal citizens.
Arguments that the defendant can only follow God s laws, not man s laws.
Arguments that the defendant is a citizen or ambassador of the Kingdom of
Claims that the defendant is a citizen of a fictitious nation or political entity such
as the Washitaw Nation or the British West Indies.
Demands that juries should be informed about jury nullification doctrines.
Claims that they are prisoners of war or political prisoners.
Assertions that they are non-resident aliens.
Demands for the oath of office of all courtroom officials.
Files large number of generally incomprehensible motions in court, which may
reference many of the above notions.
Pleadings that appear to be copies of pleadings submitted in other states or
Claims to have diplomatic immunity.
Arguments about the worthlessness of paper money or the nature of the Federal

Obviously, many of these actions would seem very strange, particularly if made in an
excited or agitated fashion. Nevertheless, these are all common courtroom occurrences
involving anti-government extremists, and judges and attorneys, as well as mental health
professionals, should understand that, in and of themselves, these types of behavior do
not indicate incompetence, but rather adherence to certain fringe ideologies.

Given how often extremist defendants bring themselves into conflict with the criminal
justice system, it is satisfying to note that in most cases where competency becomes an
issue, it is eventually resolved in a way that distinguishes political beliefs from mental
illness. However, the large number of orders for competency exams, as well as the
occasional examination result that appears to mistake unusual political opinions for
delusions, makes it imperative that court personnel and forensic mental health
professionals educate themselves about the nature and symptoms not only of mental
illness, but also about extremist beliefs if they show a propensity to be exhibited in court.
Few people involved in the criminal justice system would wish to see a criminal unjustly
escape conviction or a defendant unjustly subjected to mental health treatments merely
for having unpopular political opinions.


Stephanie Smith, No free rides in county courts, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel,
October 5, 1996.
Ibid. On alien enemy agents, see for instance,, an April 1996 press release from the
Missouri Secretary of State s Office, which describes a document sent by another
sovereign citizen to a state agency issuing a cease and desist order against his business.
The sovereign was, he asserted, "not subject to any judgment or any prosecution by said
Alien Enemy agents who are of questionable moral character and may be natural persons,
heathens and pagans of a secular nature, using a defacto government code to control
others of like kind." This sort of language is quite common.
The author is a historian with a specialty in the history of right-wing extremism and
serves as research director of a government anti-terrorism program. It should be noted
here that the terms extremist and extremism are used in a non-value-judgment laden
way in this study, and are simply used to indicate ideological positions very far removed
from mainstream positions.
The best basic rendition of the murder itself can be found in Bill Prochnau s lengthy
two-part story that appeared in the Washington Post, May 13-14, 1986. Unless otherwise
indicated, the account of the murders and of the arrest of Rice is from Prochnau.
Man admitted assaulting family, documents say, Associated Press, December 31,
1985; Acquaintance told by suspect he dumped top communist, Associated Press,
January 15, 1986. On the Duck Club, see also The Duck Club: Anti-Communism and
investment advice for millionaires, The New York Times, June 2, 1986.
Prochnau, Washington Post, May 14, 1986.
Ibid; UPI story, January 18, 1986; Terry Finn, Accused Christmas Eve killer pleads
insanity, UPI Story, January 22, 1986.
Terry Finn, Ibid.
Wallace Turner, Sanity of confessed slayer at issue in Seattle trial, The New York
Times, May 28, 1986; G. S. Khalsa, Accused killer talked of dumping top
communist, UPI story, May 29, 1986; G. S. Khalsa, UPI story, June 4, 1986.
Turner, Ibid; G. S. Khalsa, Rice says victim suggested murders, UPI story, June 3,
1986; G. S. Khalsa, UPI story, June 4, 1986.

Bill Prochnau, Drifter guilty in deaths of Seattle family of 4, Washington Post, June
6, 1986; G. S. Khalsa, UPI story, June 10, 1986; G. S. Khalsa, UPI story, June 11, 1986.
Joanne Plank, Goldmark murderer s mental state is probed, Seattle Times, May 11,
Eric Houston, Death sentence overturned for Goldmark killer, Seattle Post-
Intelligencer, August 7, 1993; Jack Broom, Appeals court gives killer another chance,
Seattle Times, January 5, 1995; John Gillie, Retrial for death row inmate? Court raises
questions about case, Tacoma News Tribune, January 5, 1995; Washington AG
commends U.S. Supreme Court s refusal to hear David Rice appeal, PR Newswire,
October 7, 1996; Jake Batsel et al, Goldmark slayer to get new trial, Seattle Times,
October 10, 1997.
UPI story, July 26, 1984.
UPI story, September 22, 1984.
UPI story, July 26, 1989.
The basic account of the murders and initial trial is taken from Ted C. Fishman,
Unholy Voices? Legal Prosecution of Religiously Inspired Violence, Playboy 39
(November 1992): 58ff. For the post-1992 condition of Lafferty, see Brian Maffly,
Question of Competency to Delay Retrial of Lafferty, Salt Lake Tribune, March 6,
Dusky v. U.S., 362 US 402 (1960); see also Drope v. Missouri, 420 US 162 (1975),
Godinez v. Moran, 509 US 389 (1993). For this brief discussion of competency, I rely
primarily on Mark H. Snyder, Determining Competency to Stand Trial, New York Law
Journal, April 14, 1998.
This brief definition is taken from Mark Pitcavage, The Investigator s and Prosecutor s
Guide to Common Terms Used by Anti-Government Extremists, (Tallahassee: Institute
for Intergovernmental Research, Second Edition, 1999), 101. For a more detailed
explanation, see Mark Pitcavage, Common Law and Uncommon Courts: An Overview
of the Common Law Court Movement, (Tallahassee: Institute for Intergovernmental
Research, 1997).
Many sovereign citizens believe in the existence of a missing Thirteenth
Amendment. This amendment, actually proposed, but never passed, would have
prohibited holders of a title of nobility from holding public office. Sovereign citizens
argue that it was ratified, but the ratification was covered up. They further claim that
because lawyers use the word esquire after their name, therefore lawyers are titles of
nobility and are not citizens of the United States.

Mary Jennings, Ohio-is-illegal motion won t fly, Cincinnati Enquirer, March 18,
Self-appointed justices play a potentially dangerous game, Omaha World Herald,
December 1, 1995; Cindy Horswell, Physician declares himself a freeman, Houston
Chronicle, July 11, 1996.
Jan Vertefeuille, Militia member s trial delayed, Roanoke Times & World News,
April 27, 1995.
Brian Maffley, Cultist faces rape charges for marrying child to adult, Salt Lake
Tribune, April 4, 1996.
Craig Whitlock, Long path led pair to Montana standoff, Raleigh News and
Observer, April 7, 1996.
George Raine, Freemen cohort awaits trial in Santa Rosa jail, San Francisco
Examiner, July 13, 1996; Howard Mintz, The price of being freemen, Bergen
Recorder, January 13, 1997.
Taken from the Embassy of Heaven website.
Would-be notary misses evaluation, Memphis Commercial Appeal, December 9,
1995; Bartholomew Sullivan, Court disavower is fugitive 2 months, Memphis
Commercial Appeal, February 16, 1996; Bartholomew Sullivan, As Montana Freemen
trial begins, Tennessee affiliate remains at large, Memphis Commercial Appeal, May
27, 1998.
Jim Leusner, U.S. court in Orlando shows freemen who is in charge, Orlando
Sentinel, April 6, 1996.
Scott Parks, Separatist captures courthouse workers interest, Dallas Morning News,
October 25, 1997.
Randall Edwards, Charges against common law activist are dismissed, Columbus
Dispatch, June 12, 1996.
Amy Turnbull, Morrell faces charges in carrying ax handle, Chattanooga Free Press,
June 4, 1996.
John Hanna, Prosecutor may seek competency hearing for governor, Associated
Press story, April 7, 1999.

Matthew S. Galbraith, Inmate/government critic: I m a prisoner of war, South Bend
Tribune, November 3, 1997.
John Funk and Timothy Heider, He could have killed us all, fire chief says; suspect
arrested in shooting of firefighters in Ashtabula county, Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 3,
Ibid; Mark Vosburgh, Judge ejects shooting defendant, Cleveland Plain Dealer, May
5, 1998.
Ibid; Accused shooter removed from Ohio court, UPI story, May 8, 1998.
Man ruled mentally incompetent in wounding of two ambulance crew, UPI story,
September 17, 1998.
Christian man found mentally ill, Indianapolis Baptist Temple Trumpet, March/April
1999; David Blackburn, Group to take Lamb case to divine court, Murray Ledger &
Times, May 14, 1999.
Marco Baquero, Competency Evaluation of Amos Lamb, March 10, 1999.
In a press release, the Embassy of Heaven claimed that a Dr. Tim Swain of Murray,
Kentucky, then evaluated Lamb and judged him competent, but when the judge ordered a
third evaluation, Lamb refused to cooperate. The description of Lamb s symptoms
comes from the May-June 1999 Midnight Rider. The Midnight Rider is the newsletter of
the Embassy of Heaven, and is often inaccurate, yet the symptoms are consistent with
some of the drugs mentioned. See also David Blackburn, Lamb wants trial postponed;
medication has had a lasting effect, he claims, Murray Ledger & Times, June 3, 1999.
David Blackburn, Group to take Lamb case to divine court, Murray Ledger &
Times, May 14, 1999; James Malone, Driver refuses to get license, car registration,
Louisville Courier-Journal, May 14, 1999; David Fraser, Heaven, Calloway clash over
man sent to mental ward, Paducah Sun, May 15, 1999.
Ibid; John F. Kilpatrick, Letter to the Editor, Louisville Courier-Journal, May 22, 1999.

David Blackburn, Lamb wants trial postponed; medication has had a lasting effect, he
claims, Murray Ledger & Times, June 3, 1999; for more information from the
perspective of a Lamb supporter, see
Bill Miller, Weston's Mind-Set Detailed; Capitol Suspect Feared Disease, Cannibal
Threat, Washington Post, April 22, 1999; Julie N. Lynem, One year later, family
friends await closure in cop s slaying, San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 1999.
Brad Schmitt and Gail Kerr, Two said to have threatened kidnapping of two media
figures, Nashville Tennesseean, April 25, 1995.
Jim East, Bottoms says brother foresaw Texas storms, Nashville Tennesseean,
February 12, 1996.
Catherine Trevison, Psychiatrist says Bottoms paranoid, Nashville Tennesseean,
April 26, 1996; Catherine Trevison, One of Bottoms brothers in weapons case ruled
incompetent, Nashville Tennesseean, May 3, 1996; Catherine Trevision, Weapons
charges send Bottoms up, Nashville Tennesseean, April 29, 1997; Catherine Trevision,
Brother accused in plot freed from custody, Nashville Tennesseean, May 15, 1997.