Facing Charges, Some Goyim Defense League Extremists Embrace “Sovereign Citizen” Tactics

Facing Charges, Some Goyim Defense League Extremists Embrace “Sovereign Citizen” Tactics

Jon Minadeo, Colby Frank and Nicholas Bysheim

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As they rack up littering charges for distributing propaganda, some individuals associated with the antisemitic and extremist Goyim Defense League (GDL)—including leader Jon Minadeo—have adopted pseudo-legal “sovereign citizen” tactics in a misguided attempt to escape legal troubles.

The sovereign citizen movement is a far-right, anti-government extremist faction whose adherents claim that the government is illegitimate and has no jurisdiction or authority over them. Sovereigns claim that people can “divorce” themselves from this illegitimate government. The movement is known for its “paper terrorism” harassment and intimidation tactics, scams and frauds -- as well as acts of deadly violence.

In a video posted to Telegram on June 15, 2023, Minadeo and GDL associate Colby “Ace” Alexander Frank updated viewers on Frank’s ongoing court case in Martin County, Florida, where he is facing a resisting arrest charge stemming from a May 21, 2023, incident, during which he and Minadeo were both arrested.

“I actually submitted a jurisdictional challenge because I come in common law,” Frank said, explaining that “this is the difference between the all caps name that you’ll find on your birth certificate, on your driver’s license, on your credit cards, versus your lower case, Christian name.”

Frank’s remarks were a reference to “redemption” or “strawman” theory, a pseudo-legal sovereign citizen theory that argues references to people written in ALL CAPS—as names are typically stylized in legal documents—aren’t actually a reference to them, but to artificial entities created by the government for nefarious reasons. Actual flesh-and-blood people, sovereigns claim, write their names in upper and lower case.

A review of court records shows Frank has made numerous sovereign citizen filings related to his case.

On June 9, 2023, Frank filed a “Notice to Principal,” in which he tried to “rescind” his prior “contracts” with the government and challenged the court’s jurisdiction over him. On June 15, Frank filed documents in support of his jurisdiction challenge, such as a copy of the U.S. Code detailing how the U.S. flag should be displayed, a nod to sovereign citizen beliefs that gold-fringed flags are a sign that the court is an admiralty court, not a constitutional court, and thus has no jurisdiction over them. In another June 15 filing, he claimed the judge handling his case had entered a plea on his behalf without his consent.

GDL - Sov Citizen tactics

Examples of sovereign citizen filings made by Colby Frank.

Frank isn’t the only GDL associate facing legal trouble who has recently embraced sovereign citizen tactics.

Following his May 21, 2023, arrest, Jon Minadeo signed “duress” above his name on his “notice to appear.”  Sovereign citizens will sometimes sign a document with “duress” (or with variations thereof) to indicate that they aren’t signing the document voluntarily and that their signature therefore does not constitute an acceptance that the ostensibly illegitimate government has jurisdiction over them.

GDL - Sov Citizen tactics

On June 12, 2023, GDL associate Nicholas Bysheim filed a “Notice to Principal” in two of his pending cases in Palm Beach County, Florida, where he is facing littering charges for distributing GDL fliers. The document used the same language as the one filed by Frank in Martin County just days earlier, indicating a common source.  

Bysheim also filed a motion to dismiss his January 2023 littering citation, signing his name as “Nicholas-Alan: Bysheim.” Sovereign citizens frequently insert punctuation marks when writing their names because they believe this punctuation separates their “Christian name” (their first and middle names) from their government given name (their last name).

GDL - Sov Citizen tactics

While it’s unclear where Frank and other GDL affiliates picked up sovereign citizen tactics, Frank has been promoting sovereign citizen content in the network’s private Telegram chat since April 2023. In a May 7, 2023, exchange with another user, Frank affirmed that he identified as a “national.” In recent years, many sovereign citizens have begun calling themselves “American state nationals.”

It’s significant that key Florida GDL extremists are embracing sovereign tactics because it suggests the movement may be making some inroads into white supremacist spaces. The sovereign citizen movement has seen a notable surge in recent years, driven largely by the movement’s penetration of and recruiting from other segments of the far right, from QAnon to MAGA extremists to anti-vaxxers. In the 1970s and 1980s, the early sovereign citizen movement included a large number of white supremacists, but by the mid-2000s they had largely disappeared, while growing numbers of people of color joined the movement.