‘Sovereign citizen’ convicted on 10 counts of harassing fed officials with $100 billion liens
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter June 18, 2014 11:54AM
Cherron Phillips leaves the Dirksen Federal building after her court appearance where she's accused of filing false leins on the home of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and other officials Monday 6-16-14. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: CST1406161804038779
Updated: July 21, 2014 3:17PM
A woman who filed phony $100 billion liens against federal officials in revenge for her brother’s drug conviction was locked up Wednesday by a federal judge who called her a “paper terrorist.”
Jurors hearing the trial of Cherron Phillips took just two and a half hours to find the 44-year-old guilty of targeting four judges, including former chief U.S. District Court Judge James Holderman, and six other law enforcement officials, including former U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald.
The mother-of-two had claimed she was exempt from federal law and previously tried to gum-up the case with a series of nonsensical self-penned legal documents.
U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan ordered that she be held in custody until she is sentenced in October. The judge said he feared Phillips would “continue to file frivolous and misguided lawsuits” if allowed to remain free, adding “she is a paper terrorist.”
Phillips began using the meritless legal arguments of the so-called “sovereign citizen” movement in 2010, after her brother Devon Phillips pleaded guilty to dealing cocaine.
The movement, which denies the authority of the federal government, has spread on the Internet and in the prison system and has increasingly and without success been invoked in Chicago courtrooms.
Bank robber Jose Banks — who led a daring, widely publicized escape from the 17th floor of the Metropolitan Correctional Center last year — is among its followers.
And Phillips used one of the movement’s tricks when she filed phony “maritime liens” against a dozen officials involved in her brother’s case, claiming each owed her brother $100 billion.
All 12, including Holderman and Fitzgerald, testified for the prosecution during the bizarre trial.
Jurors Wednesday convicted her of retaliating against federal officials in 10 of those cases, but cleared her of two counts relating to Chicago cops who were no longer deputized as DEA agents at the time she filed the liens in 2011.
She faces up to 10 years behind bars on each count, though sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of around 78 months — ironically the same time her brother served for his drug conviction, her attorney Lauren Solomon said.
Solomon called the case “sad.” She said during her closing argument earlier Wednesday that Phillips’ crimes were so “patently absurd” that they were akin to “trying to pass Monopoly money and being charged with counterfeiting.”
But in his closing arguments, prosecutor Nathan Stump said the series of phony liens Phillips filed “was not justice, it was vengeance. It was petty, it was sneaky, it was a cheap shot.”
Though none of the 12 victims Phillips targeted were seriously inconvenienced by the liens, the crime had “shocked” at least one judge and was “no laughing matter,” he said.