MAGA rioters' desperate bid to declare themselves 'sovereign citizens' is blowing up in their faces
An insurrectionist at the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Twitter)

On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that convicted participants in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are increasingly resorting to nonsense legal conspiracy theories from the "sovereign citizen" movement to try to force federal officials to release them — with poor results.

"On October 28, long after pleading guilty to brawling with police inside the U.S. Capitol, James Mault and Greg Rubenacker filed near-identical documents from inside Pennsylvania’s Allenwood Low correctional facility," reported Kelly Weill, noting that these filings claimed the district court where they were found guilty is a "private for profit corporation" with no jurisdiction over them. "The filings, full of pseudo-legal arguments, strange punctuation, and (in Rubenacker’s case) what appears to be blood, bear the hallmarks of sovereign citizen ideology. The sovereign citizen movement falsely claims that adherents are immune from large portions of the law, or that many government institutions are secretly illegitimate. The movement has a growing foothold in far-right communities, including among QAnon followers and members of an alleged plot to overthrow the German government who were arrested this month."

The most famous sovereign citizen arrested at the Capitol attack, the report noted, is Pauline Bauer, who previously claimed divine immunity from U.S. law and demanded all charges dropped against her "vessel" — a reference to the fact that sovereign citizens believe when their name appears in all-caps in an indictment, it means the government is prosecuting a fictitious entity.

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"Strange though the argument was, it wasn’t Bauer’s invention. She learned it from Bobby Lawrence, a Pennsylvania man who’s built a following by preaching a fantasy legal theory that he describes as 'American state nationalism,'" said the report. "Like many orbiters of the sovereign citizen world, Lawrence insists his teachings are not related to the sovereign movement. 'By and large everyone equates us to sovereign citizens,' he told The Daily Beast. 'That’s how the public looks at it. They don’t realize there’s a difference between a national and a city-zen. City-zen. Municipal public servant. Break down the word: city, zen, ship. Municipal servant in admiralty.'"

But while Bauer has largely given up, others are still trying.

"James Beeks, a Broadway actor-turned-Oathkeeper, has espoused sovereign citizen talking points while on trial for his participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot," said the report. "In a court filing last month, he announced that he was firing his public defender and choosing to represent himself 'in Propria Sui Juris,' a favorite term of sovereign citizens acting as their own lawyers. He stylized his name as ':james beeks:,' a flourish the sovereign movement believes makes them immune from taxes, and signed the document with both the common sovereign sign of a fingerprint and his name, followed by 'all rights reserved,' which sovereign citizens believe is an assertion of a person’s individual copyright. He has pleaded not guilty." The fingerprint was written in blood.

Some of these defendants still have professional lawyers — but, the report noted, they often fight with them. "In June, defendant Trevor Brown filed a motion to dismiss, apparently without his lawyer’s blessing. Brown wrote that he was filing 'on my own without assistance' because he believed his attorney 'works in conspiracy with the United States Attorneys,'" said the report. "Brown’s argument hinged on the sovereign claim that the government registers peoples’ names as trademarks, and that those names do not actually apply to them."