Alanna Partin, the Sweet Home woman arrested in downtown Corvallis in November after she allegedly reached for a handgun during a traffic stop, appears to be mounting a sovereign citizen defense, a legal tactic that denies the validity of the U.S. judicial system.
Partin, 38, was in Benton County Circuit Court on Thursday morning for a status check in her case. She is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, interfering with a peace officer and failure to carry or present a driver’s license. The firearms charge carries a potential five-year sentence.
As Judge Locke Williams briskly worked through a number of scheduling matters with prosecutors and defense attorneys in other cases, Partin stood at the back of the courtroom, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed.
When her name was called, she approached the low wooden bar that separates the gallery from the attorneys’ tables and the judge’s bench but refused to cross it. Instead, she demanded that Williams produce documents establishing his authority.
“I reserve all rights,” Partin said.
“I need to make sure this court is in order before I cross the bar.”
After sparring over various legal issues with the judge, Partin announced “We’re done here” and turned to leave the courtroom, but Williams stopped her in her tracks.
“If you walk out of that door, you will be held in contempt of court,” he warned her. “You will be held in jail until trial.”
With a security officer and a sheriff’s deputy waiting to take her into custody, Partin turned around and resumed her running argument with the judge. At one point she called Williams “a vessel of commerce” and demanded that the proceedings be conducted in accordance with the Uniform Commercial Code, which governs business transactions.
That approach is one of the hallmarks of the so-called sovereign citizen movement, a loosely organized network of people who insist they are not subject to most U.S. laws. That claim is based in part on the notion that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution created an inferior form of citizenship that subjected most Americans to commercial statutes rather than Constitutional law.
Williams was having none of it.
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“This court does not recognize the legal gibberish you are putting forward,” the judge told Partin.
“My advice to you would be to be represented by an attorney. I believe it would be a grievous error for you to try to go forward with these legal theories that have no basis in law.”
Partin declined the offer of a court-appointed defense attorney to represent her but did agree to allow one to advise her, as long as it was strictly on her own terms. Williams appointed Clark Willes, a Corvallis defense attorney, to assist in Partin’s defense.
According to the initial incident report of her arrest, Partin was pulled over by a Benton County sheriff’s deputy at 1:48 a.m. Nov. 7 on Northwest Third Street near Van Buren Avenue for equipment violations.
Partin allegedly refused to show a driver’s license or get out of her vehicle when told she was under arrest. Instead, according to the incident report, she reached for a loaded .357-caliber revolver, after which a deputy shocked her with a stun gun and took her into custody.
The report goes on to state that Partin also had an AR-15 assault rifle with no serial number. Both firearms were seized by law enforcement.
In a 12-page document filed with the court on Dec. 21, Partin claims that her rights were violated during her arrest by members of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and Corvallis Police Department, whom she refers to as “privateers.”
She denies that she ever drew a gun during the incident and accuses the officers of threats, assault, brandishing a deadly weapon and showing “their intent to murder by informing claimant that the ‘slack was out of (the) trigger and ready to fire upon you had u not been tazed by another officer.’”
In the document, Partin demands a change of venue to federal court unless the case against her in state court is discharged. She also demands the immediate return of her guns, along with a payment of $1,500 per firearm per day to compensate for loss of use.
If her demands are not met, Partin says, she is entitled to compensation “of not less than 100 Trillion dollars paid in LAWFUL Currency pursuant to 12 USC 411.”
Those issues were not addressed during Thursday’s hearing.
Partin’s next scheduled court appearance is a preliminary hearing set for 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 28.
Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.