Last month, 400 law enforcement officers packed into the Oxford Performing Arts Center heard an update on domestic terrorism in the United States. The discussion was serious.
The talk wasn’t specifically about James Timothy “Tim” Turner, of Ozark, but that doesn’t diminish the point.
In July 2013, a federal jury convicted Turner on 10 counts that included conspiracy to defraud the government, attempting to pay taxes with fictitious financial instruments, obstruction and failing to file a 2009 tax return.
His sentence: 18 years in prison.
During his trial, Turner said he was the president of the Republic of the United States of America, a sovereign-citizen group. The FBI investigated Turner after he sent letters to every governor in the United States that demanded they resign or be “removed,” the Tuscaloosa News reported Monday.
Turner appealed his conviction, and this month the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta sided with the original court ruling.
This Ozark man is in prison not because he was openly violent toward police, but because his beliefs in the sovereign-citizen movement led him to brazenly question authority, break U.S. tax laws and threaten governors. What officers in Oxford last month heard was what’s often the next step with those who, like Turner, believe the nation’s laws, police and courts do not apply to them.
Several years ago, at a meeting with Calhoun County’s police chiefs, The Star’s editorial board heard deep concerns about this growing movement. Since then, the rise in these beliefs over personal sovereignty has intensified nationally — thoughts that were on display last month in Oxford.
Radicals exist in every society, be it a free democracy or an oppressive government. Adherents to Turner’s ideology have the First Amendment right to believe in and discuss, at their leisure, how the government does not apply to them. We respect that right. That is how it should be.
But law enforcement is right, as well, to consider this a real threat. Laws are laws, and they apply to all.