LAFAYETTE, Ind. —
The growing popularity of the sovereign citizen movement and other anti-government movements prompted the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana to hold a training course recently for prosecutors across the state. Some Tippecanoe County deputy prosecutors attended.
"Sovereign citizens seem to be popping up quite frequently in central Indiana," said Tim Horty, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman. "They pose problems for us with voluminous pleadings, convoluted pleadings that are problematic and sometimes overwhelming to prosecutors."
In federal court, most of the cases have been for people who created false documents such as vehicle registrations and paperwork alleging to be valid mortgage payments.
Sanders said he is not part of any larger sovereign citizen movement or group. He said he does not support acts of violence that have been committed by some sovereign citizens.
The FBI considers sovereign-citizen extremists to be domestic terrorists who may turn violent if their ideology is threatened.
The sovereign citizen movement is perhaps most visible within the court system, as its proponents use the ideology to challenge criminal charges or traffic tickets.
"They file this gibberish, paperwork with things in them that make no sense whatsoever and try to make them legal documents," Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said.
Coffey said Sanders signs all his paperwork "without prejudice and under duress," meaning that the government is forcing him to do something against his will.
Sanders said he began looking into sovereign citizens a few years ago, when his son, Thomas, received a speeding ticket. Sanders believes law enforcement cannot pull over vehicles simply for speeding. He further alleges that being stopped constitutes a false emergency and that being held for more than a minute is considered an arrest.
Sanders said he has a valid driver's license and registers his vehicle with the state. But he admits to purposely trying to get pulled over by police, to try to use the sovereign man ideology to challenge traffic tickets in court.