Short sentences ‘sovereign citizens’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Two men with sovereign citizen movement ties were sentenced to 10 years on each of the eight counts charged against them for offering a false instrument for recording against a public servant during a sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Travis Lee Lambert of Andalusia and William Peter Witwicki of Enterprise were sentenced to serve concurrent sentences for filing a fraudulent suit against Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton, Circuit Judge Thomas Head, Circuit Clerk Mickey Counts and Circuit Judge Shannon Clark.

A Covington County jury found Lambert and Witwicki guilty in March after a two-day trial proved that both contributed in the suit, which was intended to sue the public officials for $89.2 million in silver coins. The defendants represented themselves in the trial.

Sutton, Head, Counts and Clark testified on the first day of trial, and the prosecution’s expert witness, FBI Intelligence Analyst Paul Hodos testified on the second day. Hodos gave his expert opinion on the documents that Lambert and Witwicki had filed indicated they were part of the citizens’ group.

Circuit Judge Lex Short heard the case and imposed the sentencing.

Lambert approached Judge Short and was given a chance to make a statement.

After a brief statement, Lambert produced a written statement, which was later entered as an exhibit.

“I didn’t do anything on purpose,” Lambert said. “I attest before my father in heaven that I didn’t do anything on purpose to anybody.

“All I done is witness his (Witwicki’s) name on the letters just like a notary,” he said.

During the trial, the state proved that Lambert was a witness to Witwicki filing the suit against the public officials.

Later in the sentencing hearing, Alabama Assistant Attorney General Ternisha Miles produced a letter sent to her office from Lambert with verbage relating to the March trial.

Miles said the letter proves that Lambert is not as innocent as he would lead the court to believe.

“He was fully aware of what those documents were,” Miles said. “He even took classes on how to file fraudulent documents.”

Lambert responded by saying that he doesn’t like the self-proclaimed president of the sovereign citizen group, Tim Turner.

“Turner does stuff that gets people in trouble,” Lambert said. “I left that group. He didn’t teach me to write anything. I would not write a threatening letter to a public official.”

Lambert said he didn’t have any knowledge of what he was doing.

“I’m not going to have any more friends because I am scared to,” he said.

Short sentenced Lambert to 10 years to run concurrent on each of his four counts, fined him $1,000 for each count, assessed him $200 for the victim’s compensation fund and allowed him to be free on a $750 bond pending a probation hearing.

Before hearing Short’s sentencing, Witwicki — who was in hand cuffs and a prisoner’s outfit, having been held since he was found guilty — said no one during the course of the trial proved that it was he who filed the suit.

Short sentenced Witwicki to 10 years to run concurrent on each of his four counts, fined him $1,000 for each count and $200 for the victim’s compensation fund.

Witwicki asked Short why the charges against him weren’t classified as a misdemeanor.

“They are unless it is against a public or elected official,” Short said.

Witwicki then asked if Short was administering judgment based on his own laws.

Short replied, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Witwicki and his court-appointed lawyer for the hearing, Christopher Sledge, then went to a room adjacent to the courtroom to discuss applying for probation.

Lambert and Witwicki both decided for probation. The probation hearing will be held on July 30, at 9 a.m.

Short denied Witwicki’s request to be released on bond.