Leaders of splinter tribe charged with filing false liens against federal officials
Two men who claim to be leaders of the Little Shell Nation, a breakaway group of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, appeared in Grand Forks' federal court Tuesday on charges of filing false documents that claim U.S. Judge Daniel Hovland of the...
Two men who claim to be leaders of the Little Shell Nation, a breakaway group of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, appeared in Grand Forks' federal court Tuesday on charges of filing false documents that claim U.S. Judge Daniel Hovland of the North Dakota District and Lynn Jordheim, the state's acting U.S. attorney, have not paid certain debts.
Michael Howard Reed, 47, and Gregory Allen Davis, 43, each face two counts of filing false liens and a charge of conspiracy. An indictment says they filed the liens Sept. 24, 2009, "on account of the performance of the official duties by Judge Hovland and Mr. Jordheim."
Reed is also charged with two counts of trying to influence or obstruct justice. Court documents say Reed, between May and July 2009, left a phone message with U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson, threatening him if he did not dismiss charges against two American Indians from the Turtle Mountain Reservation who were charged in a large-scale drug-conspiracy case. A similar message was left for an FBI agent in Minot, documents show.
In addition to the criminal case, federal attorneys have brought a civil suit against Reed and Davis seeking to prevent them from filing more fictitious legal documents and debt instruments that name federal employees and court officers.
"The purported filings are apparently done on Reed's behalf, since the basis for the alleged 'indebtedness' appear to be legal actions (i.e., warrant and criminal case numbers) against Reed," the civil complaint reads.
On Jan. 10, a federal jury in North Dakota convicted Reed of being a fugitive in possession of a firearm. He's currently serving an 18-month sentence.
On Jan. 6, a lien, identifying Hovland and Jordheim as the debtors, was filed with a government office in Washington, D.C. The lien was for $2.4 million for Reed's court case and $1 million for copyright violations of Reed's name, the complaint states.
The complaint says Davis made other filings naming federal officials in June and September 2009. It goes on to say his filings lack legal basis and "are designed to harass federal personnel in their personal lives for the performance of their official duties."
The complaint says the Little Shell Nation is headquartered in Rolette, N.D. The group wants to be recognized as a tribe, but federal officials believe the group is "part of an anti-government 'sovereign citizen' movement," the complaint states.
During Tuesday's hearing, both men declared their sovereignty and argued that they were not subject to the court's jurisdiction.
"You can't ask me nothing because you have no jurisdiction. You're void," Reed told U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal.
Reed did not answer any of Senechal's questions and covered his ears with his hands as she read the charges and his rights. At one point during the hearing, he tried to turn away from Senechal as she spoke, but a U.S. marshal physically forced him to face the judge.
Davis answered Senechal's questions and said he understood the charges but argued that she had no right to order him detained.
"How can you detain me for something that I have the blood in my veins to do," Davis said, slapping the inside of his forearm for emphasis. "I have a whole tribe behind me. You will see."
Prosecutor Thomas Wright of South Dakota said that during an interview with investigators, Davis did not deny filing the liens, is proud of the filings and plans to do more.
Wright said that for the first time, Judge Hovland had trouble getting a credit card after the lien was filed against him. But Wright could not say for sure that the two events were connected.
"These men who are doing their job should not have liens filed against them just because they are doing their job," Wright said.
Wright sought to have Davis held in custody until a trial. The judge took the matter under advisement.
Reed and Davis appeared Tuesday without lawyers and told Senechal they did not want court-appointed attorneys. Senechal advised them against representing themselves and told them that standby attorneys had been appointed for them.
Reed, who is not a lawyer, has said he is the attorney general for the Little Shell Nation, according to the civil complaint against the men.
Messages left for the pair Tuesday at the Grand Forks County jail were not returned.
The U.S. attorney's office in North Dakota was recused from the case, so federal prosecutors from South Dakota are handling the matter.
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