Sovereign citizens accused of taking over local homes, acquitted - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Sovereign citizens accused of taking over local homes, acquitted.

Posted: Updated:
AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) -

A group of people in Georgia moved into foreclosed houses across the state without permission. They call themselves sovereign citizens who have anti-government beliefs, refusing to recognize state or local authority.  

A number of the homes targeted were right here in Augusta.

Dating back to 2010 when nearly a dozen people were indicted for racketeering and conspiracy. Several went to trial in October and were acquitted, including one man accused of stealing homes in Richmond County. 

Richard Jenkins, Jermaine Gibson, and Eliyshuwa Yisrael were relieved to hear the jury's verdict of not guilty.

"They saw it the way we saw it," said Jenkins.

The three men were indicted for racketeering and conspiracy and if convicted, faced 20 years in prison.

According to the indictment, these sovereign citizens used fake deeds to take over foreclosed homes. Nearly a dozen were involved in the scheme, several already pleaded guilty. However, the three head honchos went to trial pleading not guilty.

Including Richard Jenkins who represented himself, accused of breaking into four homes in Richmond County and creating fake deeds.

FOX54's Elizabeth Rawlins followed the trial and even got an exclusive interview with Jenkins, asking him if he believed moving into homes that he did not own was the right thing to do.

"From what we understood to be, yes," said Jenkins.  

Jenkins told jurors no one made a profit, eliminating a fundamental element of racketeering.

Even though it may not have been racketeering, former Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength says what they did was wrong.

"He was definitely in violation, he did not own those homes, he did not have the right to be there and how you can go to trial and convince a jury otherwise is mind boggling to me," said Strength.  

Strength first got word about Jenkins from a real estate agent who said Jenkins was living in one of her listed homes. Serving as sheriff at the time, Strength took the matters in his own hands and called Jenkins personally.

"I explained to him that it was not his home, it was not his constitutional rights and for him to pack up and be gone before the day was over," said Strength.

After the trial, Jenkins told Rawlins their actions were not criminal.  

"We're not criminals, nothing we did was intent to be a criminal act," said Jenkins.

The defense attorney, representing one of the men, said it may be criminal trespassing but jurors did not have that option.

"I am sure it does not send the message that it's ok to break into people's houses, there are repercussions for your actions and you will get in some kind of problems," said attorney Adeline Alexander.  

Rawlins asked Jenkins if he was guilty on some level. 

"I'm not going to say guilty but there were some mistakes that were made that won't be made again," said Jenkins.

The trial was held in Dekalb County Superior Court and Jenkins told FOX54 he plans on filing a complaint against the court because he believes the entire case was handled in an unlawful manner.

Jurors said the reason the three men were acquitted was because the prosecution was going after racketeering which is a steep offense, compared to if they had gone after lesser charges of fraud or theft by taking.

 Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved

Powered by WorldNow