Freemen rep clashes with judge, tossed from court
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/10/2014 (3160 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Not guilty pleas have been entered on the part of a high-profile member of the Freemen on the Land movement who is accused of threatening law enforcement.
An appearance by Dean Christopher David Clifford in Brandon court on Thursday was marked by a confrontation with Judge Shauna Hewitt-Michta.
Following their exchange of words, Hewitt-Michta said the court won’t put up with vexatious claims and disrespect for court procedure and etiquette.
“This isn’t tolerable, it’s not going to be tolerated by the court,” Hewitt-Michta said.
Clifford, 39, is part of the Freemen on the Land movement and has hosted seminars and been featured in media interviews and YouTube posts.
He appeared in provincial court on Thursday on two counts of uttering threats.
It’s alleged that an inmate at the Brandon jail, being held there while pending on charges from another Manitoba jurisdiction, placed a phone call to his brother on May 27 and threatened to cause death or bodily harm to a Brandon sheriff.
It’s alleged that the same inmate phoned his brother again on June 18 and threatened to kill “all police officers.”
The allegations haven’t been proven in court and Clifford is presumed innocent.
In general, Freemen are known to claim that courts have no jurisdiction over them, and Clifford’s tense courtroom exchange with Hewitt-Michta on Thursday made it clear he questions the court’s authority.
It began when the judge asked him if he’d hired a lawyer.
“First of all, I refuse to plea into a fiction of law, (I) want to make that very clear,” Clifford stated from the prisoner’s dock.
Hewitt-Michta tried to ask her question again, but Clifford continued, adding “Excuse me, I’m speaking … Excuse me, I’m speaking,” when Hewitt-Michta tried to interrupt.
Hewitt-Michta warned that she would remove Clifford from the courtroom if he continued to be disruptive.
“Good for you. Do you think I want to be here? I’m in chains,” Clifford replied before Hewitt-Michta directed sheriffs to remove him from the room.
Crown attorney Deidre Badcock said she sent documents that outline the allegations to Clifford at the Brandon jail, but he refused them and sent a letter to Badcock telling her to “cease and desist.”
After Clifford was removed from the courtroom, Hewitt-Michta said, despite his position, she had an obligation to ensure the court procedure was fair to Clifford who is representing himself. Citing case law, she entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.
She then reserved Nov. 21 as a potential trial date, and supplied Badcock with other potential dates.
In the meantime, the case was put to Oct. 23 for confirmation to set a trial date, and for the Crown to provide Clifford with further disclosure that includes transcripts of audio recordings of phone calls.
The Freemen on the Land movement has received heightened media coverage in Canada in recent years.
According to the Freeman Movement Facebook page: “A Freeman on the Land is someone in a common law jurisdiction who lawfully refuses to give consent to be governed, therefore no statutory obligations or restrictions apply to that human being.”
For example, Clifford’s website states that he drives without a licence and insurance, and doesn’t pay property or income taxes.
The opposing views on the Freemen on the Land movement have been captured in various media reports.
Members of the movement say they’re peaceful.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, on the other hand, has listed Freeman members among “domestic extremists” and stated that members have occasionally engaged in acts of violence against police.
In September 2012, an Alberta judge released a written decision in which he described the movement as a scam sold by “gurus” who tell followers they don’t have to fulfil such legal requirements as paying taxes.
In that decision, that judge referred to the members of such movements as Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) litigants.
“Such litigants engage in attacks on the inherent jurisdiction of the court,” Hewitt-Michta remarked in court after Clifford was removed. “No Canadian court has accepted an OPCA concept or approach as valid.”
» Twitter: @IanHitchen