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Adrian B. Shannon says he'd be fighting the same battle he is now even if he weren't accused of a crime. But since he is accused of a crime--possession of marijuana with intent to distribute--he plans to use it as means to draw attention to a much larger point: The Spokane County Superior Court has no authority to charge him with said offense, because he's not a citizen of Washington state or even the United States as a whole. He's a "sovereign." And "sovereigns" answer only to laws they believe in.
Shannon tells Seattle Weekly that he was merely functioning as a caretaker for a few sick people with valid prescriptions for pot. It's a story that's become common, especially in Spokane, as the federal government goes back on its promise to not interfere with state pot laws.
But in court, Shannon's method of defense is, let's just say, unusual.
In the courtroom, Shannon questioned the judge and the legitimacy of the court docket after being asked to approach the podium for his arraignment.
"I'm not the Mr. Shannon named on the docket," Shannon said in court, referring to a common contention among sovereigns that names written in all capital letters - as they're commonly listed in court documents - represent a government-assigned, corporate entity rather than an individual.
"Well, whatever your name is, sir, get up here," Price said.
"May I retain all my rights?" Shannon asked.
"Sir, get up here or you're going to jail," Price said. The unusual exchange was brief - prosecutors have not yet filed charges against Shannon, so Price told him he may be summoned to court later. He and friends left the courthouse without incident as deputies followed.
In an interview on Monday, Shannon tells us that his main objection to his charges are that there was no victim involved and that pot prohibition is not valid because a majority of Washingtonians don't support it. His possessing weed, he says, was only because he was growing it for his sick friends, so the only true victims were these people.
This fact seems easy to stand behind.
But when Shannon starts talking about his views on the law and government in general, things get a little weird.
"I do believe in the law. More than most people. I believe in common law," Shannon says, referring to the archaic English law, which United States law is partly based on. "I think the government is a corporate government, and its only function is to make money for its shareholders. In my case there is no damaged party, and I simply want to bring parity between myself and my accusers."
He shares some of his radical views with folks like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and cop killers Joe and Jerry Kane.
Shannon swears he's not violent and would never support violence, and he says that lumping violent psychopaths in with mainstream nonviolent sovereigns isn't fair.
His views on taxes utilize what's called the "straw-man theory," which alleges that the U.S. government creates secret bank accounts for everyone born--a straw man, so to speak--which are then used as collateral for the government to borrow against.
Sovereigns believe that they can declare independence from this system, and even access the value of their supposed straw-man account.
When asked if he plays taxes or if he would abide by any fine imposed on him by the courts, Shannon says "I don't pay taxes, my straw man does. My straw man will pay whatever fines are levied."
Of course, Shannon admits that it's he and not his "straw man" who enjoys benefits like paved roads, sewer systems, public schools, and organized elections. But that doesn't change his opinion that the entire basis on which the government collects taxes and which the courts mete out justice is inherently flawed, and furthermore that he can elect not to be part of it.
In dealing with his own case, Shannon is using a tactic sometimes called "paper terrorism" (a name he strongly disagrees with): using a series of complex and time-consuming legal filings to gum up the legal works on his case and ultimately make it too expensive for prosecutors to continue charging him.
Shannon, for example, argues that he's operating under admiralty law, which is supposed to govern interactions between private and international entities. He filed a 35-page, self-prepared document in Spokane County Superior Court shortly after his May 17 arrest that demands a $1.9 billion payment in silver from court and law enforcement officials involved in the search of his Spokane Valley apartment and his subsequent arrest. The document states that failure to respond is considered an acceptance of the contract.
Shannon said he doesn't expect to be paid. Rather, he expects the document will lead to his charges being dismissed, if they are even filed.
Otherwise, the county could find itself spending time and money defending against a breach-of-contract suit he plans to file, regardless of the case's legal merit.
"I basically plan on costing the city and county so much money that it's not economical to pursue this," Shannon said.
Shannon furthers this sentiment to Seattle Weekly.
"They attacked me. They invaded my home and served a bunch of paper on me, but when a man files the same thing he's a terrorist," he says. "The basis of my defense is that they need to charge me either under admiralty or common law."
What Shannon seems to fail to grasp, or at least refuses to accept, is that his interpretation of the law doesn't really matter compared to the court's view of it. And given that dozens of sovereigns have already been tried and convicted for their tax-avoidance delusions, there's no reason to think that Shannon won't follow suit.