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July 11--NEWBURYPORT -- Upon first blush, 21-year-old Christopher Noone's demand to speak to "Mr. or Mrs. Commonwealth" during his appearance before Judge Peter Doyle in Ipswich District Court Wednesday appeared laughable, if not outlandish.
But upon further review of court documents, the demand appears to be part of a pattern of non-cooperation from the Monson resident that began shortly after a summons was issued against him last August in Hamilton for driving without a license.
During Wednesday's appearance at Ipswich District Court, held at the Newburyport courthouse, Noone declined an offer by Essex County prosecutor Michelle Belmonte to decriminalize the charge and fine him only $50.
Instead, Noone demanded a jury trial, which has been scheduled for later this summer. If convicted, he faces a potential fine of up to $1,000 but no jail time.
Before declining the prosecutor's offer, Noone asked Doyle to present Mr. or Mrs. Commonwealth, prompting the not-amused judge to point toward Belmonte and say she was Mrs. Commonwealth.
According to Hamilton police, Noone had left a pickup truck with a horse trailer attached running along the side of Woodbury Street. After spotting Noone walking toward the vehicle, the officer asked to see a driver's license or another form of identification. He told the officer he didn't have his license with him.
A check of Noone's name and date of birth, provided by Noone, showed that there was no license status for him and that he had been charged with unlicensed operation in Monson.
Court documents show that Noone's first appearance in court in early October resulted in his being thrown in jail for a day. Noone refused a court order to report to the probation department and complete an intake form used to determine whether he was eligible for a court-appointed attorney.
Noone also refused to sign a waiver of counsel, arguing that he was not a person. Those actions prompted Judge Allen Swan to find him in contempt and ordered him confined for a day, according to court records.
In late January, Noone submitted a lengthy motion to dismiss the charge against him on the basis that the laws of the commonwealth do not apply to him. As part of the motion, Noone declared himself a non-person in terms of what the state considers a person.
"I, Christopher Patrick Noone, do not consent to being a person, because I am not according to the legal definition of a person that being a fiction. I, Christopher Patrick Noone, am a living breathing free man, not a legal fiction. Nor do I have any contracts or obligations to or with any legal fictions," Noone writes in his motion.
Noone goes on to say that under the premise of "natural sovereignty," people are divided into natural persons or artificial persons. Artificial persons are those created and devised by human laws for the purposes of society and government, which are called corporations or bodies politic. Governments restrict the free will of natural persons, which goes against the will of God and does not allow persons to act as one thinks fit.
Noone's motion to dismiss was denied. He later failed to appear at his next court appearance in early April, resulting in a warrant for his arrest. The warrant was recalled nine days later when he was picked up.
Also included in his court document is information regarding the state's case against Christopher Schulte, 33, of Peabody, who admitted to state police in Danvers he was driving without a license last October. Last week a Salem District Court jury found him guilty of driving after license suspension and fined him $500.
During his trial, which he served as his own counsel, Schulte also argued he wasn't bound by the laws of the commonwealth, calling himself a "sovereign citizen." He went on to dispute Massachusetts General Laws regarding operating a motor vehicle and offered his own laws based on the country's Founding Fathers. At one point, he asked if the trooper who pulled him over had any documentation that proved the state owned the road where he was pulled over.
When the trooper said he did not, but he believed it to be a public way, Schulte then turned to the jury and dramatically announced, "Let the record show the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may not own the road."
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or "sovereign" from the United States. As a result, they believe they don't have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments or law enforcement.
"This causes all kinds of problems -- and crimes. For example, many sovereign citizens don't pay their taxes. They hold illegal courts that issue warrants for judges and police officers. They clog up the court system with frivolous lawsuits and liens against public officials to harass them. And they use fake money orders, personal checks and the like at government agencies, banks and businesses," according to the FBI.
Over the last several years, the FBI has linked sovereign citizens to money-laundering schemes, insurance fraud and tax evasion. In 2010, the deaths of two Arkansas police officers were linked to a sovereign-citizen extremist who shot the officers with an assault rifle during a routine traffic stop, according to the FBI.
"One prevalent sovereign-citizen theory is the Redemption Theory, which claims the government went bankrupt when it abandoned the gold standard basis for currency in 1933 and began using citizens as collateral in trade agreements with foreign governments. These beliefs can provide a gateway to illegal activity because such individuals believe the U.S. government does not act in the best interests of the American people. By announcing themselves as sovereign citizens, they are emancipated from the responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen, including paying taxes, possessing a state driver's license, or obeying the law," according to the FBI.
Salem News reporter Julie Manganis contributed to this report.
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