Sovereign citizen extremists throughout the United States view federal, state, and local governments as illegitimate, lacking the authority to issue or enforce laws. They also assert they are not subject to questioning or arrest by law enforcement, paying taxes and fines, complying with summonses, or possessing official licenses.
Sovereign citizen extremists have engaged in counterfeiting, verbal and written harassment, unlawful property occupation scams, and financial fraud.
In 2017, sovereign citizen extremists accounted for five of the 11 ideologically motivated attacks against law enforcement nationwide. All five incidents occurred during routine policing activities and did not demonstrate indicators of pre-planning. In September, authorities arrested self-identified sovereign citizen Candice Dixon in Pittsburgh for aggravated assault, fleeing, and attempting to elude police officers. In August, authorities in Indianapolis arrested John Jones Bey, a sovereign citizen who previously filed an $11 billion lawsuit against the city, after he shot at constables attempting to serve him an eviction notice.
Threat to New Jersey: Moderate
Sovereign citizen extremists in New Jersey attacked law enforcement at least once in 2017; however, they mostly engage in non-violent activity such as self-identifying in court paperwork and traffic stops and filing liens against public officials. In May 2016, legislation in New Jersey enhanced penalties associated with the filing of fraudulent liens to retaliate against public officials. Sovereign citizens have since adopted new methods to circumvent the law.
In March 2017, police arrested self-proclaimed sovereign citizen Wayne Hall in Roselle Park (Union County) following a physical altercation after officers asked Hall to provide his information. He refused and instead gave the officer a card, asserting that he was not subject to traffic laws. Authorities also arrested Hall’s friend, Jameika Hutchison, after she began recording the interaction, a common sovereign tactic, and engaged in a physical altercation with police.
In June 2016, authorities arrested Erick Shute, a former New Jersey resident who declared himself a sovereign citizen, for killing three individuals in West Virginia over a property dispute. In 2011, Shute spent nearly 200 days in a county jail in New Jersey for aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and obstruction after a violent confrontation that began when he asked a police officer to “sign a peace treaty” to allow him to drive without a license.
In March 2016, a self-identified sovereign citizen in prison in New Jersey filed seven fraudulent liens against public officials totaling over $120 million. In 2015, the same individual mailed a letter to a judge in Hunterdon County claiming false imprisonment and demanding approximately $50,000 in relief.
United States Nexus
Sovereign citizen organizations throughout the United States—specifically the National Liberty Alliance (NLA), Moorish Nation, and Continental uNited States of America—engage in and promote criminal activity, while some have an active presence in New Jersey.
The NLA, which claims nearly 130 members in New Jersey—approximately 100 more than last year—focuses nationally on creating “common law grand juries.” The group asserts the authority to conduct investigations, issue indictments, and remove public officials from office. While this activity has not occurred in New Jersey, the NLA has publicly encouraged members to intimidate government officials and engage in criminal activity across the country.
Members of the Moorish Nation assert that they are the original inhabitants of the United States and are entitled to self-governing status, giving them rights that predate the Constitution. Throughout the United States, they are generally opportunistic, creating and selling fraudulent identification, squatting in abandoned houses, and filing false liens against public officials as a form of harassment.
In November 2017, state prosecutors in Colorado obtained guilty pleas or convictions against five of nine Continental uNited States of America members accused of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy against public officials. The indictment alleges the members of this group filed false liens against public officials, threatened to arrest them on treason charges, and distributed defamatory fliers near their private homes if they were involved in members’ court cases. The case rises to a level of national significance because the accused ringleader of the group has been instrumental in forming common law juries throughout the United States, including in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, and Hawaii.