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‘Sovereign citizen’ convicted of kidnapping daughter loses appeal

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The Kansas man who kidnapped his adult daughter and held her captive in northern Indiana had his convictions and sentence upheld by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday.

Martin Jonassen was sentenced last year to 40 years in prison for kidnapping and intimidating his daughter in an attempt to not have her testify at his trial. He was arrested by Portage Police after he tried to physically drag 21-year-old E.J. from a liquor store where she had fled, nude, from a hotel room Jonassen had rented.

While in custody awaiting trial and sentencing, Jonassen, who identifies himself as a sovereign citizen, flooded the court with more than 180 frivolous pro se motions and chose to represent himself at trial.

His seven-month campaign to get his daughter to not testify worked – the day of the trial, on the stand, she said she didn’t know or couldn’t remember the answer to questions asked of her, even her name. The night before, she went over her testimony with the government, so when she didn’t testify, the government moved to admit statements to police under Rule 804(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Evidence. The District Court granted the motion.

On appeal, Jonassen argued that the federal court should have conducted a competency hearing after his appointed counsel raised concerns about Jonassen’s mental health; that E.J.’s prior statements should not have been admitted; and that the court erred in denying his post-trial motion seeking, under the Jencks Act, notes a prosecutor took during the meeting E.J. had with officials the day before trial.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the District Court properly declined to conduct a competency hearing based on a colloquy between the judge and Jonassen.

“Although Jonassen asserted bizarre legal theories based on his claim of ‘sovereign citizenship,’ that alone does not provide a reason to doubt his competence to stand trial, and the record does not otherwise suggest that he lacked the ability to understand the proceedings,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote.

The judges also found the government laid an ample foundation for the admission of the hearsay evidence of E.J.’s statement – that Jonassen used bribery, guilt and various forms of psychological intimidation to procure E.J.’s unavailability. And because Jonassen didn’t request the Jencks Act material before the close of his trial, his claim for relief under the Act fails.
 

The case is United States of America v. Martin J. Jonassen, 13-1410.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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