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LAS VEGAS (AP) — A couple accused of plotting to abduct, torture and kill police to further their anti-authority “sovereign citizens” movement told a Las Vegas judge on Friday that they didn’t recognize his authority to keep them in jail.
Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen had none of it.
He made sure David Allen Brutsche, 42, and Devon Campbell Newman, 67, read the criminal complaints filed against them, then sent them back to jail pending a Sept. 9 preliminary hearing on charges of felony conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and attempted kidnapping.
Police say Brutsche and Newman held training sessions about sovereign citizen philosophy, shopped for guns, found a vacant house and rigged it to bind captives to cross beams during interrogation, and recorded videos to explain their actions and why officers had to die.
The judge appointed a public defender to represent Brutsche, over his rambling objections, and set bail at $600,000, citing a criminal history including a sex offense involving a child under 14 and failure to appear in traffic cases.
“I object to the entire proceedings of this court. For the record,” Brutsche said.
Hafen named a lawyer to represent Newman and scheduled her bail hearing for Monday.
“I’ve hurt no one. I wish to be released on bail,” Newman said.
“So noted,” the judge responded. “Denied.”
Police have said an undercover officer joined the two in April and spent four months documenting and recording steps they took in the plot.
Las Vegas police Lt. James Seebock told reporters the SWAT arrests of Brutsche and Newman this week at their Las Vegas apartment foiled a domestic terror operation. Other arrests were possible, he said.
“They were furthering their ‘sovereign citizen’ ideology by committing criminal acts toward law enforcement,” Seebock said. “The suspects believed that once the first kidnapping and execution was accomplished, they would be compelled to keep repeating their actions, kidnapping and killing multiple officers.”
Federal authorities regard sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists. Authorities have linked sovereign citizen groups with violent confrontations in recent years, including deadly police shootings in Louisiana and Arkansas.
In Louisiana last year, police said at least some of the seven people arrested after a shootout that left two deputies dead and two others wounded had links to a sovereign citizen group.
In Arkansas in 2010, a father and son identified as sovereign citizen followers shot and killed two police officers before being killed by authorities in a separate shootout.
“This is a serious concern, especially when it comes to law enforcement,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.
She said seven police officers had been killed in the past 10 years during traffic stop confrontations with sovereign citizen adherents, including a sheriff’s deputy and constable killed in 2003 in Abbeyville, S.C., and a California Highway Patrol officer slain in Alamo, Calif., last September.
“The basic argument is the federal government has no power over them,” Beirich said. “It becomes, at the end of the day, ‘We hate the government and the government has no right to tell us what to do.'”
Authorities haven’t released video evidence, but a 10-page police report states that all 30 meetings involving Bruesche, Newman and the undercover officer was recorded by audio or video.
“We need to arrest the police and take them to our jail and put them in a cell and put them on trial in a people’s court,” Brutsche said July 9, according to the arrest report. “If we run into the position that they resist, then we need to kill them.”
During a tour of gun stores the next day, Brutsche said they were planning something big that would draw a large following because of the publicity, the report said.