Sovereign Citizens: Radicals Exercising 'God-Given Rights' or Fueling Domestic Terrorism?


The sending of letters, called "paper terrorism," is a common sovereign citizen tactic and can be quite threatening -- damaging the personal lives and financial credit of public officials who receive the documents. The FBI says that many Sovereign Citizens are engaged in tax, debt and foreclosure avoidance schemes. There have also been cases in recent years where Sovereign citizens have engaged in fraudulent lien and judgment schemes.

Another local Birmingham, Ala., judge, Raymond Chambliss, found Barber guilty of an environmental infraction, and when he went to take out a second mortgage on his home, he found that Barber had placed a $15 million lien against him.

"I went ballistic," Chambliss said. "I was unable to get the loan."

Barber told "Nightline" that he has zero qualms about using this tactic and said he believes God would approve of what he is doing.

"I don't see it as 'harassment' at all," he said. "It's no more 'paper terrorism' than them giving me a ticket for something that I didn't do--if they are coming--going after my Constitutional rights, my God-given rights, and, [take them] away from me, then they should pay."

But the conflicts between Barber and his followers and the government have recently taken a darker turn. Barber's son Joshua Allen Barber was arrested for driving without a license in the small town of Morris, Ala. Afterwards, Donald Barber began a barrage of "paper terrorism" to police chief Brian Cochran and local judges that included lines like, "Ya better get out of dodge--while the gittin is good--because a new sheriff is about to ride up on you."

Cochran said it was the first time he had to deal with sovereign citizens.

"You're worried that maybe they are going to follow through with, in all accounts, a kidnapping threat, what they're going do if they do snag you or they're going come after your family even," Cochran said.

But Barber insisted his letters are being misconstrued and called Cochran "arrogant" and "very abusive," even accusing the police chief of threatening him.

However, local prosecutors didn't see it that way. Police recently raided Barber's home in July 2010 and Donald Barber was arrested and charged with multiple felonies for harassment. According to police, the family had their own ID badges, hunting licenses and pistol permits, authorities said.

Donald Joe Barber was charged with multiple felonies for harassment after he wrote those letters to local police officers and judges. Both of his sons have charges against them involving sovereign-related activity.

Barber insisted he will always keep up his fight against the government peaceful, but he did make some forceful statements.

"We need a revolution, but not a violent one," he said. "I don't see a need for violence."

But sovereign citizens do have a history of turning violent. In 2010, two police officers pulled over Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son Joe Kane for what police said was a routine traffic stop on Interstate 40 in West Memphis, Ark., -- the Kanes were sovereign citizens who used to teach people how to use sovereign legal theories to get out of debt. After being pulled over, Joe Kane burst out of the car with an assault rifle and killed the officers. The Kanes were later cornered and killed in a shoot out with police in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Police chief Bob Paudert recalled the events of the day when he rushed to the scene.

"A call comes over my radio, says 'officer down,' then says 'two officers down,'" Paudert said. "So I run up the hill and one of my sergeants stops me and says, 'chief, please don't go up there,' so I knew it had to be Brandon."

Brandon Paudert, the chief's son and a fellow officer, was dead.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...