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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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