Not too long ago I was fighting for a post idea. I had recently had a conversation in the super-secret-lawyer-chat (applications are apparently now open again) about furries, and decided “I bet there’s some crazy legal shit that goes down with furries.” A google search, however, didn’t come up with anything out of the ordinary.
Then the heavens opened up, and someone sent me the drama that is the Furry Cease and Desist Sovereign Citizen.
So, yesterday this Twitter post was brought to my attention. It’s from a member of the “furry fandom,” which, if you aren’t really familiar with it, is a fandom that consists of people that create large, talking animal alter egos. Hey, I don’t judge. Some people like getting spanked while wearing diapers, some people prefer Pepsi to Coke, and some people like dressing up like…what is this…Tasmanian Devils and shit and engaging in fantasy roleplay. I once played a Bard in a D&D campaign, it’s all good in Boozy’s hood.
The thing that got me wasn’t the “furry” aspect, but the Sovereign Citizen aspect of the whole thing, once again proving that some people have insanity so strong it can bleed right the fuck through a fursuit.
Alright, so, let’s be clear right off the bat, I’m going to be referring to people by their “fursonas.” I was unsure as to the meaning of the term, so I logged into Hulu last night and watched a documentary on the term. I was greeted with this image:
I’m pretty sure this is some shit I’ve seen in a fever dream at some point in time. But, really, the point of saying that is to make you aware that I’m not randomly calling people “Barry the Ox” or some shit like a low-grade mob boss. No, I’m using the names attached to the “fursonas” created by the actual people behind the character. That was a confusing sentence to type.
Alright, so the skinny on the situation: One furry named DeoTasDevil, who I’m assuming is a large tasmanian devil, criticized a convention (they have conventions) for allowing other furries to threaten her. That’s my read of the situation, at least, but apparently there’s some huge, convoluted background to the whole damn thing that involves something called “raiders” and shit. You can read that whole story on the Furry News Website (those are three words I never thought I’d place together in my life) Dogpatch Press. As you would expect from people who have built what appears to be their entire lives around the image of themselves as a giant animal, the response of the convention organization, Rocky Mountain Fur Con, was…completely reasonable.
Seriously, go take a minute and read that letter.
Done? Alright, so, every lawyer in the world that clicked on that probably got to this part:
and saw the strange bolding, the weird capitalization of certain letters, and the words “potentially damaging criminal activities causing substantial commercial injury damages” and went “OH SHIT! IT’S SOV CIT TIME!” Indeed. Indeed it fucking is.
Alright, so SovCit is legal jargon for “sovereign citizens,” a movement which believes that they can operate outside of and, in some cases, in a superior position to the law. While every goddamn lawyer in the world is aware of these batshit battlers, for you muggles out there here’s a high-level rundown of them from Vox. The rule of thumb (heh, see what I did there?) when dealing with a Sovereign Citizen is to recognize that you’re in for either a very good or very bad ride, depending on the particular brand of craziness they espouse. To even start to determine the particular brand of crazy, you gotta look at what they’re saying, though. So let’s go back to the letter.
Few things: first, at this point this appears to be a very strangely worded, but not abnormal, cease and desist letter. C&D letters are commonly notoriously bad, and list things that the writer has no actual ability to follow through on. Just ask guys like Randazza, who has been known to respond to C&D letters of this nature by sending, no shit, memes. Second, those seven points are probably complete bullshit. “Incite to riot?” “Trespass on contract Obligations?” Does “incite to riot” even get charged anymore? And seriously, could you imagine this riot in the mind’s eye of the writer of that letter? Just people in badger suits yanking out gats and opening fire on each other.
Is that “riot” or “hunting” at that point? Is it okay if they have a license and stick to the bag limit? These are questions left unanswered by the letter. We need to know what’s going on here. Let’s go back to the letter.
Two things: First, is anyone else shaking their head at the irony in a sovereign citizen relying on the law enforcement agencies of the government they don’t recognize to investigate shit? That one gave me a chuckle. Second, I want you all to close your eyes and imagine this call coming into your local FBI Field Office.
“FBI, Agent Smith speaking.”
“Yeah, there’s someone who’s promoting a shooting at our local event. We think they may be a terrorist.”
“Who is the suspect?”
“A six foot tall tasmanian devil.”
This isn’t to say the Furry community doesn’t have real legal issues. Last year the California furry community was apparently rocked by a triple murder. Back in 2014, there was apparently a chlorine gas attack at a convention. These are real fucking issues, but neither of them appear to be unique to the Furry community (In the triple murders, once you get past the “furry” aspect, it’s clear the problem was the parents, who were furries, had banned their 17 year old daughter, also a furry, from seeing an older man, once again a furry, and…well…the boyfriend and his buddy killed the parents and a friend of the parents, also a furry). That shit happens in the non-furry world too. So, please, you know, don’t take my scenario above as a statement to not call the cops.
Just…maybe don’t threaten to call the cops when trying to prevent people from talking bad about your giant anthropomorphic animal convention.
Now, back to the letter.
Oh Jesus, the SovCit lien. This is a real thing, by the way. A Sovereign Citizen goes out into the real world, often blinking at the burning yellow ball in the sky, and files a lien against your property because they believe their statement in a letter, because it followed all of the “formal wizardry” their “movement” (is mental disorder a strong word? Can we use “mental disorder”) requires, is now a binding court order and judgment that can be used to place a lien on your property. Note: this shit actually happens. Sovereign Citizens will file these bullshit liens and force you to drag the whole goddamn thing into court to resolve them. When dealing with a SovCit, check your goddamn property encumbrances.
However, if the lien is followed through on by the SovCit, there are actual civil and criminal penalties for doing so. So, you know, they can “gold fringe flag” their asses right into poverty and the jailhouse by doing so.
Really? Oh NO! You mean DeoTasDevil can’t attend BatshitFest 2017? Thank god this thing is being held in Colorado, otherwise we’d be wondering what you’re smoking, man.
THIS part may be legal to the extent that it bans attendance at a convention (which has now been cancelled due to negative publicity and tax irregularities from the fact the 501(c)(3) lost its non-profit status in 2012 and then…apparently…you know…never filed taxes). A private party can bar attendance at an event at their discretion. The interesting part is the “if you try to register, we’ll keep your money.” The contract lawyer in me says this shit won’t fly. And, unlike the writer of this letter, I’m an actual…fuckin’…lawyer.
This is a sentence that was probably lifted from someone’s denial of government benefits. First, the only people issuing findings of fact and law are administrative law judges, few of whom are likely to be on the board of a furry convention in Colorado. Second, the “ten day” response time is pretty damn typical for first-level denials from government agencies, such as Social Security or USDA SNAP benefits. Third, the typos man, the typos. “[Y]our silent acquiescence is acceptable.” “Qui tacet consentire videtur,” by the way, is the legal Latin for “Silence is consent.” In other words: “If you don’t respond, you are bound to accept.” This works in contracts if silence is specifically stated as being a form of acceptance, it does not work when you send a demand letter to someone, and it does not work where there’s no contract at issue.
Again. Specifically stating that “silence is consent” is not applicable outside of contract principles. You can’t make someone liable for an act by saying “silence means you did it.”
That’s just not how any of this works.
But here is where the whole thing becomes obviously written by a SovCit:
Remember how back in school, red ink meant you did something bad? Yeah, that same principle applies in the Sovereign Citizen movement as well, as signing it in red ink kinda of clues the rest of us in that you’re crazy-go-nuts. Of course, to the SovCit the red ink and the “thumbprint” adds some special magic, because it shows they are a “flesh and blood person” and not the corporate entity known as FurpantsMcGee or whatever the fuck this guy calls himself.
Alright, so we’ve deconstructed the craziness. Let’s talk about the impact.
First, a Twitter user, furry, and lawyer, NanukBurr, did a deconstruction rant on his Twitter feed.
The best way to sum up the effect of the letter came from Nanuk, who opined as follows:
.@DeoTasDevil 32. And now an editorial. If the RMFC board authorized this, they’re idiots. If they didn’t read it first, they’re idiots.
— But I’m Just a Bear (@NanukBurr) April 10, 2017
Yep. Sounds about right. Full disclosure: I chatted with NanukBurr last night. Nice guy. He tried to talk me into attending a convention with promises of booze. It’s winning me over. If he succeeds, I’m gonna be a motherfuckin’ badger.
So, what’s the takeaway here? It isn’t “ha ha ha, furry drama!” Well, okay, it is a bit. Because, seriously, this shit is just surreal. But here’s the real takeaway:
- You should never let a Sovereign Citizen with no legal training sit on the board of your non-profit for legal matters. I sit on several non-profit boards, and I’m the lawyer for some non-profits, and this is just a bad idea all the fucking way around.
- You should actually use a goddamn lawyer or risk having to cancel your event from bad publicity.
- Furry Sovereign Citizens do not insist that their fursonas are their actually identities, which bums me out as I was really looking forward to seeing “BOOMER THE DOG, A FREE DOG OF THE LAND” on a legal pleading at some point.
- This sort of shit is not exclusive to any one class of person.
- This shit is better when you know the guy writing it has, at some point, jerked off to a picture of two animals fucking.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go make sure reading into all this didn’t awaken anything in me.