ATLANTA - Georgia's governor signed a law Monday making it illegal to file fraudulent liens against public officers or employees. The measure targets sovereign citizens, an anti-government group known for using so-called paper terrorism to intimidate their targets.
Temple Police Chief Timothy Shaw knows firsthand how threatening fraudulent paperwork can be -- a sovereign citizen targeted Shaw after he threw the man out of a hearing for a traffic citation. The suspect tried to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Shaw.
"He actually made implied threats against me, my mother and (my) father," Shaw said. "I'm just elated and I want to thank everyone that's helped spearhead and get this thing orchestrated."
In another north Georgia case, Robert Eugene Stephens filed liens against several public officials, including Georgia's speaker of the House, a clerk of court, and a superior court judge, officials said. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged Stephens with 12 counts including the intimidation and obstruction of court officers.
Sovereign citizens are known for their anti-government behavior and bogus paperwork designed to bog down the courts.
"It can be a nightmare to straighten out," said GBI spokesman John Bankhead. "So when it came to our attention, our agents went out and obtained the arrest warrants."
"When you go arrest these people, you don't know how they're going to react. They have such strong feelings against the government," added Bankhead.
"I realize people get angry with me and my position like any other public official, but we're acting under the color of law," said Shaw.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill Monday surrounded by some of the law enforcement and legislators who will now be protected.
The new law makes it a felony to file any lien that is knowingly false or fraudulent. It carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.