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Tilting at Windmills

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July 16, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

TOO WEIRD FOR THE WIRE....Three years ago Shawn Earl Gardner and three co-defendants appeared in federal court in Baltimore on charges of drug dealing and first degree murder. But as Kevin Carey reports in "Too Weird for The Wire" in the current issue of the Monthly, the case took a strange turn after the first three defendants launched a bizarre defense:

Judge Davis ordered the three defendants to be removed from the court, and turned to Gardner, who had, until then, remained quiet. But Gardner, too, intoned the same strange speech. "I am Shawn Earl Gardner, live man, flesh and blood," he proclaimed. Every time the judge referred to him as "the defendant" or "Mr. Gardner," Gardner automatically interrupted: "My name is Shawn Earl Gardner, sir." Davis tried to explain to Gardner that his behavior was putting his chances of acquittal or leniency at risk. "Don't throw your life away," Davis pleaded. But Gardner wouldn't stop. Judge Davis concluded the hearing, determined to find out what was going on.

As it turned out, he wasn't alone. In the previous year, nearly twenty defendants in other Baltimore cases had begun adopting what lawyers in the federal courthouse came to call "the flesh-and-blood defense." The defense, such as it is, boils down to this: As officers of the court, all defense lawyers are really on the government's side, having sworn an oath to uphold a vast, century-old conspiracy to conceal the fact that most aspects of the federal government are illegitimate, including the courts, which have no constitutional authority to bring people to trial. The defendants also believed that a legal distinction could be drawn between their name as written on their indictment and their true identity as a "flesh and blood man."

What was this all about? And what happened next? The answer to both questions may surprise you. Click here to read the whole thing.

Kevin Drum 1:19 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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Comments

"read the whole thing"? Hells bells. It's about 15,000 words. I read about a third, up to the part where Mr Gardner, the defendant, and impersonal victim of the illegiteate justice system or whatever the hell point was being made, was convicted.

If I 'read the whole thing' the point better be worth it's weight in gold. Given Mr Drum's past pithy "sounds about right" epigrammatic asides, I don't think it's worth the time risk...

Posted by: anonymous on July 16, 2008 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

Best article since the one about the LaRouche publisher, thanks.

Posted by: GF on July 16, 2008 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

Anonymous: I'm sorry that 6,000 words is too much for you, but that's the way it goes. In any case, if the story has to have a "point," I guess you wouldn't have liked it anyway.

Still, if you stopped a third of the way through thinking that Gardner's conviction in state court was the end of the story, I guess you'll never find out what happened next.....

Posted by: Kevin Drum on July 16, 2008 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

EVEN BETTER Read the 14th Amendent and the attending SCOTUS decisions with it. (Slaughterhouse v. Louisanna) Its only a few paragraphs. (its part of THE US CONSTITUTION)("just a piece of paper"---GWB)

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 16, 2008 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK

I always bitched that the right to defend oneself in court does not include the right to get in the front of the line with the other lawyers on entering the building; or get called first in court like the lawyers do.

Great lawsuit material for due process.

Posted by: Matt on July 16, 2008 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

What a story!! I think the RICO stuff is just overkill though. I wonder if those clowns know they are using stuff that white supremacists used to use.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on July 16, 2008 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

ASHCHROFT's gone but those murdering drugdealers aren't. They simply read THE CONSTITUTION and learned their rights and are willing to fight in court for them. They've got all the time in the world to study the law, on YOUR dollar, and they've ALREADY BEAT THE HANGMAN. The time they are serving was handed down by county district courts.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 16, 2008 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

I smell season 6! Bring back The Wire!

Posted by: d. b. cooper on July 16, 2008 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

I smell season 6: Supremacy in the Courtroom! Bring back The Wire!

Posted by: d. b. cooper on July 16, 2008 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

"They simply read THE CONSTITUTION and learned their rights and are willing to fight in court for them."

Wow. Fantastic that they've learned their rights. While they were boning up on the law, did they happen to notice that it's, um, considered somewhat illegal to murder people?

Posted by: Legal Scholar on July 16, 2008 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

Legal Scholar, no, they didn't learn that, but they DID learn how to use the caps lock key.

(Otherwise known as the "conspiracy guarantor" key.)

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 16, 2008 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, feh... this stuff has been around in urban black subculture for a few years already. It's just an adaptation of what the Freemen, Republic of Texas, Posse Comitatus, etc., have been passing off for 20 years.

I suppose we will next have the urban black fake writs, fake liens, etc.

Anyway, it's nothing new, and certainly not worth a 15,000 word read at this time of night.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 16, 2008 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

Great story.

Now have someone else write another 15000 words on why places like Baltimore have become so fucked up that they produce people like Mitchel who have no qualms of taking people's lives on a whim...

Posted by: Nick Kaufman on July 16, 2008 at 4:44 AM | PERMALINK

So to recap:
Murderers get tossed in jail.
In trial in front of judge they make bizarre speeches referring to highly dubious legal arguments
The judge respects their choices, for the most part, and mostly by delaying the trial as years go by
Prosecutors, faced with aging witnesses remove death penalty from the charges
Murderers after years of delay are found guilty and go to prison

The moral: adding the death penalty to cases seems to make trials take longer as everyone gets pissy. Justice might be made more swift and more accurate if we did away with the death penalty.

The moral: using bizarre legal theories in your defense is likely to achieve terribly little, just as most people would expect.

Posted by: jerry on July 16, 2008 at 6:08 AM | PERMALINK

"Now have someone else write another 15000 words on why places like Baltimore have become so fucked up that they produce people like Mitchel who have no qualms of taking people's lives on a whim..."

Yes, let's. As a white liberal living here in the heart of Baltimore, I can assure it's a subject of great interest to me.

This city's been run by liberal black Democrats since the mid-60s. A Republican hasn't been elected so much as dog catcher since JFK was president.

Not sure all the answers, but I'm pretty sure it's hard to blame whitey at this point.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on July 16, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

I hope studying the constitution and learning their rights was tongue in cheek.

What they were spouting was legal gibberish. Like stringing together habeas corpus, res ipse loquiter, and ten other latin phrases into a single sentence. The legal equivalent of Jabberwocky.

Posted by: Molly bloom on July 16, 2008 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

From the article: "Hucksters and charlatans prowled the Midwest as the farm crisis deepened, selling desperate farmers expensive seminars and prepackaged legal defenses “guaranteed” to cancel debts and forestall foreclosure."

Timely article by Carey. I saw that farm crisis stuff first-hand. Untold thousands of farmers across the Midwest were made so desperate by Reagan administration policies they often borrowed $500 or a $1K to attend "seminars" where such drivel as Carey describes was being spouted, complete with "form" packages for court filings.
It was rank fraud.

Can we expect something similar as Bush's economic policies begin to grind down the urban poor and middle class?

Posted by: John B. on July 16, 2008 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

I've always thought Guantanamo might be a perfect place to send some of our more interesting federal prisoners. I think it would make a wonderful penal colony.

Posted by: aline on July 16, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Legal Scholar: Fact IS they beat the hangman and Ashcroft(NOW there's a legal eagle scholar for ya). U&I will feed, clothe, house, educate, and entertain them for YEARS to come.(hopefully the rest of their lives)

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 16, 2008 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Sad to say the illegitimacy of the Federal Government is real, but now it's based on the necessity of recourse to rebellion in response to government abrogations of UDHR rights and the international bill of rights. We will need some ritual words of our own to say in court when we are detained as political prisoners.

Posted by: nice idea on July 16, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

aline: YOU & YOO make a lovely couple.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 16, 2008 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Weird or dumb?

Posted by: Luther on July 16, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Magic words make law go bye-bye. Watch! Me show you.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on July 16, 2008 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

This city's been run by liberal black Democrats since the mid-60s. A Republican hasn't been elected so much as dog catcher since JFK was president.

Not sure all the answers, but I'm pretty sure it's hard to blame whitey at this point.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on July 16, 2008 at 9:34 AM

You're simply not trying hard enough. See Jesse, Al, the NAACP and the CBC for help in this regard.

Posted by: Chicounsel on July 16, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Now have someone else write another 15000 words on why places like Baltimore have become so fucked up that they produce people like Mitchel who have no qualms of taking people's lives on a whim...

Balitmore? George Bush is not from Baltimore.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on July 16, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

"As a white liberal living here in the heart of Baltimore[...]This city's been run by liberal black Democrats since the mid-60s."

You mean "black Democrats" like Nancy Pelosi's brother Thomas D'Alesandro III, mayor 1963-1967? Or William Donald Schaefer, mayor 1971-1987? Or Martin O'Malley, mayor 1999-2007?

Posted by: on July 16, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

"As a white liberal living here in the heart of Baltimore[...]This city's been run by liberal black Democrats since the mid-60s."

You mean "black Democrats" like Nancy Pelosi's brother Thomas D'Alesandro III, mayor 1963-1967? Or William Donald Schaefer, mayor 1971-1987? Or Martin O'Malley, mayor 1999-2007?

Posted by: Dirty Davey on July 16, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry--typo... Young Tommy D'Alesandro was 1967-1971. Republican Theodore McKeldin was 1963-1967.

Posted by: Dirty Davey on July 16, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

This city's been run by liberal black Democrats since the mid-60s.

Maryland was a slave territory for over two hundred years. Perhaps if the Marylandoid slave owners had not been so abusive, the descendants of slaves would not have seemed so dysfunctional to the descendants of pedophile slave owners.

Posted by: Brojo on July 16, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Dirty Davey,
Do a google for "Baltimore City Demographics" (the city is 65% black and 10 to 1 Democrat, and has been since the mid-60s), and "Baltimore City Council" and get to us. Mayors don't run cities by themselves, they have a legislative body to contend with.

Hint: more than half the City Council is black and has been for decades. So is the mayor today, our friend Sheila, who's probably going to get impeached.

In any event, McKeldin was that last Republican elected when JFK was president that I mentioned. I see you omitted who the mayor was after Schaefer. This city's been in the hands of liberal Democrats (yeah yeah, plenty of white mayors...yawn...but the electorate and the city council has been black for decades) since well before the Tet Offensive...

So like I said...whitey is blame exactly how?

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on July 16, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Many of the 'Blacks' in Maryland are children of slave owners who raped slaves. Much of the behavior problems of these slave owners' descendants should be attributed to their European heritage, not their African one. European slave owners raped slaves and sired slave children, which they then raped again and/or sold to other slave owner abusers. Most people Americans consider to be 'Black' acutally have a significant amount of their genes from their European slave owners/fathers, yet most American racists refuse to acknowledge this heritage and accept responsibilty for what their forefathers wrought. Maryland's liberal Black politicians are the bastard brothers and sisters of those who complain most about them, which might partially explain their animosity.

Posted by: Brojo on July 16, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,

I hope Brojo answered your question for you. You see, White slave owners raped slaves 200 years ago, leading drug dealers to kill each other in Baltimore.

This answer makes more sense if you are insane.


Posted by: mantooth on July 16, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Now THAT is some funny shit, Brojo. Angry bastard rapists, the new power center. I love it.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on July 16, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

White slave owners raped slaves continuously for 200 years, leading drug dealers to kill each other in Baltimore.

Posted by: Brojo on July 16, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

With no breaks for meals or sleep? Impressive.

Posted by: mantooth on July 16, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

The Italian and Irish illicit alcohol dealers who killed each other during prohibition were not raped by slave owners, so illicit substance dealers are killers because of market forces, not because of their race or ethnicity.

Posted by: Brojo on July 16, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

This would explain why the dope dealing black guys in my neighborhood call me muthafucka, wouldn't it?

It all makes sense now, thanks Brojo! You R teh awezome!

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on July 16, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

All joking aside, my ancestors were displaced by the English during the Great Upheaval in 1755, which led me to cutting an Englishman in line today at the bank. His refusal to acknowledge his role in my family's tragic history earned him my animosity.

Posted by: mantooth on July 16, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Some years ago one of our local Seattle area nut cases pasted a piece of paper saying “freeman” in place of a license plate and went for a drive at rush hour on I-405. The resultant police chase and apprehension resulted in an enormous traffic jam with drivers stuck in place for hours. I always thought it would have been poetic justice if instead of arresting the loony, the cops had just turned him over to the angry commuters for some frontier justice.

Posted by: fafner1 on July 16, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I see "sovereign immunity" and similar enthusiasts at my workplace (which is a prison) on occasion. It's not exactly strange how much these inmates want to believe odd conspiracies, which is much better than facing up to the facts of their crimes. Really, what makes more sense: people are sovereign if they say so and thus immune to the law or people are subject to the law? The answer depends on what you want to get away with.

I'll resist the urge to make parallels to anyone other than convicted felons in the prison system.

Posted by: jon on July 16, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose George Bush and Dick Cheney are "sovereign" (call Pelosi @1-202-225-0100 DEMAND IMPEACHMENT)

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 16, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Holy shit.
What a fascinating tale.
Nice work Mr. Carey.

Posted by: Tosh on July 16, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe this line of reasoning is new(s) to some folks. I've spoke with, corresponded with, watched and written about some of these tax protesters over the years. They are nearly always non-lawyers and love, I mean love, trying to lawyer. One of the more fun examples: they file odd liens against judges' property.
I read this whole story in the Washington Monthly and am amazed that it was done at all. There's no story -- meaning newsworthy -- other than the irony of black defendants invoking the far-fetched conspiracy theories that have been used by racists, black-helicopter anti-government guiys and anti-tax nuts. And that, in and of itself, ain't a story.

Posted by: TC on July 16, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Just a point of historical accuracy: Baltimore's City Council was gerrymandered and was not redistricted to have a majority of majority black districts until 1991 and the famous shoe waving incident by now mayor Sheila Dixon.

Posted by: sj on July 16, 2008 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Magic words make law go bye-bye. Watch! Me show you."

aka unitary executive theory.
______
". . . a man named Darius Spence . . . found out that his wife, Tanya, was cheating on him with a local drug dealer everyone called “Momma.” . . . Spence decided to have Momma beaten up severely. To accomplish this, he negotiated with another drug dealer named Willie Montgomery. Would Montgomery be willing to beat up Momma in exchange for money? But Montgomery had another proposition altogether. Beating Momma up didn’t make sense, Montgomery argued, because then Momma would undoubtedly try to kill Montgomery. It was better just to kill Momma outright, and for five thousand dollars, Montgomery would be glad to do the job. Spence said he’d think it over.

Unfortunately for Darius Spence, Montgomery wasn’t interested in waiting around for an answer. Instead, sensing opportunity, Montgomery decided to tell Momma about the hit. If I turn down the deal, Montgomery explained, then Spence will probably just hire someone else to kill you. Therefore, Montgomery reasoned, you should hire me to kill Spence first. Momma was persuaded. (As Montgomery later explained to the prosecutors, “I guess he like that idea better than Darius Spence’s idea.”)"

Ah, American entrepreneurship!

Posted by: Dan S. on July 16, 2008 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

As to the piece, I thought it was pretty good, but it did go on a bit. Blow by blow details of the murders, the RICO stuff, and some of the details of the history of this white supremacist/tax evader culture weren't really needed for the story, but then again, the basic story was a little disappointing in the end (bad legal advise was spread by...prisoners!), so I was glad of the digressions.

What I find funny about these illegitimate government claims is the idea that if you just stand up in court and say you're flesh and blood, or if you just renounce your social security number, or whatever, that you're off the hook. These people believe that the entire federal government has been acting illegally for over a century, and they think that after just pointing this out, that same illegitimate government will just say, "Aw, you got us. You can go free, your debts are canceled, you never have to pay tax again." Even by their own weird logic, this makes absolutely no sense.

To me, that's always a sure tell for an urban legend. Whenever there's some too-clever (or not so clever) way of turning the tables and using arcane rules against a higher authority, you know it's probably a load of crap.

Posted by: Royko on July 17, 2008 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

Good read, Kevin. Some amusing comments, especially Secular Animist's observation about the CAP LOCK key and mantooth's vendetta against the English. Funny.

Posted by: DevilDog on July 17, 2008 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

"Just a point of historical accuracy: Baltimore's City Council was gerrymandered and was not redistricted to have a majority of majority black districts until 1991 and the famous shoe waving incident by now mayor Sheila Dixon."

Ah yes, we're going on two decades since "the shoe is on the other foot now". Regardless, the city's been overwhelmingly majority black since the 60s, and that's where the city's power structure has emanated from ever since. In any event, the point stands--we liberals have decades and decades of unfettered control of the city, and it's still a shithole.

Those nasty white GOP guys are to blame exactly how? Oh yes, Brojo explained it nicely.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on July 17, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

No, English, slave owning, child molesting Catholics are to blame. The nasty European GOP guys just exploited their, and Sebastian-PGP's, racism.

Posted by: Brojo on July 17, 2008 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Better yet: SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON MONTHLY

I read the last issue literally cover-to-cover. Since it appears so infrequently, I ordered The Nation.

But please please please SUBSCRIBE NOW.

Posted by: Rik Wenger on July 17, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I don't think the city is a shithole and I've spent all but about seven of my 51 years here, including the last 26. Public school education in Baltimore, from kindergarten to J.D.

Posted by: sj on July 17, 2008 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote about a similar case in ohio four years ago. but here, the defendants claimed to be moors, descendants of the original inhabitants of north america. crazy stuff, but fascinating.

http://www.clevescene.com/2004-01-28/news/color-scheme/

Posted by: Frank Lewis on July 18, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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