Another ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Goes to Court

Another Christian “sovereign citizen” who thinks he’s exempt from the laws because God says so is in court. This time it’s a business owner who thinks that he doesn’t have to pay taxes like everyone else. His lawyer acknowledges that he was wrong, but says he believed it so that’s all that matters.

Attorneys for an Oregon “sovereign citizen” couple hope to convince jurors their clients acted in “good faith” when they stopped paying taxes 20 years ago.

Ronald and Dorothea Joling owe $1.1 million in back taxes and associated interest in penalties after they stopped paying federal taxes in 1994, reported The Register-Guard…

Weintraub admitted to jurors that he finds those beliefs “totally wrong and unreasonable,” but he asked the jury to acquit him on tax evasion charges if they believe the 71-year-old did not willingly break the law.

The defense attorney said Joling’s “very conservative Christian” beliefs influenced his views on government and taxes, the newspaper reported.

Joling, an ordained minister and pastor of the Hope Covenant Reformed Church in Coquille, later concluded the constitutional amendment establishing federal income taxes was invalid.

That’s a common teaching among the anti-government sovereign citizens movement, and Weintraub said his client was advised by other adherents to declare himself and his wife were no longer U.S. citizens to avoid taxes and other legal requirements.

“They were wrong,” Weintraub said. “But they didn’t just make this up on their own.”

This line of argument never actually works, by the way. It’s been tried over and over again by others with the same bizarre beliefs. And this guy’s beliefs just get weirder:

They twice tried suing the Coos County, Oregon, prosecutor after their arrest by filing nonsensical documents in federal court and state bankruptcy court.

“They wanted some kind of sweat equity deed or, in lieu of that, 27,000 ounces of pure silver,” said Paul Frasier, Coos County prosecutor. “It was really hard for me to understand what they’re asking.”

And the wife says she’s not to blame because she thinks her husband speaks for God himself:

Dorothea Joling’s attorney argues that his client is not a criminal – but rather a a devoted and obedient wife” who obeys every decision made by her husband, the newspaper reported.

“Her God speaks to her through her husband,” said attorney Emilio Bandiero.

Again, not an argument that is likely to work.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • busterggi

    I suppose we should all be grateful that these two didn’t believe shotgunning infants to death is wrong because there is no law that specifically says it isn’t.

    Seriously, religious privilege needs to be abolished.

  • blf

    And I’ve just decided my sky faerie says elected politicians should be dunked into vats of boiling acid. There’s no law specifically against that — and even if there was, it wouldn’t apply because it was obviously passed for the politician’s own gain (besides going against my beliefs) — so we can start the boiling acid political baptisms immediately, right?

    And it’s all tax-free!

  • jd142

    Wait, what about Hobby Lobby? If a business has a sincerely held religious belief, it trumps the law. If these two have a sincere religious belief that paying taxes is a sin, then the Supreme Court says they get a pass.

    It is my sincerely held belief that Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts should be removed from the court to be replaced by that chicken that plays tic tac toe at the county fair. And then they should be laughed at for the rest of their sorry lives.

  • raven

    Look on the bright side.

    If that xian cult defense works, the fastest growing sect in the USA will be the one that says paying taxes is a sin. I’d guess they would have tens of millions of members within a few months.

    Then again, shortly after that all tax dependent governments in the USA would simply disappear, having no money to do anything. I suppose they could finance the police department with bake sales or something.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    They’re Bizarro Founding Fathers, staying in the country they’re leaving, rallying with a cry of “Representation with No Taxation!”…

  • John Pieret

    Sovereign Citizen: Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!

    Prosecutor: That trick never works.

    Sovereign Citizen: I’ve gotta get me a new hat.

  • lldayo

    I think a large issue being overlooked is that a pastor made enough money that just his taxes plus interest penalties amounts to more than what most of his congregation will make in their lifetimes.

  • http://reasondecrystallized.blogspot.com andrew

    “This line of argument never actually works, by the way.”

    It did in Hobby Lobby …

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    And for those comparing this to Hobby Lobby they’re completely different. Hobby Lobby stiffs its employees; this dumb bastard stiffed the government.

  • kosk11348

    Weintraub admitted to jurors that he finds those beliefs “totally wrong and unreasonable,” but he asked the jury to acquit him on tax evasion charges if they believe the 71-year-old did not willingly break the law.

    Huh? “My client didn’t want to break the law, but his beliefs made him do it.” Yeah, I can see why that usually isn’t a successful defense.

  • dhall

    And besides, they unwillingly broke the law in good faith. Makes perfect sense. I wonder if the members of their congregation have been investigated for tax evasion too. And for how long. After all, they might all be sovereign citizens, each one of them living in his or her very ow, tiny country.

  • dhall

    Sorry “own, tiny country.”

  • http://dailydouq.wordpress.com dailydouq

    Since this case is in Oregon I might know the person that sold a “package” (a few bogus forms) to this couple. The sovereign thing was a pyramid scheme run by people who sucker others into being sales reps. Of course my acquaintance had to go in bankruptcy when she invested in a secret (don’t let gubmint know) 30% “natural interest” (you know, the sneaky Fed keeps us from getting that “natural” rate, i.e. like “natural” law). Of course with no reporting and no regulation you can guess what happened to her investments which were “guaranteed” to double every three years.

    The only thing that surprises me about this is how long it took the gubmint to do something about this guy. The sovereign package involves sending in a certified letter to declare sovereignty so it’s not like the IRS doesn’t know who these people are.

    The only delusion this couple has is mental illness so naturally they hear voices. This is a case where it’s not clear whether rightwingnuts are crazier than religinuts, but merge then in one mind and you have one full-on crazy person. His defense should be diminished capacity (which is probably true) not gawd made me done it.

  • http://robinlionheart.blogspot.com/ Robin Lionheart

    “Her God speaks to her through her husband,” said attorney Emilio Bandiero.

    Not a defense. Charles Manson’s followers still went to jail for their murders.

  • http://www.clanfield.net janiceintoronto

    Oh, those poor poor persecuted Christians…

  • jimmyfromchicago

    Did they plead subornation of false muster like Kent Hovind?

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me they pled subornation of false muster.

  • weatherwax

    To be clear, the “mainstream” sovereign citizen movement doesn’t have religious underpinnings. (It’s hard to say mainstream ’cause they’re all over the map). But the foundational belief is that the US government collapsed, either during the Great Depression or during the huge depression of the 1890’s, and the country was purchased by a corporation owned by ‘The Jews’. So that there is no longer a legitimate federal government.

    That being said, it’s usually the extreme fundies who buy into it.

  • kevinalexander

    living in his or her very ow, tiny country.

    OW! you stepped on my tiny country.

  • Al Dente

    Did they say anything about yellow fringes on the flag in the court? It’s a big deal with sovereign citizens.

  • Michael Heath

    From the local paper:

    Dorothea Joling’s attorney, Emilio Bandiero, told the jury that his client isn’t a criminal, but merely “a devoted and obedient wife” who submits to every decision her husband makes in their household.

    “Her God speaks to her through her husband,” Bandiero said.

    […]

    The doctor will say [the mister] Joling is not delusional and does not suffer from any major mental illness, but “clings stubbornly to ideas and beliefs” that include his view that he is battling a federal government that represents evil, Weintraub said.

  • felidae

    I wonder if they were collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits–I wouldn’t be surprised if they were, just like the conservative saint Ayn Rand did

  • moarscienceplz

    Have any of the “Sovereign Citizens” ever gone to court before they stopped paying taxes and try to get a judge’s blessing on their novel interpretation of the tax laws? No? Thought not.

  • Trebuchet

    …the foundational belief is that the US government collapsed, either during the Great Depression or during the huge depression of the 1890’s, and the country was purchased by a corporation owned by ‘The Jews’.

    Which makes it interesting that his attorney’s name is “Weintraub”. Probably a public defender appointed by the ZOG.

  • http://timgueguen.blogspot.com timgueguen

    The Sovereign Citizens/Freemen on the Land etc. crowd in Canada use similar sort of gobbledygook arguments as well. Only since Canada is technically a monarchy they get to throw in added nonsense about the Crown and Queen on top of babbling about the King James Bible, the need to make a contract with them, and so on. I suspect a lot of them don’t have a clue what they’re saying.

  • matty1

    My favourite version was where FDR secretly had the continental US reclassified as open ocean, which apparently means government officials only have power over their ‘ship’, which consists of the office they work in. Outside that everyone is their own captain.

  • lpetrich

    What do these people think about “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”?

    Has anyone been keeping track of the antics of “Sovereign Citizens”?

    My favorite one is described in Skepticblog » Oso tragic, Oso foolish. He wasThomas Satterlee, a supporter of this movement who opposed zoning for discouraging building in hazardous areas, like his hometown Oso which is near a hill with a strong risk of landslides. When that hill had a big landslide that buried Oso earlier this year, it apparently also buried him.

  • Trebuchet

    @26: Sorry, must nitpick. The slide was not actually at, nor did it bury, Oso. (Your link has it wrong.) Oso was simply the nearest hamlet to Steelhead Drive.

  • Nick Gotts

    Did they plead subornation of false muster – jimmyfromchicago

    If so, I sympathise with them: I have problems with insubordinate mustard – it keeps repeating on me!

  • Nick Gotts

    What do these people think about “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”? – lpetrich

    Duh! There ain’t no Caesar no more. Unless you count the Czar of Ebola.

  • http://festeringscabofrealityblogspot.com fifthdentist

    This Mr. Show bit with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross is pretty spot-on.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBsRvdHJUDk

  • eric

    Weintraub said his client was advised by other adherents to declare himself and his wife were no longer U.S. citizens

    Sure, you can do that. Become a citizen of another country or find your own island to live on.

    But you’ll still owe taxes for any money you made in the US, because AIUI that’s how international tax law works. If you make money on US soil, you owe US taxes…regardless of whether you’re a citizen or not.

  • eric

    @7:

    I think a large issue being overlooked is that a pastor made enough money that just his taxes plus interest penalties amounts to more than what most of his congregation will make in their lifetimes.

    Well, it was $1.1 mil over 20 years, which is about $50k per year, which is what you’d pay on approximately $150-$200k per year income, depending on your deductions. So he was making good money, but that amount of back taxes does not necessarily indicate super rich.