The term “sovereign citizen” refers to an individual who does not agree with a particular law and will find any means of justifying his noncompliance with that law. An example of a sovereign citizen is someone who refuses to pay his income taxes, and then presents “evidence” as to why he should not have to pay them.
Such “evidence” can come in the form of websites that support his ideology, or excerpts from Supreme Court decisions that he manipulates into justifying his point of view. To explore this concept, consider the following sovereign citizen definition.
Definition of Sovereign Citizen
- An individual who believes he is above the law, and that he only has to answer to his own interpretation of the law.
Sovereign Citizen Movement
The “sovereign citizen movement” refers to a group of people who see themselves as answerable only to the laws as they interpret them, not as they are written. Members of the sovereign citizen movement include everyone from litigants and tax protesters, to those who promote financial schemes. They do not believe they are subject to the same governmental statutes that govern the rest of the country.
The sovereign citizen movement does not even recognize U.S. currency as real money. This is because they believe the U.S. government, and the laws it creates, is illegitimate, and as such they reject most forms of taxation. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) refers to some sovereign citizens as domestic terrorists. In fact, in surveys that were conducted in 2014 and 2015, law enforcement officials believed that terrorist acts by sovereign citizens were of a higher risk than that posed by Neo-Nazis, militants, and racists.
Some examples of sovereign citizens engaging in dangerous behavior include:
- Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols – After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Nichols, who was convicted of conspiracy in connection with the bombing, claimed sovereignty in three separate court cases.
- David Russell Myrland – Myrland was sentenced to 40 months in jail after threatening to use “deadly force” to arrest government officials, including the mayor of Kirkland, Washington, as a result of being angry over a traffic stop in 2010.
- Francis “Schaeffer” Cox – In 2011, Cox, a militia leader, and a group of four people from his group, were arrested for conspiring to kidnap or kill police officers and judges, along with their families. The group was found carrying grenades and machine guns.
Sovereign Citizen Example Involving a Bank Scheme
Still another example of a sovereign citizen can be found in the case of USA v. Randall Keith-Beane, Heather Ann Tucci-Jarraf, which was concluded in January 2018. Here Beane and Tucci-Jarraf were found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and Beane was also convicted on six counts of bank and wire fraud. Unsurprisingly, the two represented themselves, rather than hiring attorneys, and claimed they were, essentially, Robin Hoods who stole from the “real bank robbers” (i.e. the Federal Reserve).
The prosecutors in the case argued that Beane was an Air Force veteran who had found himself drowning in tens of thousands of dollars in debt. During this time, Beane supposedly stumbled upon a YouTube video that was being promoted by Tucci-Jarraf which talked about a “secret bank account” held by the Federal Reserve, that there was a glitch to access it, and gave instructions on how to use that glitch.
Beane, who worked as a computer programmer, insisted on the witness stand that it never crossed his mind to research this claim online to validate it. He claimed he never even ran a Google search to check it out. Here’s where things get interesting: Tucci-Jarraf was actually a former prosecutor who acted as an unlicensed attorney for Beane in an attempt to defraud the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) bank of over $31 million. The total loss to USAA Bank as a result of Beane and Tucci-Jarraf’s actions was over $550,000.
In the video, she detailed her act of filing foreclosure notices, along with her fellow sovereign citizens, against the federal government as a way to reclaim Federal Reserve funds. The Federal Reserve was depicted in the video as an evil organization that makes Americans slaves to the laws that govern debt and taxation. The video also contained several tropes of the sovereign citizens movement which have repeatedly been discredited. Similar schemes run in the past by people like Tucci-Jarraf have resulted in their prosecution for such crimes as tax evasion and fraud.
In her testimony, Tucci-Jarraf claimed that “most people don’t know [what’s going on]” and that the “highest levels” do. She claimed she had “committed her life to stopping these unlawful acts against people all over the world.”
Ultimately, Beane used this “glitch” to open $30 million in CDs and to claim approximately $2 million in cash before the USAA realized what was going on. He was arrested by the FBI when he went to pick up the new half-million-dollar motor home he had purchased with some of his ill-gotten gains. Additionally, he had shared one of Tucci-Jarraf’s posts on his Facebook page a few days prior to flaunt his newfound wealth.
Tucci-Jarraf was arrested a few days after Beane. The FBI picked her up at the White House on a tip from the Secret Service, after she insisted on demanding a meeting with President Donald Trump. Tucci-Jarraf was sentenced to 4 years in prison. Beane was sentenced to 13 years in prison, 5 years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay over $550,000 in restitution.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Litigant – An individual who becomes involved in a lawsuit.
- Restitution – The restoration of rights or property previously taken away or surrendered; reparation made by giving compensation for loss or injury caused by wrongdoing.