DA: Paper terrorists stealing homes
S. DeKalb home is one of 19 Ga. properties usurped by ‘sovereign citizen’ group
By Megan Matteucci
8:48 a.m. Thursday, August 19, 2010
When a new family moved into the mansion on South Goddard Road in south DeKalb County, residents just assumed they were “city folks” too busy to meet neighbors.
Georgia Power and the water company came out, but 87-year-old Helen Goddard never saw the residents.
“We know everyone around here. But they were quiet, no knocking on the door to introduce themselves,” said Goddard, whose husband’s family has lived in the area for centuries and are the namesake for the road.
The only time Goddard saw her next-door neighbors was when they were being led off in handcuffs.
Prosecutors say the $1 million brick home next to the Goddards’ farmhouse is one of at least 19 properties that have been taken over by a sect of anti-government extremists involved in criminal behavior.
They call themselves “sovereign citizens” and believe they are immune to state and federal laws. They assert, among other things, that banks can’t own land and that any home owned by a bank – including the thousands throughout Georgia – is free for the taking.
“Let’s not paint these people to be Robin Hood because they’re not giving to the poor,” DeKalb County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They are taking.”
Prosecutors said the local sovereign citizens are consistent with other anarchist movements, filing lawsuits and liens on police, government officials and anyone who questions them.
They are all born in the U.S., but create their own drivers’ licenses, complete with seals for fictitious nations. Many of the suspects have multiple names and a history of not paying taxes.
“They don’t believe in the U.S. and our laws until they are arrested. Then they want a lawyer,” said Lt. Joe Fagan, commander of DeKalb Police’s North Precinct.
The FBI says the national movement has been around for decades and has ties to the Nuwaubians, a black supremacist group that started near Augusta. Nationally, sovereign citizens, which originated as a white supremacist group, have been connected to multiple insurance fraud and tax evasion scams, along with some violent crimes.
Locally, investigators have tied the sovereign citizens to at least 19 property thefts in DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Spalding, Newton and Richmond counties. They include mansions – some still under construction – and a shopping center in Buckhead valued at $13 million.
Police have charged six suspects – including Goddard’s two neighbors Linda and Gregory Ross – with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act. Warrants have been issued for another five suspects.
Most of the properties are in foreclosure, but there also were some vacant homes for sale.
“It’s a different animal than squatters,” Melvin said. “They show bogus quitclaim deeds, call the locksmith and move in. For them, it’s that easy.”
DeKalb, which broke the case, is leading the prosecution for all of the counties, Melvin said. The grand jury is now reviewing the cases.
The investigation started in May when a real estate agent called DeKalb police to report that the locks were being changed on a $1 million home he was selling on Windsor Parkway in Atlanta.
“The locksmith rolled up and the sovereign citizen reported he was the owner,” Fagan said.
Jermaine Eric Gibson, 36, and Joseph Dion Lawler, 45, had created a phony quitclaim deed and moved into a foreclosed house, police said. They posted phony deeds in the window and used them to persuade utility workers to turn on the electricity and water.
“We raided the house and through our investigation we found the central location for their operations was a Lithonia mansion,” Melvin told the AJC.
Investigators began pulling the bogus deeds, which had been filed with the Superior Court clerks in each county. They quickly saw that many of the deeds listed the same contract address.
Channel 2 Action News also launched an investigation and linked those suspects to several other house thefts.
Investigators said the suspects had used fraudulent deeds to turn the properties over to themselves and then filed them with court clerks throughout north Georgia. On the majority of the deeds, the price is listed as 21 silver dollars, which is consistent with other sovereign citizen schemes nationwide, prosecutors said. On others, the price is listed at “zero dollars.”
The banks that owned the homes were unaware of the deed changes.
“The banks have so many of them [foreclosures] and it’s hard to keep track of them,” said John H. Moore, a real estate attorney in Cobb County.
Investigators talked to prosecutors and the county marshal’s office, who first reported the pattern of problem evictions: the so-called sovereign citizens refusing to leave, Melvin said.
In each case, the suspects had posted the fraudulent deeds in the window, hoping to deter the marshals.
Police said they have not noted any violence associated with these groups in the Atlanta area, but other self-proclaimed sovereign citizens have been charged with the shooting deaths of two police officers in Arkansas in May.
“We have definitely been concerned about officer safety. There is always that potential, but we’ve been prepared,” Fagan said.
Investigators recovered a gun from one of the stolen Atlanta area homes, Melvin said. They’ve also seized furniture, electronics and other personal belongings.
Remnants of those belongings remain scattered on the lawn outside the massive brick home on South Goddard, near Arabia Mountain State Park. Crime scene tape is still wrapped around a tree and tattered pieces of clothing litter the circular driveway in front of the four-car garage.
Other than those few items, an eviction notice from the DeKalb Marshal’s Office posted in the window is all that remains from the sovereign citizens.
Helen Goddard worries that the longer the house sits vacant, the more it will affect neighborhood property values and their safety.
The vacant house was initially valued at almost $1 million, but was listed at $339,000 after going into foreclosure, according to property records.
An attorney for Linda Ross, one of Goddard’s two neighbors, said she was a victim of a sovereign citizen scam and unaware of her husband’s activities.
“They convinced them they could move in by paying silver dollars instead of the full price,” attorney Tom Ford told the AJC. “Linda is a nurse with seven children. She has not signed a quitclaim deed. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets wrapped up in this arrest.”
Linda Ross has since been released on a $50,000 bond while her husband remains in jail.
Court records show Gibson filed a petition in April with the DeKalb court clerk to change his name. “I am a sovereign Hebrew Israelite/Moor. I am changing my name to reclaim my freedom,” he wrote.
He also filed an “affidavit of truth” in Fulton, claiming he is a “natural, freeborn sovereign without subjects.”
Corey Bernard Freeman, 41, filed a similar affidavit last month in Gwinnett, saying he is a “common man of the sovereign people” and doesn’t have to follow any laws. Freeman is charged with deeding a house to himself in DeKalb and one in Henry County.
Police encourage residents to be “nosy neighbors” and monitor foreclosures in their neighborhoods.
Prosecutors said they plan to ask legislators to toughen laws for filing quitclaim deeds, an affidavit that transfers a piece of property from owner to another.
Anyone can type up a quitclaim deed, have it notarized and file it with the local clerk of court. All that is required to file the deed is a small fee and a valid driver’s license, said Minnie Rucker, of the DeKalb Superior Court clerk’s real estate division.
“What we look for are signatures for the grantor and grantee, a transfer note and notary,” she said. “We don’t really police the documents.”
That’s why prosecutors hope to crack down on the scheme before it becomes a bigger problem.
“It’s an economic threat,” Melvin said. “At the end of the day, these people are in these homes illegally. They cause damage to the properties and are raising the tax burden on everyone.”
Judges Say Litigants Are Increasingly Going Pro Se—at Their Own Peril
United States 07/16/2010 Terry Carter –
American Bar Association A survey of nearly 1,200 state trial judges around the country indicates that the weak economy has increased the number of litigants representing themselves in foreclosures, domestic relations, consumer issues and non-foreclosure housing matters; and the judges say litigants are doing a poor job as well as burdening courts already hurt by cutbacks.
A preliminary report on the survey, conducted by the ABA Coalition for Justice, was announced today by ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
“The areas of impact are pretty obvious,” Lamm said, introducing the Report on the Survey of Judges on the Impact of the Economic Downturn on Representation in the Courts (PDF).
More than half the judges saw case filings increase in 2009 and 60 percent of them say fewer people are represented by counsel. The greatest increase is in foreclosures, followed by domestic relations, consumer cases and other housing matters.
“This includes not only the poor but the middle class because it is not only a falling in Legal Services Corporation funding, but also because middle-class people are unable to spend to retain lawyers,” Lamm said.
The ABA has been working on solutions with state and local bar groups. In California, even with a particularly stressed economy, civil legal aid is required in matters in which basic human rights are at issue, Lamm said.
Lamm also mentioned examples for helping those representing themselves, such as a greater push for unbundling of legal services so lawyers can, for example, help out at the beginning of divorce proceedings in a way that the litigants can more efficiently and correctly move forward on their own.
Other examples are online self-help and assistance, as well as touch-screen kiosks in courthouses.
“The economic crisis has only exacerbated the problems in the courts,” says Lamm.
Self-representation is resulting in worse outcomes for litigants, according to 62 percent of the judges. The greatest problem is failure to present necessary evidence, 94 percent of all respondents said.
That was followed by procedural errors, ineffective witness examination and failure to properly object to evidence. Seventy-eight percent of judges say the increase in self-representation is hurting the courts, especially by slowing down the docket.
The survey was conducted by e-mail to members the ABA Judicial Division’s National Conference of State Trial Judges.
I got an email today for “the courts” showing information on filing a complaint against a Federal Judge. The manifest injustice is, as anyone who has ever filed a complaint against a federal court judge knows, that the complaint will go to “the chief judge of the court in which your complaint is filed”
In other words, if you file a complaint, let’s say against Judge William S Duffey, Jr who is at the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, the Chief Judge from either there, or the 11th Cir. Court of Appeals, which is right around the corner, gets the complaint.
Now, who in their right mind, thinks this a fair way to handle a complaint about a Judge? Be real!
So this article comes in as Manifest Injustice of the WeeK!
Filing a Complaint Against a Federal Judge
July 08, 2010
A new document on uscourts.gov explains the process for complaining that a federal judge has committed misconduct or has become disabled.
The document, which can be found here (pdf), also discusses what you should include in a complaint, and explains what happens after a complaint is considered.
In most instances, the judge who considers your complaint will be the chief judge of the court in which your complaint is filed. That judge may conduct a limited inquiry, interviewing witnesses and examining other available information. You may or may not be contacted during this process.
If the chief judge orders that your complaint be dismissed or otherwise concluded, you may petition for review of that order. Most often, your petition will be heard by the judicial council of the federal appeals court in which the complaint is pending.
The response that everyone gets, after filing a complaint is that the complaint goes to the merits of the case. What a crock!
Washington, D.C.-based Fannie Mae’s (NYSE: FNM) stock was down 45 percent Wednesday morning to 51 cents and McLean, Va.-based Freddie Mac’s (NYSE: FRE) stock was down 47 percent to 65 cents. Both continued to fall.
Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have offices in metro Atlanta.
The companies’ regulator and conservator, the Federal Finance Housing Authority, ordered the companies to delist Wednesday morning after Fannie Mae fell below the NYSE’s $1 trading requirement for more than 30 days and received a delisting notice from the exchange. The agency also ordered Freddie Mac to delist, as its price was trading near the $1 mark.
The delistings will be effective around July 8, 10 days after the companies file a notice of delisting with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The companies will still post filings with the SEC and investors will still be able to buy and trade the stock on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board.
By trading Over the Counter, the stocks will lose a lot of liquidity they enjoyed under the NYSE, which has a specialist assigned to each stock on the exchange, explained Bert Ely, a monetary policy consultant with Alexandria-based Ely & Co. The specialist maintains an inventory of stock that they buy or sell to help fill orders, which helps reduce the bid-ask spread and allow for large trades.
After switching to Over-the-Counter, the trading volume will likely drop, prices will deteriorate further, price volatility will increase and it will become more difficult to trade a large number of stocks, he said.
Does the delisting make it less likely that Fannie and Freddie will ever emerge from conservatorship as private companies?
“It probably reduces the odds from one-in-10 million to one-in-11 million,” Ely said. “There’s no way they can earn their way back to health and return to the government the huge investment it has made in them. There’s no future for these companies as private enterprises.”
So far, Fannie and Freddie have gotten some $127 billion from the Treasury Department.
Freddie Mac spokesman Douglas Duvall declined to comment on what impact the delisting would have on the company.
In a securities filing, Fannie Mae said it does not expect the delisting “will affect, in any way, Fannie Mae’s ability to fulfill its mission to provide liquidity and stability to the mortgage market.”
The above link will take you to where the article that states: “Not just above the law, this administration seems to be saying that it IS the law.”
Damn, it’s about time someone, other than most of America, finally realizes it!
Pro Se litigants are among the most discriminated people within the Court system. The only people that I have seen more discriminated against, are disabled pro se litigants.
Feel free to add your thoughts and input!
As a Pro Se litigant, it is often difficult to know or understand what a Motion, Objection, etc. is supposed to look like. So, what I have done is uploaded to two different websites some of the legal filings we have filed in Probate, State, Superior, District, Court of Appeals of GA, US Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Courts.
Feel free to check out the filings, they are very useful and informative. Feel free to use the case law, it has all been checked and is what it says. Feel free to contact us should you have any questions.
PLEASE KEEP IN MIND… WE ARE NOT ATTORNEYS, WE DO NOT GIVE LEGAL ADIVCE!
We supply this information only as information in hopes of a better United States and in hopes of combatting the corruption within the legal system and courts!
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of corruption at Superior Court Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit.
Now Judge Becker, the same Judge that we have a case against in Federal Court, and who refuses to recuse from the Superior Court case, has set a Summary Judgment hearing for GA Power.
Because she is defendant in a case in federal court along with GA Power and two of the attorneys representing them in the Superior Court case, she cannot legally preside over the Superior Court case. She refuses to recuse.
How in the hell is anyone to have a fair and impartial tribunal in that Court system? The day after she was properly served with Summons and Complaint, she dismissed with prejudice our case against GA Power leaving only their counterclaim.
This is truly a sign of the done deal syndrome!
Keep in mind, Judge Scott has had an Appeal and Void Judgment in front of him for over three years. He set it for Jury Trial that was to begin January 26, 2009. He failed to send Notice of trial to any of the parties.
Monday, January 26, 2009 in a wheelchair, I attended a “Jury Trial” calendar call in Superior Court before Judge Mark Anthony Scott for an Appeal from Probate Court, which was filed three years ago. When my name was called I responded; Judge asked if I was ready for trial, I responded that I was. Judge asked if I was proceeding Pro Se, I responded that I was. Judge asked if I was represented by counsel, I responded that No, I am proceeding Pro Se. The Judge asked me two more times if I was represented, and/or if I was proceeding Pro Se, I responded that I am proceeding Pro Se both times.
The clerk, very quietly spoke to the Judge. The Judge stated that there are “technical difficulties” in the file. I asked what the technical difficulties are. The Judge, very irritated stated to the Bailiff “take him out back!” I stated to the Judge: “All I did was ask what the difficulties are”; Judge responded: “I didn’t like your tone of voice!”; I responded: “I am in constant pain, I wasn’t rude”; Judge said: “Why didn’t you tell me that to begin with, I was having you arrested for contempt!”; I said nothing. The Judge then said: “Bailiffs take him out of my Courtroom!”
At that point the Bailiffs, one grabbing the handles of my wheelchair physically removed me from the courtroom. I waited outside approximately 30 minutes, decided I should go in case this Judge decided to have me arrested for contempt. I have heard nothing sense.
I don’t know about the rest of yall, but I have had about enough of the corruption within the Judicial System. I see that it’s not just in Georgia, but all over the whole country.
It’s just a damn shame that the greatest country in the world is riddled with such corruption and apparently everyone knows it and nothing is done about it.
I guess this is one way to fight back. There still has to be more.
If anyone else (I’m not speaking of attorneys, or law students, I am speaking of those of us forced to fight for our Rights in the Courts as Pro Se litigants) if anyone else has ever sat back and read case after case after case for caselaw, it is obvious that what is going on goes against everything our country was created for. The Supreme Court in many cases goes through and analyzes what it was that the “framers intended” when they made laws.
I can tell you…. the framers did not intend justice to be only for the rich, only for those who can afford attorneys, only for friends and family of Judges. They never intended the Judges to be bias/prejudice and treat litigants without dignity, to treat them as idiots, to humiliate them.
We have studied the law diligently for four years now. No, not at college, but studied in the same way one would study in college. We are not idiots, and we will not quit, we will not go away!