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
"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,"
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
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
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
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