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“Y’all can’t do nothing to me”

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
August 18, 2017

Those words were uttered on March 2, 2017 by charged offender Markeith Loyd in an Orlando courtroom when Chief Judge Frederick J. Lauten of the 9th Judicial Circuit read first degree murder charges leveled against him by the state of Florida.

There is a growing and dangerous trend in the United States of Americans self-declaring status as sovereign citizens. They claim that they are immune to criminal prosecution and the rule of law — and they are creating havoc in our social and legal fabric. Let’s take a look at two separate examples to see what’s going on here.

The Case of Florida’s Markeith Loyd

Earlier this year, Loyd—who has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder—appeared in an Orlando courtroom and refused to enter a guilty or innocent plea. A heated exchange ensued, with Loyd telling the judge the government lacks jurisdiction to bring charges against him. “For the record, I want to state that I am Markeith Loyd,” Loyd told the judge. “Flesh and blood. I’m a human being. I’m not a fictitious person. I’m not a corporation… And therefore, I am going to tell you the fact, I am in due court, I accept the charges’ value,” he added. “And I want to use my UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) financial statement, my number, to write these charges off.”

You might say, “So what?” Suspects are charged every day of the week across the nation. Well, Markeith’s case is a little different. He is claiming the sovereign citizen defense. It seems Mr. Loyd would have us believe that he is exempt from U.S. laws and jurisdiction because he is a sovereign citizen. He claims that by virtue of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), he cannot be subject to law enforcement in any way. The government, he claims, owes him a great deal of money and, if he gets caught in a transgression of any law, they can just “write it off” from his “individual account”.

patriotic head

The Case of Illinois’ Hakeem El Bey

A similar case from two years ago involved Hakeem El Bay, a defendant charged with defrauding the Internal Revenue Service.

El Bey stated: “The defendant once again asks the Court to dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction, invokes the Uniform Commercial Code and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and claims that the proper court to hear this case is the Court of International Trade.” In that case, Judge Richard Posner stated: “These bodies of law are totally irrelevant to this criminal prosecution. Nor may he argue at trial that this court lacks jurisdiction over him because he is a sovereign citizen or citizen of the Cherokee nation (he is in fact a U.S. citizen), that the U.S. Government is a corporation or is insolvent, or that the Internal Revenue Service has been dismantled.”

Sovereignty in the U.S. Constitution

Basically, the argument stems from the principles of the U.S. Constitution:

  • Popular Sovereignty.
  • Federalism.
  • Republicanism.
  • Separation of Powers.
  • Checks and Balances.
  • Limited Government.
  • Individual rights.

Popular sovereignty means the people are the ultimate source of the authority of their government:

  • First, the people are involved either directly or through their representatives in the making of a constitution.
  • Second, the constitution made in the name of the people is ratified by a majority vote of the people or by representatives elected by the people.
  • Third, the people are involved directly or indirectly in proposing and ratifying amendments to their constitution.
  • Fourth, the people indicate support for their government when they vote in public elections, uphold the constitution and basic principles of their government, and work to influence public policy decisions and otherwise prompt their representatives in government to be accountable to them (extracted from http://www.annenbergclassroom.org/term/popular-sovereignty.

Summary

Some say there is an increasing trend in the United States of national detachment. Some claim that American nationalism—the degree to which people feel a sense of attachment to nation—appears to be lessening. Others assert confidence in national leaders is eroding. These trends have given rise to a new wave of popular sovereignty among those who 1) feel that their voices are not being heard and/or, 2) have been charged in criminal cases in U.S. district courts. It is estimated that there are more than 300,000 people who consider themselves as sovereign citizens in the United States today.

Bottom line — when you break through the rhetoric, the sovereign citizen idea crumbles and disintegrates. Sovereignty in jurisprudence refers to “governing bodies”, not individuals. It is the right to self-govern — collectively. For example, countries are sovereign — there are 196 sovereignties, therefore, in the world today. Citizens are subject to the laws within each sovereignty and if those countries make international treaties, may be subject to those as well. Leaders need to lead and confidence in them will be restored once they do — as always. Everyone’s voice needs to be heard and everyone needs to feel as if they are part of it all, not outside looking in.

Author: Bob Brescia serves as the Executive Director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, Odessa, TX. His latest book is Destination Greatness – Creating a New Americanism. Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. He also serves as Chairman of the Board at Basin PBS – West Texas public television. Please contact him at [email protected] or Twitter: @Robert_Brescia.

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