Florida Common Law Court
The Orlando Sentinel, Tuesday, June 24, 1997
TAMPA—Members of an anti-government group on trial in federal court tracked down the address of an Orlando federal grand jury foreman and threatened him, an undercover IRS inspector testified Monday.
The inspector said the group, led by Emilio Ippolito of Tampa and his daughter, Susan Mokdad, sent a letter to juror Gerald Sheehan, telling him he would be charged with treason—a crime punishable by death.
Internal Revenue Service Inspector Robert Quigley, who worked undercover from April 1995 to March 1996, said he thought Ippolito, his daughter and the six others on trial intended to shoot or hang grand jurors who didn"t rescind an indictment, charging extortion, against three of the group"s cohorts.
Quigley said the defendants, through their self-styled Common Law Court, also sent documents accusing the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices, President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno with treason.
Quigley"s testimony comes in week five of a conspiracy and obstruction of justice trial that accuses the defendants of threatening judges, jurors and attorneys involved in cases against some of the group members. The case is expected to last at least another month.
One follower advocated an armed raid on Orlando"s federal courthouse to kidnap judges and hold them as "prisoners of war," according to the indictment.
Several Orlando officials, including Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary, are expected to testify in the next two weeks.
Attorneys for the defendants contend their clients con ducted a paper war and never carried out their threats.
The trial is being held under tight security. Spectators must show a picture identification and pass through two metal detectors to get into the courtroom. About a dozen U.S. marshals are inside.
This month, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday threw Jack Warren of Orlando, 47, and Ippolito out of the courtroom for disrupting the trial. Another defendant, Charles Dunnigan, 46, of Clermont, was warned last week after refusing to sit down until he received a cup of coffee.
There are two other defendants from Central Florida— Laurent Moore, 51, of Orlando, and Richard "Toby" Brown, 54, Winter Garden.
Ippolito, 71, was once one of Hillsborough County"s largest property owners. After losing much of his property in court disputes, he and his daughter began a war against the "governmental courts."
Jurors also on Monday heard tape recordings of Ippolito and his daughter talking at meetings about charging grand jurors and judges with treason.
Several meetings were held in a warehouse at Orange Avenue and Hoffman Road in the fall of 1995.
The jurors also saw a 90-minute videotape of a September 20, 1995, meeting at which Mokdad, 41, and Ippolito explained the importance of taking "yourself out of the traps and clutches of an inferior court system."
The defendants contend the U.S. Constitution gives citizens the power to convene their own courts.
They say federal and state courts don"t have jurisdiction over citizens unless those citizens give them jurisdiction.
Otherwise, they insist, those judges are committing an act of treason.
Mokdad, wearing a shirt and hat covered with American flags in the video, said treason doesn"t just apply to traitors in foreign wars.
"We are in a time of war," she said. "The person that is committing an act of treason is not a foreign enemy. It is a domestic enemy."
Return to Tampa Common Law Court