By SHAILA DEWAN and JOHN HUBBELL
Published: May 23, 2010
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — It was here, in this blue-collar town of frame houses and good-natured biker bars, that Jerry Ralph Kane Jr. began his fight against what he regarded as the illegitimate corporations he believed had usurped the government.
That fight ended in spectacular fashion Thursday in West Memphis, Ark., just across the Mississippi River from Memphis, leaving Mr. Kane, his 16-year-old son, Joseph, and two local police officers dead.
Mr. Kane and Joseph shot the officers who stopped their white van on Interstate 40, then died in a firefight with other law enforcement officials in a Wal-Mart parking lot, wounding a sheriff and his deputy, the authorities said. A newspaper photograph showed Joseph, dead on a traffic island, the bullet-riddled van behind him.
It was only the culmination — the inevitable culmination, some who knew Mr. Kane said — of a struggle that began here in Springfield.
This is where Mr. Kane made a show of cutting his long grass with a pair of scissors when police officers came to his property to enforce city codes, a neighbor recalled. This is where he demanded to be paid $100,000 a day in gold or silver, “the only legal form of payment in the Constitution,” when he was sentenced to community service for traffic violations. This is where Mr. Kane’s brother has a plaque on his porch with a fake gun affixed to it. “We ain’t dialin’ 911,” it says.
And this is where Mr. Kane drew his son, who the authorities said participated in the shooting, into his web of conspiracy theories and suspicion of authority. By age 9, Joseph, who was home-schooled, could recite the Bill of Rights from memory and carried a realistic toy gun everywhere he went, Sheriff Gene A. Kelly of Clark County said.
In recent years, Joseph went along, as did the family’s two dogs, when Mr. Kane crisscrossed the country delivering seminars purporting to divulge methods of forestalling foreclosures. The pair appeared in matching black or white suits, and Joseph sometimes chimed in with legal factoids.
“He could recite the Constitution,” Mr. Kelly said of Joseph, whom he met when Mr. Kane paid a visit to his office in 2004. “He could recite the right to bear arms. You could tell that the child had been taught not to trust law enforcement.”
Donna Lee Wray — who described herself as Mr. Kane’s wife of three months (she said she and Mr. Kane had been married “in the eyes of God” and had not believed they should pay the government for a marriage license) — said Federal Bureau of Investigation agents had told her it was Joseph, not his father, who fired at the police officers who stopped the van on a stretch of freeway known for drug trafficking and crime.
“The F.B.I. said that Jerry was at the driver’s side of the van in the back, talking to the two officers peaceably, and that 16-year-old Joe comes out guns ablazing,” she said in a telephone interview on Sunday from her home in Clearwater, Fla. F.B.I. officials declined to confirm that report, and Ms. Wray questioned why no videotape of the shooting had been released.
When the police caught up to the van 90 minutes later, the father and son began shooting as soon as Sheriff Dick Busby of Crittenden County and a deputy pulled up, said Mr. Busby, who was shot in the shoulder. “The driver jumped out with a high-powered rifle, and the other got out on the right side,” he said. “They both started at the same time.”
Mr. Kane was the son of a security guard. Right after graduating from high school, he made the first of three unsuccessful races for the City Commission in Springfield, according to The Springfield News-Sun. His campaign ended when he was arrested on charges that he had stolen beer from a railroad boxcar, The News-Sun reported.
He became a trucker, joining an industry that is dominant here, and married a nurse, Hope Drummond. In 1993, they had Joseph, and two years later, they had a daughter, Candy, who died as an infant, Ms. Wray said. Candy’s death, attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, became a defining moment for Mr. Kane, Ms. Wray said, when his lawyer told him he had to allow an autopsy even though he objected.
“He couldn’t comprehend how a corporation could have more rights than a father,” she said. “That’s where he started asking questions.”
In recent years, Mr. Kane repeatedly attracted the attention of the Springfield authorities.
In 2003, he tried to buy property at a sheriff’s sale in exchange for an I.O.U., Sheriff Kelly recalled. In 2004, he was charged with assault after he shot a passing teenager in the leg with a pellet or BB gun without provocation, according to a police affidavit that said he had a “mental history.”
After Mr. Kane visited the sheriff’s office to complain about the judge who had sentenced him to community service, Mr. Kelly became so concerned that he warned the area’s law enforcement officers to beware of Mr. Kane.
“I thought anyone who encountered him could possibly have a violent confrontation,” the sheriff said.
In 2002 and again in 2004, property owned by the Kanes was foreclosed on, according to court records, and the health department sued him twice. In 2007, Hope Kane died of complications related to pneumonia.
By then, Mr. Kane was already involved in what the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which study hate groups, call the Patriot movement or the “sovereign citizen movement,” extreme groups that believe the government has no legitimate authority. The van Mr. Kane was driving was registered to the House of God’s Prayer at 132 W. Main Street, in New Vienna, Ohio, a vacant building that is owned by an aging white supremacist.
J. J. MacNab, an insurance analyst and expert on tax and financial frauds who has closely watched sovereignty groups for a decade, said she had found 141 vehicles registered to that address under different names, including several church names, indicating that people were probably using it as a way to shelter property from the I.R.S.
Mr. Kane believed the true government had been supplanted by elaborately deceptive profiteers who were harassing him, Ms. Wray said. “He thought it was piracy, just attaching tickets and bills and charges to people when there was no injury,” she said.
To evade the control of these entities, he gave up his driver’s license, ending his career as a trucker, she said.
“Jerry was not antigovernment in the least,” she said. “They just had a big desire to protect people from these private, for-profit corporations that may as well be Blackwater.”
Jim Jenkins, a former mortgage broker in Seattle who attended one of Mr. Kane’s seminars in April, said that Mr. Kane had been largely congenial, but that his anger had flared when he recalled a traffic stop earlier that month in New Mexico. Mr. Kane was arrested and jailed on charges of driving while his license was suspended or revoked and concealing his identity.
“He was very upset for quite a while about the New Mexico stop,” Mr. Jenkins said, “because he didn’t believe you need a license to travel in the nation’s highways. That that is a right of every American, not a privilege.”
In a clip from an Internet radio show, Mr. Kane accused the New Mexico officers of kidnapping him from a “Nazi checkpoint” and said he had done a background check on the arresting officer. “I found out where he lives, his address, his wife’s name,” he said.
In a video of one of his seminars, which was removed from YouTube over the weekend, Mr. Kane responded to reports of a zealous I.R.S. agent by twice suggesting that she be found and beaten up. Joseph said, “If you pay for the bat, I’ll take care of the problem.”
Mr. Kane also referred to a earlier problem with alcohol, saying: “I don’t want to kill anybody but if they keep messing with me, that’s what it’s going to come down to. And if I have to kill one, then I’m not going to be able to stop. I just know it, I mean, I have an addictive personality.”
Ms. MacNab said Mr. Kane had first appeared on her radar about four years ago as a promoter of the debt-elimination program run by the Dorean Group, whose leaders have since been convicted of fraud and conspiracy.
Two years ago, she said, he resurfaced as the leader of his own seminars. Seminars of this type usually teach that each person has a real self and a “corporate self” that is a fabrication of the government, and that banks cannot legitimately lend money that belongs to their depositors.
“It’s mumbo jumbo; it’s magic words; it’s abracadabra,” Ms. MacNab said.
Ms. MacNab said that Mr. Kane had competitors far more successful than he, whose seminars might command audiences of 250 people at a time.
At Mr. Kane’s last seminar in Las Vegas a week ago, for which he charged $300 per person, only six people attended.
Source: The New York Times
Am I the only one who's sad the title didn't spell 'raeg' instead?