LaFAYETTE, Ga. — A growly voiced welder stands with his wife in front of a judge in Walker County and defies the court’s jurisdiction in a traffic prosecution topped by a rectal cavity search in service of Sheriff Steve Wilson.
Gregory Parker refuses to enter a plea because he doesn’t understand the cause and nature of charges against him in a case in which Sheriff Wilson’s deputies impose the state’s shipping and freight regulations on one who insists his job site is not the roadways and byways of Georgia.
Judge Billy Mullinax goes to pains to tell Mr. Parker, bearded and wearing a T-shirt and scuffed boots, how an attorney would help him. An attorney would help devise defense strategy, assist in selecting jury members, examine witnesses, would be “helpful in a lot of ways.”
Mr. Parker is leery. There is no evidence in the June 16 Father’s Day arrest, no evidence that he was involved if any business on the road and that he will not enter a plea on account of the court not having been given jurisdiction by lawful use of police power by Sheriff Wilson.
The legal system chops up its causes to continually bring accused people back for one more hearing — a motion hearing, an evidentiary hearing, a motion hearing, and then, finally, maybe, a trial.
Judge Mullinax says he is not here today to argue any of the merits of the case but to get a plea. He asks Mr. Parker if he is standing mute on the plea.
Judge Mullinax forces the issue of a plea, giving Mr. Parker but two options.
Guilty or not guilty. Two other of five possible pleas one can rightly claim are nolo contendere (no contest) and standing mute on the plea. Mr. Parker, like Christ before Pilate, is effectively standing mute on the plea, denying jurisdiction.
Mr. Parker declares his rejection of the choices and the venue as legally improper and premature. He shakes his head in answer to one question. Standing to his left is his wife, Kasee, mother of their young daughter.
Around them, a bevy of bailiffs, court officials, and a lanky white-headed assistant solicitor and prosecutor, Patrick Clements, wearing a blue blazer under which peeks an untucked white shirt.
“We’re not here to argue the case. Are you standing mute of the plea?” the judge appears to say. So will Mr. Parker enter a not guilty plea?
“I object,” Mr. Parker says.
“Objection noted,” the judge says. The judge says he is going to enter on Mr. Parker’s behalf a not guilty plea. “You are not my attorney. I object,” Mr. Parker, adding that says only he or his attorney can properly enter a plea and that he objects to the judge practicing law his behalf.
Mr. Parker turns his bearded jowls to the remainder of the 160 people who filled the gallery earlier this morning.
“The judge is entering a not guilty plea on my behalf,” he says in a loud voice to the 30 souls in the courtroom.
An official reads a statement that says the judge is “preserving his rights” and entering a not guilty plea.
Chummy aid, or prosecutor?
At a meeting before court begins, this reporter makes a request to Judge Mullinax that is apparently without precedent. And that is that he be allowed to use a laptop and camera in court for news coverage. No member of the press has done that before, the judge says. Not even the Walker County Messenger, a newspaper? I ask. Hasn’t been done before.
Judge Mullinax sits in shirtsleeves behind a stack of open law books. I sit opposite with empty hands, my briefcase and laptop behind the guard’s desk at the highly aggressive security entryway from which all wireless phones are banned.
At left is Deputy Bill Bowman, a raspy-voiced lanky former state trooper who has come out of retirement to serve Sheriff Wilson. At right is a tall man in white shirt and red tie, whom I take initially to be a chief clerk.
That man is Mr. Clements, the prosecutor. The men wish to know which case I am following so they can dole out permissions in use of laptop and camera. They suggest that it would be good to know my subject so they might massage the list and avoid my having a long wait — some dockets go eight hours, they warn. I reveal the identity of Mr. Parker. Mr. Clements goes over the printouts of cases and finds his name.
“This is one of those sovereign citizen cases,” says the assistant solicitor.
That slur — with defense counsel or the defendant absent — and possibly that meeting itself is called an ex parte communications, prohibited by Georgia’s code of judicial conduct at Rule 3.4. “Judges shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to them outside the presence of the parties, or their lawyers, concerning a pending proceeding or impending matter” subject to exceptions.
Mr. Clements, taking a smoke outside afterwards under a court portico, says he worked 33 years as solicitor and has come back to help out. Courts have ruled against Mr. Parker’s defense, he says. The accused is a “sovereign citizen” who claims he doesn’t have to abide by state laws that bind everybody else. Mr. Clements says he is applying Georgia Code 40-6 upon Mr. Parker, that being the transportation code. Title 40 applies to all cars and trucks on the road, none excepted, Mr. Clements says.
The solicitor Mr. Parker’s reservation of rights by exaggerating the dangers of what is effectively a common-law system that would keep the peace on the roadways. Mr. Parker says he can ignore stop signs, Mr. Clements declares; he can ignore red lights, he can use the left side of the road if he wants to as long as he doesn’t want to kill anyone doing it.
‘Becoming criminals themselves’
Sheriff Wilson has stacked charges against tradesman Mr. Parker. According to Mr. Parker, they are:
➤ Driving on improper registration
➤ Driving without license
➤ No proof of insurance
➤ Obstruction of an officer
➤ Failure to register vehicle
Mr. Parker says the government “is trying to enforce *** federal regulations and codes on me.”
Is Mr. Parker certain that on June 16 he was not involved in commercial activity on the road and thereby giving jurisdiction for a transportation arrest?
“Absolutely positive I was in no commerce. And the deputy at the time did not obtain any evidence, or question about any evidence, or sought to find any evidence as proven that I was in any activity, for-hire or commercial activity.”
“I make my money on the job, not on the road,” Mr. Parker says, “and that’s where the line is made in the sand there, when it comes to that commercial activity — the public interest not at hand in any of my actions I do when I am out on the public right of way, and all these actions these deputies are taking against the people in their private capacities on the public right of way are actually breaking the law, becoming criminals themselves in violation of our rights with these unlawful arrests that start with the [traffic] stop.”
Mr. Parker says he is not discouraged by the rulings of high courts that appear to deny any right of free communication on the roadways. The officials act by custom “because there is no one checking them, because what they are doing is unlawful and unconstitutional, depriving the people of these states of their natural and constitutional rights,” using “deceptions and trickery *** trying to have the appearance of government.”