Lonnie and Karen Vernon, two sovereign citizens and militia members in Alaska, lost a court case over $180,000 in taxes they owe to the IRS, a case that allegedly led to a plot to kill a U.S. District Judge, an IRS employee, and two state troopers.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports:
U.S. District Court Judge Lonny R. Suko ruled on Monday that Lonnie and Karen Vernon are liable for nearly $180,000 in combined unpaid taxes, penalities, interest and government expenses, plus an undetermined amount of additional interest that has accrued since January.
Suko also ruled the government may sell the Vernons’ home on Old Valdez Trail and other possessions to pay off the debt.
The Vernons were charged with not paying taxes in 1996, and from 2000 through 2003. Representing themselves in court, the Vernons admitted in court that they hadn’t paid their taxes, but argued that the IRS had no authority to collect. From the News-Miner: “IRS authorization was never properly published in the Federal Register, they said, also claiming they weren’t properly notified of the assessments against them.”
The argument about IRS authority is a classic tenet of the sovereign citizen belief system, which at its most extreme considers all forms of government in the U.S. illegitimate.
In March, the Vernons were indicted on federal charges for allegedly stockpiling weapons and plotting to kill U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline and one of his family members. Beistline was initially presiding over the Vernons’ tax evasion case, and called their claims “frivolous and nonsensical.” An IRS employee was also allegedly targeted in the plot.
The Vernons were a part of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, led by Schaeffer Cox, and were among four members of Cox’s “command staff” indicted at the federal level. Five were initially arrested and slapped with several state charges.