Although I sympathize with Tom Laughlin based on his intentions, it is obvious he clearly did not think through his actions. For the record, my actions of expatriating and renouncing my US citizenship are not attributed to being a “Sovereign Citizen”. Sovereignty is becoming a dirty word in some respects because when misused by people, the government and media pounce on the opportunity to impugn the notion as that of insanity. The government has no qualms invoking its “Sovereignty” when asserting jurisdiction or other claims against nations. Sovereignty is not a political concept, but a philosophical one. There is no dispute that governments claim to possess sovereignty, but governments are fictions.
You cannot seek redress against a government for a personal injury. There is no individual responsible for the collective acts of a government. If you suffer a harm, it is because of what an individual did, not a government. People take the actions. They may do it in the name of their office or working for the government, but what does that mean and how do you prove it? Nothing transforms an individual from an individual into a government officer; not the votes, not the oath, not the recognition. It is all a game and fantasy. It means only what people allow it to mean.
Government operates under (allegedly) the consent of the people forming that government. Those people must possess some individual power to first freely associate and then exercise collective power to form a government. This is called popular sovereignty. It is an inherent right to do something. Therefore, for the government to possess sovereignty it must first acquire it from the people creating that government. That which is created cannot be greater than the creator. With my Declaration, I declared my personal sovereignty and refusal to act or become a part of that which I do not consensually and voluntarily submit myself to. I am not a citizen because I do not identify with any government worthy of my allegiance or membership with. Once I profess citizenship I reject my sovereignty. With citizenship, I am no longer the supreme authority for I have surrendered some of that sovereignty in favor of the protections and benefits of government. There is a price to pay for that relationship.
People have a right to associate and join whatever group or organization they wish. Likewise, they have a right to not join or to even leave that which no longer suits their purposes or which proves contradictory to their beliefs. That is my position. I swear no allegiance, not just to the United States Government, but to ANY government. I respect the rights of others who wish to belong to such things, but their actions and laws affect only them. I aver to a higher law which embraces all people, not just certain citizens. Once we realize we are all equally endowed with individual rights the needs for borders and nations begin to dissolve. I have no problem with people wishing to belong, but they also must accept my right to not belong. To force someone to participate in something contrary to their beliefs is slavery.
The story below illustrates the misguided beliefs of the “Sovereign Citizen Movement” and how they contradict themselves by resorting to legal machinations in attempting to free themselves from government; when in reality their freedom is illusory because they still want the benefits of being a citizen-conscript. They resort to UCC arguments, strawman idiocy, and other contradictions. I will highlight the absurdities in the article and comment in italics, but it is important to understand the distinction between sovereignty and citizenship. This man got it wrong, big time.
By Anthony Cormier
SARASOTA – Last April, a veteran Sarasota homicide detective went to the courthouse and tried to secede from the United States of America.
Internal Affairs Report for Detective Thomas Laughlin
The detective, Tom Laughlin, filed a convoluted document declaring himself a “sovereign citizen.” The filing included a thumbprint on each page and a photocopy of 21 silver pieces — the price to become a “freeman.” I have no idea as to the significance of a photocopy of 21 silver pieces, but what is amazing is the price to become a freeman. If man is free, then why the price? Is this some repurchase of one’s self from their master? This is very odd, indeed.
In doing so, Laughlin, 42, joined a small but growing group of U.S. citizens who claim they are not subject to federal law, that they no longer have to pay taxes and that their homes are their embassies. For the information of all you U.S. citizens, you are subject to federal law and have to pay taxes. That is because you are a U.S. citizen. You have to pay for the benefits derived from that membership. This is like a fish saying they are not subject to being wet. As far as homes being embassies, I have no idea where that came from and if for real, illustrates the craziness of that movement.
Last week, he was fired for it.
In what department insiders are calling one of the strangest internal affairs cases in recent memory, Laughlin has gone from a decorated and respected investigator to the subject of office jokes.
Laughlin has handled some of the area’s highest-profile cases in recent years. His work led to the conviction of Deandre Tunstall for gang-related murders. He solved the cold-case killing of John Allaman Jr. on Bird Key, and he teamed with U.S. marshals to track down Willie James Kimble, a Sarasota man accused of beating a woman to death in New York nearly 40 years ago.
In his personal life, though, Laughlin was growing increasingly frustrated with the direction of the city and the country. He privately worried that “Obamacare” was bad for his family, that Sarasota leaders planned to lay off police officers, and that the city might take his pension. How can a sovereign citizen, someone who is free from the government, collect a pension; a benefit from having served that government? When you claim your freedom you surrender all of the things connected with your servitude. If you are free, you can’t come back to the plantation for a hot meal; you work for and provide for your own sustenance. That includes any benefits from employment.
His brother, also a “sovereign citizen” who recently was charged in St. Johns County with trying to extort two Florida Highway Patrol troopers and later with bilking a Sarasota bank of $50,000, convinced Laughlin that he could declare himself a “freeman.”
So Laughlin headed to the courthouse in April to legally renounce his citizenship, telling local, state and federal officials that he would only communicate with them in writing.
“What the paperwork was done for, was basically to get back to the roots,” Laughlin told internal affairs investigators. “The Constitution. You know. And under God and back to the meat of what it really is.” Mr. Laughlin, as if God and the Constitution constitute what is “real”. What is real is each individual having to get through this life the best they can. God does not write Constitutions, create nations, start wars, wave flags, tax, imprison men…. all the things that man does in the name of his government. The Constitution is not what it “really is”. It is not the source for your liberty or rights. If the Constitution is your only reference for what defines a free man then you have a lot to learn. The Constitution was not written for you, or anybody, other than who wrote it and the men who would then use it to control the masses.
About the same time, investigative reports show, Laughlin’s colleagues saw his behavior change around the office. He talked increasingly of a “straw man account” that allowed government to hide millions of dollars from citizens. If the government wants to hide millions of dollars why would it need to stuff it inside of a straw man? Do you think this crooked government would bother creating accounts in secret and then tricking people to act for the straw man? There are definitely administrative files that bear the names of individuals, such as court cases, tax files, social security… but those do not affect you. They are not “your” account full of riches. They are but a way government tracks and organizes its dealings with us and how it creates justification for what it does. They are not magical or mysterious. They are of no consequence to a free man who has nothing to do with government. Let them create whatever they want. Who cares? It is not yours.
Colleagues told internal affairs that Laughlin wanted to pay off personal debts through the straw man account and that he made strange statements about a global financial conspiracy.
According to internal affairs documents, Laughlin believed freeman-based ideas that the red numbers on a Social Security card were clues to finding the account, and that birth certificates were related to secret ships berthed in a port that held access to millions of straw man dollars. I can’t even comment on this lunacy. Accepting this is a sure sign of insanity.
“It was one of those things where, as he’s trying to explain it to me, I’m looking at him thinking, ‘You’re crazy,'” Detective Charles Riffe said in a statement to investigators. “I mean, what the hell? It didn’t make any sense to me.”
Colleagues soon discovered Laughlin had declared himself a freeman — many officers viewed the public records on the court’s website — and concerns grew that his status could jeopardize criminal cases he worked because he felt he was no longer a citizen, reports state.
Laughlin’s beliefs put him directly at odds with his superiors, who had begun to watch out for sovereign citizens.
The FBI listed those calling themselves sovereign as a domestic terror threat following a series of violent attacks by members, including Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing, Joe Stack, who flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, and Jerry and Joseph Kane, the father and son who fatally shot two Arkansas police officers last May. Well, the FBI is partially correct. Government calls itself sovereign and it is a domestic terror threat, so kudos for hitting that nail on the head. However, I declared my sovereignty, but pose no threat to anybody but government by my refusal to accept or support it. All of my “threats” relate to self-defense. It is simple, allow those who reject this present system of corruption and violence to remove themselves from it and there will be no problems. I will live by my own efforts and industry and suffer my own consequences. I do not believe in the indiscriminate use of violence by Sovereign Citizens, government, or anyone else. I would not strike out against anyone unless they came to me directly with an overt threat to my life of liberty. I don’t need a truck bomb for that. I have my own two hands to defend myself. I understand the violent reaction to government, but people are lashing out at themselves because they need only stop supporting it for it to become ineffective. Of course, there are real consequences to that as well, but I refuse to adopt the methodology of a violent institution, government, in order to fight it.
The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates there are about 300,000 sovereign citizens in the U.S., and the radical movement has a huge presence online — from websites that provide the documents to file for sovereign status in court, to YouTube videos in which members openly threaten law enforcement officers.
The movement came to the Sarasota Police Department’s attention last year, when an intelligence officer sent a bulletin warning officers to be wary of their interactions with “sovereign citizens.”
In an interview this week, Laughlin said he began to have second thoughts about the movement in June, during a vacation with his brother.
The two were pulled over on a North Florida interstate and Laughlin’s brother, James, berated a trooper, saying state laws did not apply to him.
James Laughlin later mailed documents to the trooper saying he should drop the citation and pay him $150,000 for violating his rights or he would sue for $32 million. This is one example of what the Sovereign Citizens are all about. They want to profit from their interraction with the State. What “rights” were violated that warrant a bill, and how do you sue in courts that you claim to be free from?
“That’s when I knew this was something that I didn’t want to be a part of,” Tom Laughlin told the newspaper. “I filed those documents without really reading them. All I wanted to do was make a political statement about the way things are going in this country. I didn’t want to be involved in any kind of extremist movement.” If you don’t want to be involved with an extremist movement, then get out of police work and away from government without all the crazy paperwork.
Department officials began an internal affairs case in July. Prosecutors determined that Laughlin had not broken any laws, but city attorneys openly fretted he may have violated his oath of office.
By then, Laughlin says, he had already taken steps to make the court records invalid. While the paperwork has no legal value, Laughlin found that they cannot be redacted and cannot be removed from a public website.
After a lengthy internal inquiry, supervisors accused Laughlin of associating with a hate group that advocates violence, not answering questions honestly, and using department computers to search websites on straw man accounts and sovereign citizens. So, they accused him of acting like a cop while claiming to be a Sovereign Citizen? If you want to be violent you can’t be both a violent cop and a violent Sovereign Citizen. Pick which violence best suits your needs and be the worst you can be.
A review board recommended he be suspended for four weeks and transferred out of the criminal investigative division. The suspension would have cost him about $10,000.
But he was fired instead by Chief Mikel Hollaway, who was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. City Manager Bob Bartolotta said Hollaway conferred with him before the decision.
“The honesty issue was very, very important to the chief,” Bartolotta said. “He has to rely on his officers to be honest at all times, and I think that was the biggest factor in his decision.”
Laughlin has hired a private attorney and plans to appeal the firing. Laughlin now says he made clear that the freeman paperwork was a mistake and that he realizes there should be consequences. Maybe he will convince them to fire his straw man instead.
“I screwed up and I deserve to take my lumps,” he said. “I know what I did was stupid. But I don’t think I deserve to lose my job over it. I have been a police officer since I was 19 years old. This is all I know.” And that, Mr. Laughlin, is very sad.