"Public wealth rebate notes?"
Another Yogi Berra moment here.
May 31, 2009 9:13 p.m. PT
Alleged secessionist charged with gun, drug charges
Prosecutors contend Snohomish man had machine gun, silencers
By LEVI PULKKINEN
Federal authorities in Seattle have filed gun and drug charges against an alleged member of a secessionist movement after agents seized a weapons cache that included four silencers, body armor and a fully automatic rifle.
Filings in the case, currently before the U.S. District Court in Seattle, offer glimpses into the "sovereign citizen" movement and, prosecutors contend, militia groups loosely affiliated with it.
Currently free on bond, Andrew Steven Gray was arrested early last month after a lengthy investigation involving a Snohomish County militia shooting range, according to recently unsealed documents filed in U.S. District Court. Gray, a Snohomish man with a previous felony conviction on drug charges, is alleged to have amassed a 21-gun collection at a Monroe storage unit, as well as operated a 300- to 500-plant marijuana grow at his home.
Prosecutors also contend that Gray, 32, has long-standing ties to the sovereign citizen movement, in which adherents believe state and federal law do not apply to them. Through his attorney, Gray has denied membership in any such group; that claim, though, seems to be at odds with a letter sent to the court on Gray's behalf from a leader in a Snohomish County secessionist movement.
"Regardless of the label applied or the specific form their ideology takes, their ideology fundamentally rests on the belief that the federal courts, federal law, and ultimately the federal government and all of its agencies have no legal authority to impose their will upon a 'sovereign citizen,'" the FBI special agent heading the case said in court documents.
The bureau launched an investigation into Gray after a paid informant told authorities Gray had been shooting at a facility known as the Militia Training Center, according to statements from the lead investigator, a member of the bureau's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Due to his previous felony drug conviction, Gray is barred from handling firearms.
The informant obtained a recorded statement during which Gray was heard admitting to gun possession, according to the agent's statement. With that statement, federal agents obtained a search warrant and on May 4 raided a storage locker and home occupied by Gray.
At the locker, agents allegedly discovered a stash of weapons, armor and ammunition. The cache included four unregistered silencers, as well as a M-16-style machine gun capable of automatic fire. Among the weapons seized were two guns manufactured by a Snohomish gunsmith whose offerings include parts named "Christian warrior" and "NObama."
Agents also raided a Snohomish home, inside which they discovered the marijuana operation, according to court documents. Gray was arrested and has since been indicted on charges of unlawful machinegun and silencer possession, felon in possession of a firearm and marijuana possession with the intent to distribute.
Speaking Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Dion said the current prosecution does not extend to others thought to be involved in the Snohomish County "sovereign citizen" movement or the militia training center.
"You're always worried anytime you see drug dealers with a high-powered weapons," Dion said. But, he added, "factually, this is a standalone case."
After his arrest, Gray was released on bond after his attorney, Seattle lawyer Jessica Riley, argued that Gray is no longer involved in sovereign-citizen groups.
"Although Mr. Gray may have historically been affiliated with this group, in recent months he had begun to distance himself from the 'sovereign citizen' movement," Riley said in court documents. "Mr. Gray is not the crazy, politically charged renegade that the government makes him out to be in its complaint."
Riley went on to describe Gray as an "avid gun collector," an unusual hobby for a man barred from gun ownership due to a previous felony conviction.
The assertions made by Gray's attorney appear to be at odds with a character reference sent to the court by Thom Satterlee, who identifies himself as "Bishop of the Way" and "Yoshua's Talmadin."
According to Everett's Herald newspaper, Satterlee has frequently advocated that a portion of Snohomish County dubbed Freedom County by supporters secede from the United States. Over the years, Satterlee has been convicted of practicing law without a license, seen his non-existent county's sheriff jailed, and had the Secret Service confiscate "public wealth rebate notes" he attempted to redeem at a bank.
In his May 18 letter to the court, Satterlee wrote glowingly of Gray, describing him as a man of "high moral character whose word is (his) bond."
"I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Andrew for better than the last 10 years," Satterlee said in the statement. "Andrew has always been respectful and courteous in all the situations and toward all the individuals that we were helping."
Gray is scheduled to appear in court Thursday to enter a plea to the charges. If convicted as charged, he faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison.
MBV: More here on Satterlee and the background of Snohomish Secession.
Published: Friday, May 10, 2002
'Freedom County' advocate guilty of illegal law practice
Scott North / Herald Writer
ARLINGTON -- Thom Satterlee has for years claimed to be a commissioner in "Freedom County," a place the courts have repeatedly ruled does not exist.
That hasn't stopped him from appointing a sheriff, a coroner and an auditor, and signing reams of official-looking correspondence demanding that Snohomish County clear out of his neck of the woods.
Last Friday, the Darrington man found out there is a legal limit to his activities.
Satterlee, who from time to time has filed papers claiming his right to argue legal cases, was convicted of unauthorized practice of law, a gross misdemeanor, after a jury trial in the Cascade Division of Snohomish County District Court in Arlington.
Judge Jay Wisman sentenced Satterlee to 30 days in jail and imposed a $300 fine. He stayed the punishment pending appeal.
Satterlee did not immediately return phone calls. Since 1995, he has led a group that claims a majority of people in about 1,000 square miles of northern Snohomish County have seceded and formed their own government.
Freedom County backers have repeatedly failed to gain legal support for that contention, losing a series of lawsuits in state and federal courts. All but one of those cases have been brought by Satterlee and others without the assistance of lawyers.
Deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock said Satterlee's involvement in Freedom County was an issue during the trial, both in screening potential jurors and in some of Satterlee's claims for authority for his actions. His involvement with Freedom County was not a factor in the decision to file charges, the prosecutor said.
"I can honestly say that his reputation was not taken into account," Baldock said.
The case stemmed from Satterlee's intercession on his son-in-law's behalf in an October civil case involving a traffic accident.
A Seattle law firm had legal papers served on Satterlee's son-in-law. Satterlee responded with legal pleadings, representing himself as the "communication agent/counsel of record" and directing that all future legal papers be sent to Satterlee, Baldock said.
The Seattle lawyers contacted the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office after they realized Satterlee was not an attorney nor a member of the Washington State Bar Association.
Baldock said state law is clear on who may practice law. The courts have defined legal practice as giving legal advice or counsel, preparing legal documents and representing or negotiating on somebody else's behalf in legal forums.
Satterlee is the second Freedom County leader to be prosecuted in recent months for false representation.
Robert Bender, who goes by the name Fnu Lnu, in February was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $600 fine after being convicted in Tukwila of impersonating an officer and obstruction. Bender was charged after he claimed, during a run-in with Tukwila police, to be the sheriff of Freedom County, a position he was appointed to by Satterlee in October 2000.
Bender, whose assumed name is a police acronym for "first name unknown, last name unknown," has since said he resigned as Freedom County sheriff.
Satterlee had sought to represent Bender at his Tukwila trial, filing documents claiming he was the "acting interim prosecutor" for Freedom County in the case. That was rejected by the court, which noted Satterlee wasn't licensed to practice law in Washington, according to court records.