Two members of the anti-government, “sovereign citizen” movement have been convicted by a Santa Barbara jury of trying to file a false lien against the home of a North County judge.
Tom Murphy and Jeff Lind were found guilty of multiple felonies, including one count of perjury, and face a maximum of three years and eight months in prison. Without prior records, they are eligible for probation. Murphy, a Missouri resident, has an outstanding warrant in Arizona for impersonating a judge and was ordered into custody out of worry he would not return to Santa Barbara for his sentencing on December 11.
Murphy and Lind, who claim to not recognize the court’s authority over them, launched a series of legal challenges and political complaints in 2010 after Lind’s son was arrested for DUI and Lind was accused of intimidating the officer who made the arrest. Their approach of submitting mountains of grievances and filings to county and court offices — a tactic that officials around the country have referred to as “paper terrorism” — included a $77 million claim for damages against the judge that handled Lind’s intimidation case. Lind had argued the judge violated his rights.
During this month’s trial, which lasted a week-and-a-half, Murphy and Lind’s attorneys argued that the men truly believed they had a valid claim over the judge’s property and so couldn’t be convicted of deceptively submitting a false lien. Prosecutor Brian Cota countered that the pair are bureaucratic bullies who use the filings to harass and intimidate those who they feel have wronged them. The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before returning with their guilty verdicts.
Cota said a second case is pending against Murphy and Lind on similar allegations. According to Cota, the two tried to have their original case dismissed by claiming to the Santa Barbara Superior Court’s administrative office that a Native American court — a judicial body of tribal leaders that they fabricated — had taken jurisdiction of the matter and dismissed the accusations. Cota said that case is still in its early stages of prosecution.