Two men who met regularly with Gov. LePage arrested for pursuing Sovereign Citizen beliefs

Jack McCarthy - speaking at a 2014 Tea Party rally in Augusta

Jack McCarthy – speaking at a 2014 Tea Party rally in Augusta

The Bangor Daily News today reports that Jack McCarthy, one of the members of the  Constitutional Coalition, a group of Sovereign Citizen conspiracy theorists who met with Governor Paul LePage at least eight times last year, was found guilty of two counts of operating a vehicle without a license in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou yesterday.

The charges stemmed from a January 18 incident where a charging document provided by the Presque Isle Police Department indicates McCarthy was stopped by officers in front of the Irish Setter Pub and arrested for operating without a license, obstructing government administration and a failure to appear warrant out of Houlton.

McCarthy has deliberately refused to renew his license since 2011 as a form of civil disobedience against state and federal governments that he believes are illegal and has often urged others to do the same. On his Aroostook Watchmen radio show last Thursday, he defended his actions and equated them to “taking a sip out of the ‘negroes only’ drinking fountain.”

McCarthy is not the only one of the four main members of the Constitutional Coalition who has recently been arrested for pursuing anti-government beliefs. On May 21, according to reports in the Lincoln News, fellow constitutionalists Gary Smart was arrested after an encounter with officers of the Lincoln Police Department.

After being pulled over for expired registration and inspection stickers on West Broadway in Lincoln, Smart apparently declared himself a “sovereign citizen” and refused to exit his pickup truck until a member of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department was present. (Sovereigns believe that elected sheriffs are the only legitimate law enforcement officials.) Local officers eventually removed Smart from the vehicle and placed him in handcuffs.

Smart was also later charged with operating without a license and violating the conditions of his release, according to the Lincoln News.

Smart, like McCarthy, is defending himself in court and has posted some of his legal submissions to his website. They contain textbook Sovereign Citizen rhetoric, including the misuse of legal terms, allegations that the government is illegitimate and quotes from bible verses and precedents from the 1800s that he says prove he is above the law.

According to a recent article on representing Sovereign Citizens in Voice for the Defense, a journal for defense lawyers, while these kinds of claims may seem delusional, courts usually find sovereigns competent to stand trial despite their disconnection from reality.

“Because sovereign citizen beliefs are shared by up to, and maybe exceeding, 300,000 people, the psychologists and researchers who have studied the subject conclude that the sovereign citizen’s odd, seemingly delusional beliefs have been sanctioned and accepted by too many to be considered delusions,” write authors Melissa Shearer and Christina Koenig.

Routine traffic stops of Sovereign Citizens (by officers of what they believe to be an illegal regime) sometimes escalate to violence, which is one of the reasons why the FBI and Maine law enforcement consider the movement a “domestic terrorist threat.”

During their meetings in Augusta last year, members of the Constitutional Coalition shared many of their anti-government conspiracy theories with Governor LePage. He validated some of their beliefs by taking actions on their behalf, including asking Sheriff Randall Liberty to follow up on their charges of treason against House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond with Maine’s Attorney General.

LePage has denied that he discussed trying and executing his political opponents with the men, but documents from their meetings obtained under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and statements from Constitutional Coalition members contradict his account. His office has not yet been forthcoming with his notes from the meetings, which LePage has said exist but are written in a shorthand code that only he understands.

As Maine Went, my book on the rise of the Tea Party and the tenure of Governor LePage can be pre-ordered for just one more day through Kickstarter and will soon be available in bookstores everywhere. I’ll be officially launching the book with a reading at Longfellow Books in Portland at noon tomorrow.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike writes about Maine politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center, writes a political column for the Portland Press Herald