Samuel Lynn Davis couldn't help himself.
Even as the "Guardians of the Free Republics" elder and Sovereign Citizen movement darling was finally pleading guilty to 31 money laundering counts Friday morning in U.S. District Judge James Mahan's courtroom, Davis couldn't resist reminding us he is the real victim.
Davis, 56, told the court he felt victimized by a malicious, rights-trampling federal government that violated its own law and "devised a scheme of entrapment and inducement targeting me under the pretext of friendship, and deception of lies."
"It has always been my intent to abide the law," Davis read from a prepared statement that quoted the Gospel According to Matthew and former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Andrew Jackson. "Admitting poor judgment and accepting full responsibility for my actions, I violated my own principles according to God's Word and fell into the aforementioned traps, deceptions and bearing of false witness to my detriment."
Judge Mahan, perhaps relieved the defendant's statement was only two pages long, accepted the guilty plea, asterisk and all.
In the parlance of those who study the Sovereign Citizen movement, Davis is considered a popular redemption guru, a fellow who preaches a strange gospel that mixes conservative Christian theology and Second Amendment worship with anti-tax rhetoric and blends in the sovereign's mantra that they are not bound by the mandates of the federal government, but are free individuals.
To them, income tax laws are unconstitutional. Driver's licenses aren't required.
Just navigating their Orwellian vocabulary and conspiracy-riddled philosophy takes a Rand McNally.
Until just a few years ago, Davis was a popular speaker on the redemption seminar circuit, which attracts thousands under the guise of explaining the government has no right to collect taxes. For his part, Davis bragged to followers he hadn't filed a tax return since 1998. In true sovereign style, Davis often identified himself only as "I am: Sam."
Then came an FBI-IRS raid in March 2009, and "I am: Sam" became "I am: Toast." Davis and sovereign cohort Shawn Rice were revealed as the central figures in an undercover sting after they agreed to launder more than $1.29 million in what they believed were illicit funds. After wire transferring $1.198 million, Davis accepted $73,782 and Rice kept $22,000 in laundering fees.
I am: Sam sounded like Alibi Ike on Friday.
"I became involved with people who were allegedly my friends," Davis said. "They wanted to do some business. I accommodated them."
If this were an isolated case of one anti-tax con man being reminded, whether he likes it or not, federal law applies even to those who choose not to recognize it, it would be easy to write off. There are anti-tax suckers born every minute.
But Davis is part of a movement that not only preys on the frustrated, confused and angry among us, but increasingly incites violence with its revolutionary rhetoric.
Devoted members of the Sovereign Citizen movement aren't merely Tea Partiers on steroids. An element among them is violent and deadly. On May 20, 2010, two West Memphis, Ark., police officers were murdered by Sovereign Citizen members.
Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols was a Sovereign Citizen, as was Scott Roeder, who murdered a doctor who performed abortions in Wichita, Kan.
In the local case, Davis compatriot Jan Lindsey, a former FBI agent turned anti-tax spokesman, last year pleaded guilty to not paying $109,000 in personal income taxes. He received no jail time.
Knowing Lindsey skated, Judge Mahan will be challenged to balance the interests of justice when Davis returns in June for sentencing.
Lucky for the delusional "I am: Sam," he will be heard in a real courtroom paid for by the rest of us.
John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.