Two “sovereign citizens” in Georgia were sentenced to prison on Friday for trying to take over three vacant homes, according to Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds.
Susan Lorraine Weidman was indicted in 2011 for trying to rent out foreclosed houses that she did not own.
“I feel a little bit entrapped, that if this was illegal, why didn’t they put something in writing and explain that to me?” Weidman told WSBTV at the time. “I haven’t hurt anybody, and I’ve taken no money under false pretenses.”
Cobb Superior Court Judge A. Gregory Poole sentenced Weidman to 40 years, with 20 years to be served in prison and the rest on probation. The 52-year-old woman described the situation as “a failure to communicate between me and law enforcement.”
Her accomplice, 29-year-old Matthew Lowery of Alpharetta, was sentenced as a recidivist to 20 years, with 10 years to serve in prison.
Weidman and Lowery broke into vacant homes, changed the locks, and then filed fake paperwork in an attempt to take control of the property, prosecutors said. When challenged by a real-estate firm, Weidman threatened legal action by sending a letter from a nonexistent law firm and signed by a nonexistent lawyer on behalf of a nonexistent property-management firm.
“This was no experiment,” Judge Poole said. “You had folks breaking into houses, changing the locks and outright thieving. It was just incredulous to me that a citizen could think she could get away with this.”
Jurors convicted the pair of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in late February.
Adherents of the sovereign citizens movement believe the federal government is illegitimate because of the District of Columbia Act of 1871, which they claim replaced constitutional common law with unconstitutional admiralty law. Another “sovereign citizen” in Ohio has been accused of trying to steal 11 homes.
[A Burglary Or Thief Breaking Into A Home At Night Through A Back Door. View From Inside The Residence” on Shutterstock]