Florida Common Law Court
Note the simplicity of the press in their presentation. Each paragraph constitutes one of two sentences. Below eighth grade reading, for the masses, and trial by press, which has become so common. OPF
The Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, June 6, 1997
"Charge" of treason rings in court Anti-government leader disrupts trial
COMPILED FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
TAMPA—A prosecutor was standing before jurors Thursday to outline charges against an insurgent anti- government group when the lead defendant jumped up and shouted out charges of his own—treason against the court.
Immediately, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sent the 12 jurors and six alternates out of the courtroom.
Then he ejected Emilio Ippolito for his outburst, ship ping him to watch his conspiracy-impeding justice trial on closed-circuit television. Seven of Ippolito"s followers also are on trial, including his daughter, Susan L. Mokdad, 41.
Ippolito, a well-educated man from a once-prominent Tampa family, is the self-appointed supreme justice of the Constitutional Common Law Court of We the People. It is a renegade anti-government group with militia ties that rejects the very system that is trying him.
Several defendants in this case are from Central Florida—Laurent Moore and Jack Warren of Orlando, Richard Brown of Winter Garden and Charles Dunnigan of Clermont.
Members of his group describe themselves alternately as vigilantes, militiamen and freemen. They are accused of jury tampering and of threatening judges, magistrates, grand jurors and trial jurors, as well as witnesses, to intimidate them and prevent them from doing their jobs.
Prosecutors said defendants discussed kidnapping judges; trying a judge and hanging him to curry respect for the group and using 10 armed militiamen to invade the federal courthouse in Orlando to capture a judge and hold him for a prisoner exchange.
Ippolito, who sees himself as the leader in a war of patriotism, believes the government and courts have no authority over him and his followers.
Prosecutors said the group charged judges with treason, issued arrest warrants, threatened trial and punishment in counterfeit courts and alarmed judges by threatening physical confrontations at their homes.
A defense lawyer called their threats "political hyperbole," saying they never were meant to harm anyone.
"Our clients are guilty of nothing more than petitioning the government for the redress of their grievances," defense lawyer Daniel Daly said earlier. "And that, of course, is their constitutional right."
However, the government said the tactics led to a mistrial in a long and complicated California case and affected other cases in Colorado and Florida.
Before prosecutor Tony Peluso got a chance to say a word of his opening statement, Ippolito, a balding 71- year-old in an orange jail jumpsuit, blurted to the judge:
"I beg to be recognized in an orderly fashion because the constitution demands that I defend myself. You have been charged with treason. I say this with a heavy heart," Ippolito said.
Merryday admonished him. He reminded the defendant of warnings to remain seated and silent after previous pretrial outbursts and again only minutes earlier during a lengthy bench conference.
"I had the jury in the room two minutes," Merryday said.
Ippolito was led from the courtroom still waxing: "I charge you with compounded acts of treason. I say it with humility. I hope you have fun, Judge. I love you Judge."
Jurors were brought back. The judge told them to disregard statements not made from the witness stand.
Security was tight in the courtroom. People entering had to pass through two security checks and show identification.
Witnesses the government plans to call include judges and a juror. The trial may last up to four months.