Alabama ‘sovereign citizen’ leader loses appeal
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of a self-appointed “sovereign citizen” leader from Alabama who challenged the federal government’s authority over him.
A federal jury convicted James Timothy “Tim” Turner, of Ozark, of 10 counts in July 2013, including conspiracy to defraud the government, attempting to pay taxes with fictitious financial instruments, obstruction and failing to file a 2009 tax return. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
In an appeal, Turner said a judge should have delayed his trial and required the government to prove the federal courts had jurisdiction over him. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said the jurisdiction argument fails.
“If an indictment alleges conduct constituting a federal offense, the district courts have jurisdiction,” a three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote.
Turner also argued that the judgment against him wasn’t official because it wasn’t authenticated by the court’s impressed seal and signed by the clerk of the court.
“No current law requires that a judgment issued in a federal criminal case be sealed or signed by the clerk of court,” the appeals court said Thursday.
According to trial testimony, Turner called himself the president of the sovereign citizen group Republic of the united States of America, and he traveled the country in 2008 and 2009 teaching seminars about preparing fictitious bonds and submitting them to the federal government to pay taxes, mortgages and other debts.
At the time of the trial, the FBI said it began investigating Turner when he and others in the sovereign citizen movement sent letters to all 50 governors demanding they resign and be replaced by a sovereign leader or be “removed.” The IRS soon joined the investigation, leading to Turner being charged.