By Jim Krencik
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — ALBANY — A state bill originating out of Orleans County could extend protections for public officials targeted by “sovereign citizens.”
S.2026-2013 (viewable at tinyurl.com/a4m5x7r), is a new bill sponsored by State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane and proposed by Orleans County District Attorney Joe Cardone. It would amend the state’s lien law “to ensure that appropriate punishments and deterrent exist in relation to the malicious filing of false or fictitious liens against ... police officers and elected officials.”
Sovereign citizens are part a growing anti-government movement whose tenets largely focus on views about taxing and jurisdictional issues. The FBI describes it as a loosely organized but potentially violent group that has harassed public officials and scammed private citizens.
“Although the sovereign-citizen movement does not always rise to violence, its members’… activities…make it a group that should be approached with knowledge and caution,” a 2011 law enforcement bulletin asserts.
According to the bill, the filing of multiple false of fictitious liens is a growing tactic used by sovereign citizens “to intimidate (officials) and undermine the rule of law.”
“These bogus liens are meritless, but in multiple cases they were accepted by the Department of State and other entities and began to appear on credit reports and had a significant and negative impact on law abiding citizens,” S.2026-2013 reads.
Cardone said such filings can create “all kinds of financial issues” for local and state law enforcement and elected officials, who are currently not protected by a statute similar to the one for federal officials.
“Sovereign citizens have a different interpretation of the Constitution and use a different approach to assert rights they feel they have,” Cardone said. “Some have initiated lawsuits against public officials ... by submitting inaccurate affidavits. They can be difficult to clear ... it’s thousands, millions of dollars.”
The bills would add language to the state’s lien law making such actions, if found to be without merit, a Class E Felony punishable by a fine of ten thousand dollars per incidence and up to one year in prison.
Cardone has not dealt with any falsely filed judgement against local officials, but he said that paperwork espousing the group’s beliefs has crept into court filings in other areas of the law.
As it is the beginning of a new session, Maziarz said a number of bills are beginning reintroduced and recirculated for co-sponsorship. He said Cardone’s backing of the proposal is a strong endorsement of the bill’s merit.
“It’s a serious problem that will get more serious as time goes on,” Maziarz said. “I appreciate Joe bringing this issue to my attention — it would not have come to the forefront without his advocacy.”