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United States v. Cook

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division

June 28, 2019



         Defendant, Marilyn Yvette Cook, objects [D. 1');">121');">1] to the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Debra Poplin [D. 1');">11');">11');">1]. The Report and Recommendation recommends denying a slew of pretrial motions filed by Ms. Cook [see D. 65, 67, 69-1');">1, 77-1');">1, 88-1');">1, 89-1');">1, 91');">1-1');">1, and 93-1');">1]. For the reasons given, Judge Poplin's Report and Recommendation is accepted in whole, and Ms. Cook's pretrial motions are denied. In addition, Ms. Cook's appeal [D. 63] of Judge Poplin's finding that she is competent to stand trial is denied [D. 62].

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Cook[1');">1" name="FN1');">1" id="FN1');">1">1');">1] was indicted on February 21');">1, 201');">18 on one count charging her with presenting a fictitious false and fictitious financial instrument-a “Bill of Exchange” in the amount of $1');">1 million-in violation of 1');">18 U.S.C. § 51');">14(a)(2) [D. 1');">1]. A Superseding Indictment was later filed on April 2, 201');">19, adding a second charge for presenting a false tax refund in violation of 1');">18 U.S.C. § 287 [D. 81');">1]. On January 31');">1, 201');">19, Judge Poplin held a competency hearing for Ms. Cook, and found her competent to stand trial [D. 62]. Since that date, Ms. Cook has represented herself with the Court's permission, with Attorney Robert R. Kurtz serving as elbow counsel [D. 64].

         a. Sovereign Citizens

         As Judge Poplin observed, Ms. Cook makes a hodgepodge of arguments that all bear the hallmark of the “sovereign citizen” movement. Sovereign citizens (or “sovereigns”) are a “loosely knit network” of individuals who express-and act on-a shared anti-government sentiment. See Joshua P. Weir, Sovereign Citizens: A Reasoned Response to the Madness, 1');">19 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 830, 834 (201');">15). Members of the contemporary movement believe that with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, along with various developments in commercial law (including the adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”), abandonment of the gold standard, and creation of the Federal Reserve Bank), the modern-day legal system has tricked people into giving up their “sovereign” citizenship in order to receive government benefits. See Id. at 837; Francis X. Sullivan, The “Usurping Octopus of Jurisdictional/Authority”: The Legal Theories of the Sovereign Citizen Movement, 1');">1999 Wis. L. Rev. 785, 795-81');">13 (1');">1999).

         Sovereigns believe there are two forms of citizenship-inferior federal (or Fourteenth Amendment) citizenship, and superior state[2] (also known as sovereign, or “de jure”) citizenship. They further believe the original Constitution recognized three types of jurisdiction-common law (which requires an injury to person or property), equity (which requires a contract), and admiralty (originally limited to the high seas). Sovereigns argue that federal district courts are admiralty courts, and through the UCC, federal courts have superseded common law by enforcing federal government contracts that bind people into federal citizenship. Sullivan, supra at 805-06. By filing abstruse legal documents to free themselves from the yoke of federal citizenship, sovereigns argue they are exempt from the jurisdiction of any legitimate court, state or federal. Weir, supra at 838.

         Separately, and perhaps paradoxically, sovereigns believe they can use the court systems to access funds tied to their birth certificate and Social Security numbers, through a tactic known as “redemption.” J.M. Berger, Geo. Wash. Program on Extremism, Without Prejudice: What Sovereign Citizens Believe 6 (June 201');">16). Government credentials such as birth certificates embody a fictional “strawman, ” each with its own corresponding bank or trust account that is distinct from the “flesh-and-blood” person. Weir, supra at 840. The strawman operates in the commercial world, so only the strawman is subject to the jurisdiction of a court. Id. But since the gold standard was abolished, the strawman accounts have been used to secure government debt; by filing the right documents, the flesh-and-blood person can “redeem” money from the strawman account. Id.

         Sovereign citizen pleadings are “dense, complex, and virtually unreadable, ” and a branch of sovereign citizen case law has grown to address the voluminous and often frivolous workload. Sullivan, supra at 796 (“Faced with mountains of paperwork, courts must choose between spending hours deciphering Sovereign Citizen arguments or dismissing them out of hand”); see U.S. v. Coleman, 871');">1 F.3d 470, 476 (6th Cir. 201');">17) (“Defendant's legal arguments directly correspond to meritless rhetoric frequently espoused by tax protesters, sovereign citizens, and self-proclaimed Moorish-Americans”[3]); U.S. v. Neal, 776 F.3d 645, 657 (9th Cir. 201');">15) (Sovereign citizen who filed a variety of documents disputing jurisdiction and other “nonsensical” issues did not exhibit incompetence to stand trial); U.S. v. Benabe, 654 F.3d 753, 767 (7th Cir. 201');">11');">1) (A sovereign citizen's arguments that they are beyond the jurisdiction of the courts should be “rejected summarily, however they are presented.”).

         b. Ms. Cook's Objections

         Ms. Cook's pleadings raise textbook sovereign citizen claims. In her competency hearing, Ms. Cook refused to consent to Judge Poplin presiding over the proceedings, and continued that argument into her appeal, saying she was “not contracting with the commercial banking system” [D. 63]. She goes on to assert her standing in the “Republic” under the “laws of 1');">13”[4] and invokes the laws of the Republic and biblical law against the commercial banking system [Id., pp. 2-3].

         Ms. Cook raises four specific objections to Judge Poplin's Report and Recommendation. The first objection begins with the caption “The ignorance of the Judge is the Misfortune of the Innocent, ” and Ms. Cook develops an elaborate multi-step argument purportedly showing the entire conduct of the criminal prosecution in this case is fraudulent. [D. 1');">121');">1-1');">1, p. 1');">1]. The Court has attempted to reconcile the logic of this argument to the extent possible.

         Ms. Cook begins by claiming this Court is not an Article III court, and is instead a private corporation, whose authority to conduct Article III judicial proceedings has been delegated under U.S. Const. art. 1');">1, § 8, cl. 9. Because the Court is a corporation, she argues, it has no jurisdiction over anyone who does not contract with it. Cf. 28 U.S.C. § 3002(1');">15)(A) (defining “United States” as a “Federal corporation” for purpose of federal debt collection). Ms. Cook claims that “unsuspecting” people have been held subject to this corporate jurisdiction-despite never having contracted with it-through the illegal adoption of the UCC.

         Meanwhile, Ms. Cook alleges that her birth certificate and Social Security card are each tradable securities on which she can pay off her debt. The profits from these financial instruments are being held in a “Certa Que” trust, managed by the Federal Reserve Bank. But all relevant parties to this prosecution (including the judges, clerks, and prosecutors) consider those assets to be their property.

         After clarifying that she is a “natural citizen of the State of Tennessee” and alleging that the criminal claims brought against her are really claims in equity, she lays out the fraudulent process the Court has used to deprive her of access to funds, ending with the allegation that both the court and the Government have sworn allegiance to the International Monetary Fund.[5] Ms. Cook rehashes these arguments in her fourth objection, arguing the Court is a ‚Äútribunal operated as a ...

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