Sunday, April 24, 2005

Justice well served

I've spent a chunk of time in Judge John Coughenour's federal courtrooms, particularly during the trials of the Washington State Militia in Seattle and the Montana Freemen in Billings. (See In God's Country for more details.)

He probably has more experience in dealing with far-right conspiracy theories -- particularly so-called "constitutionalist" pseudo-legal theories -- than any other federal judge. He also is the epitome of the "no-nonsense judge": blunt, plain-spoken, impatient with obfuscation. And there's no room for any kind of folderol, whether from attorneys or their clients or jurors.

So I was more than a little amused to read of Coughenour's latest courtroom confrontation with a constitutionalist scam artist in a Seattle P-I report:
Anderson's Ark moved client cash into overseas bank accounts and falsely deducted the funds from income tax returns as consulting or management expenses, the government said. In order to make the deductions look legitimate, Anderson's Ark told its clients to send the money through an Anderson's Ark affiliate to a shell company operated by co-defendant Richard Marks, prosecutors said.

Convicted leaders of the scam included brothers Keith and Wayne Anderson, and Karolyn Grosnickle, who ran the operational headquarters out of a home in Hoodsport in Mason County.

The Anderson brothers and Marks represented themselves in the proceedings, which were notable for lengthy political harangues.

Marks challenged Coughenour yesterday, asking: "What kind of a court are you running here?" He got a quick response from the judge: "I'll have you bound and gagged if you don't stop to listen to me."

Marks proclaimed: "I have repeatedly challenged the jurisdiction of this court. This court is committing treason. You judge, are committing treason ... when you usurp the authority of the Constitution." Then he launched into an incomprehensible monologue challenging the court's jurisdiction, which centered on his true identity being that of a "human being" rather than a "fictitious legal entity."

Coughenour cut him off and asked Corey Smith of the Justice Department's Tax Division for his sentence recommendation. Smith noted Marks' "utter lack of contrition" and recommended 25 years in prison.

The attorney from the Justice Department's Tax Division at the hearing, Corey Smith, boiled it down to the fundamentals:
Smith rose and told Coughenour "some of these Anderson Ark members might look at Mr. Anderson as a slightly odd man. I would submit that is not the case. Mr. Anderson is a financial predator. Mr. Anderson is a professional con artist."

I've described the ways other far-right ideologues are actually running relatively lucrative cons. It's pretty much endemic to the extremist right, in fact. For that matter, it would be fair to say their ideology is a scam as well.

I don't know about Bill Frist, but I happen to think the federal judiciary functions well at serving the American public and the interests of justice. Judge Coughenour is the ultimate example of that. Though the people he just put away, no doubt, are more than happy to partake in all that talk about "black-robed tyrants."

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