“The War Within” Mean, Lien Legal Machine
CELLS: Paper terrorists
The war against the government isn’t always waged with guns, bombs or threats of violence.
In the Southwest, patriot groups are copying a strategy promoted by the Montana freemen. They are forming townships, hoping to set up their own self-government, and are filing liens and lawsuits against public officials they accuse of not upholding their oaths of office.
Strafed with legal filings, frustrated public officials call it “paper terrorism.”
The government is fighting back.
In the first case of its kind in the country, the Pima County prosecutor filed felony charges against three members of the Arizona Township Association.
Carl Whalen, Jerry Huerta and Bill Stultz were convicted last month by a Pima County jury of participating in a criminal syndicate and filing fraudulent liens.
The charges were filed after Whalen, believing he didn’t need an Arizona driver’s license, was stopped and cited by police. He later was convicted of driving without a license.
Outraged, the trio started filing liens against property owned by police officers, the Tucson police chief, prosecutors and judges involved in Whalen’s case.
Liens legally tie up property and can prevent it from being sold or refinanced.
“It was getting to the point where we had to do something,” says David White, Pima County’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor.
Facing up to three years in jail, the three men are continuing their fight. They filed their own appeals with the Arizona Supreme Court even before the end of their trial, which they didn’t attend.
White says the paper terrorists “still don’t recognize what they did is wrong.”
One of their associates is Herbert Crawford, a 63-year-old Tucson businessman active in the Arizona Township Association.
There are a dozen townships in Arizona, Crawford says. At this point they are “just a state of mind,” he says, but eventually each will be a 6-square-mile enclave of self-government.
Crawford says he traveled to Jordan, Mont., last March to learn about common law and townships from the Montana freemen, holed up on a ranch they called Justus Township.
He heard about Justus Township after attending a similar common-law course taught by Elizabeth Broderick in Lancaster, Calif.
She awaits sentencing in January after being convicted in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles of mail fraud, conspiracy and counterfeiting.
Crawford left Montana just days before the FBI arrested Justus Township leader LeRoy Schweitzer last March, triggering the longest FBI siege in U.S. history.
The siege ended after 81 days. Schweitzer and more than a dozen other Freemen face federal charges in connection with a check-fraud scheme they promoted.
Crawford says he used two “certified cashier’s checks” he got at Justus Township to pay $39,000 worth of bank card debt. He also used two similar checks he got from Broderick to pay off other credit cards.
“Based upon the banking law and the commercial code laws, they’re perfectly legal,” he says.
Crawford was a federal fugitive until two weeks ago.
He was indicted in August in the Eastern District of Washington on charges of conspiring to operate a large methamphetamine lab at a ranch near Burns, Ore.
Before his arrest, Crawford joked about the fact he was a fugitive and said he wasn’t worried about it. In fact, he sat in the courtroom near deputies every day during the criminal trial of his three Tucson friends last month.
Authorities now are trying to forfeit ownership from Crawford of the $200,000 Oregon ranch where the meth lab operated. He filed his own common-law courts paperwork in an attempt to block the action.
“I’m going to continue fighting them,” he says.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos Map: Tucson, Arizona