Member of Freeman-on-the-Land movement voices objections

Woman convicted of obstruction after refusing to take part in her trial

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on October 12, 2013
Amy Collins voices her objection to court proceedings as she is led out of provincial court in St. John’s after being found in contempt of court by the judge in her trial Friday. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

It was a bizarre court case in which a woman vehemently refused to participate in her trial, continuously shouted objections during proceedings and insisted that the judge call her “My Lady.”

Her name is Amy Collins, but she refused to answer to it when her case was called in provincial court in St. John’s Friday.

“I do not have a name,” she told Judge Mike Madden. “I have a calling.”

The woman is a reportedly acting as a member of Freeman-on-the-Land, a fairly new movement in North America whose members believe all statute law is contractual. They refuse to heed rules on the basis that statute laws are voluntary, and anyone declaring themselves a sovereign citizen doesn’t have to adhere to government rules.

The 36-year-old was charged with obstruction of justice, resisting arrest and two counts of breaching court orders, stemming from an incident in September 2012.

Her trial was set in July to be held Friday. Crown prosecutor Mike Murray indicated the Crown was ready, but Collins protested.

When Madden asked her, “Are you prepared to proceed, Miss Collins?” The woman replied, “Are you addressing me?”

“Yes,” Madden answered.

“You can address me as My Lady.”

Collins repeated that each time the judge said her name.

When Madden asked what was on her birth certificate, she spelled A-M-Y C-O-L-L-I-N-S, but insisted she be known as “woman.”

Collins told the judge that her agent, Debra Thistle, was not available Friday due to health conditions and, as a result, the trial should be postponed.

Murray told the judge Thistle is not a lawyer and would be of no benefit to the process anyway.

Madden agreed and opted to go ahead with the trial.

“I object!” Collins said adamantly.

“Your objection is overruled,” Madden said.

But Collins continued to voice her displeasure.

“I reserve all rights. I’m not prepared to proceed,” she said. “I do not understand the nature of these proceedings. I do not consent to proceedings.”

She constantly interrupted the judge, prompting him to find her in contempt of court. Sheriff’s officers were called and Collins was led to the holding cells.

When she was brought back 10 minutes later, she appeared calm, but as the first witness, RNC Const. Mitchell Ryall, was called to the stand, she again started to shout objections.

“Crown! I revoked your rights, as I am the only person standing in this matter,” Collins said.

Her objections were ignored and Murray continued, although at times he had to shout his questions to be heard over Collins’ rants.

Ryall, as well as Const. Jason Nixon, who also testified, had to raise their voices to be heard.

Since Collins refused to call witnesses, or participate at all, Madden found her guilty.

“I wish this case to be dismissed!” Collins said loudly.

To the judge, she said, “Mr. Supernumerary, why are you still speaking? I’m the only one with standing in this courtroom and have the rights.”

Again ignoring her tirade, Madden said he wanted Collins to have legal representation put in place for sentencing.

When he addressed her as Miss Collins, she again said, “Are you addressing me? You may address me as My Lady.”

To which Madden replied, “I don’t really think that’s going to happen.”

A sentencing hearing is set for Oct. 22.

Following proceedings, Collins, who is not in custody, asked reporters when the story would be made public.

While such cases may be new to this province, the Freeman-on-the-Land movement has been growing in other parts of Canada.

Freemen believe they can avoid taxes, mortgages, utility bills and more. They state they have an unfettered right to travel, and thus do not need driver’s licences, insurance or licence plates.

The Law Society of British Columbia has issued warnings about Freemen, saying they may number up to 30,000 in Canada and in the hundreds of thousands in the United States.

Freemen-on-the-Land is listed on the FBI’s domestic terror watch list. Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, have been linked to the movement.

According to various media reports, violence is not advocated in the Freemen movement in Canada, but there have been several confrontations with police in Western provinces in recent years.

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelyCourt