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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, October 08, 2013 3:47 pm

Not guilty pleas in Vegas sovereign citizen case

By KEN RITTERAssociated Press

A judge entered a not guilty plea for an ex-convict from California who argued the court had no authority over him, and a Las Vegas woman pleaded not guilty on her own behalf Tuesday to conspiring to kidnap police officers to draw attention to an anti-government sovereign citizen philosophy.

David Allen Brutsche declared during his arraignment in state court that he was "retaining all my inalienable rights," maintained that he should be released because no one had been harmed, and refused to state a plea. As he did in previous court appearances, he said he didn't want a lawyer appointed to represent him.

"I will not represent myself, either," said Brutsche, a convicted child sex offender who espouses an extremist anti-authority theory that people can declare themselves outside the bounds of federal and local legal constraints.

Federal law enforcement agencies characterize sovereign citizens as domestic terrorists. The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., tallies more than 100,000 loosely organized adherents, and blames the group for seven killings of law enforcement officers in the past 10 years in South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas and California.

Brutsche said Tuesday he was speaking on behalf of "the fictitious person David Allen Brutsche."

"Your objections are noted," Clark County District Court Hearing Master Melisa De La Garza responded.

The judge set trial for Dec. 9 on a felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping charge that could get Brutsche and Devon Campbell Newman up to six years in prison if they're convicted.

Brutsche, 42, is being held at the Clark County jail on $600,000 bail. He also faces a separate felony charge of failing to register as a sex offender after moving to Nevada from California. Newman is being held on $200,000 bail.

Newman, 67, pleaded not guilty, then turned her back to Brutsche during his exchanges with the judge.

Newman's lawyer, Carl Arnold, said later that he may seek to sever Newman's trial from Brutsche's.

Arnold said undercover police recordings entered as evidence in the case show that Brutsche threatened to kill Newman, a former paralegal who once served as a publicist for the Church of Scientology, and that Newman was distancing herself from Brutsche when the two were arrested Aug. 20.

Prosecutors dropped the two most serious charges against Brutsche and Newman - conspiracy to commit murder and attempted kidnapping with a weapon - even before a preliminary hearing last month. A judge bound the two over for trial on the remaining kidnap conspiracy charge.

Defense attorneys for the two claimed police entrapment and a waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars having officers record hundreds of hours of video surveillance of their clients.

"The police created this `crime,'" said Jessica Murphy, a public defender appointed to represent Brutsche over his objections.

She said a detective pretended to be a jail inmate and broached the subject of sovereign citizen ideology with Brutsche earlier this year, then supplied a place for meetings involving undercover officers posing as sovereign citizens adherents, a house that police later said would have been used as a makeshift jail, and transportation to the desert to shoot guns.

"Neither Mr. Brutsche nor Ms. Newman had any resources or ability to carry out anything," Murphy said.

Officer Laura Meltzer, a department spokeswoman, declined to comment about the resources police spent on what she termed an ongoing case.