MARCH 9, 2015 Manny Fernandez, New York Times
HOUSTON — The Republic of Texas is unlike any other volunteer organization
in what used to be the Republic of Texas.
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minted their own silver and gold currency and carry ID cards warning police
officers they are diplomatic representatives of the nation of Texas. Its vice
president, a retired telephone company worker, sent a letter in 2011 to the
governor of Oklahoma, informing her that she faced indictment because her
state’s counties and territories were “trespassing inside the geographical
boundaries” of the nation.
Such letters have failed to convince the authorities of the group’s novel
belief — that Texas never legally became part of the United States and remains
a separate nation. As a result of that belief, the group claims it had a duty to
form a government, with a state department and with a court system run in
part by a chiropractor in the Houston suburb of Katy.
Members say their government is neither a mock system nor a prank, but
a legitimate authority with executive, legislative and judicial branches. They
spend their time sitting through eighthour congressional meetings and
debating legislation. (The letter to Oklahoma refers to Senate Bill No. 1102
1201.) Still, officials who receive one of the group’s many letters typically “just
throw it in the trash can,” acknowledged the Republic’s president, John
Until last month.
The group’s Valentine’s Day meeting in Bryan had barely started at a
Veterans of Foreign Wars hall — each woman in the audience had been
handed a rose — when several local, state and federal law enforcement officials
burst through the door. No one was arrested in the raid, which included F.B.I.
agents, but dozens of the group’s supporters were detained. Some were
fingerprinted, and cellphones and briefcases were confiscated from others.
The authorities said the raid was part of an investigation into a batch of
letters the Republic of Texas had sent to a judge and a lawyer in Kerrville, Tex.
They noted that those with ties to the group have taken their nationalist beliefs
to violent extremes in the past, including a sevenday standoff with the
authorities in 1997 that ended with a gun battle in which one group member
was killed. The group’s leaders said that officials behind the recent raid had
overreacted with a show of force and that the letters were lawful.
The Republic had ordered the judge in Kerrville to appear at the V.F.W.
hall for a “court hearing” involving his role in the pending foreclosure of a
member’s home. Two letters to the judge ordered him to present “proof of his
authority for executing his claimed powers involving a foreign entity” and
warned him that copies might be provided to the United Nations. The lawyer
was sent a “subpoena.”
After the raid, the V.F.W. hall prohibited the group from meeting there
again, so the Republic’s next congressional session will be held at Ace Buffet
and Grill in Waco.
“They came in looking like John Dillinger and the gang were hiding out,”
said Dave Kroupa, the Katy chiropractor who signed the letters to the judge as
chief justice of the Republic’s international common law court. “The ladies
were armed with roses. The most confusing thing I ever witnessed was this
silly raid in 59 years of my life.”
The disruption of the meeting has given the group a boost in publicity and
support. It also provided a glimpse into the Republic’s political alternate
reality and the radical and notsoradical views of its supporters. Some have
had violent confrontations with the authorities, and some are retirees more
interested in the minutiae of the establishment of Texas as a country from
183645 than in overthrowing the government.
“They’re a harmless, clueless and interesting group of generally nice older
guys with too much time on their hands,” said Jerry Patterson, a former Texas
land commissioner, who recalled receiving Republic letters demanding he
vacate the office. “Certainly law enforcement has something else to do. They
have never tried to enforce their demands beyond writing amusing letters.”
The sheriff of Kerr County, Rusty Hierholzer, who led the raid and
execution of the search warrant last month, said the letters appeared to violate
a state law that prohibits delivery of documents that simulate a summons or
other court process. The large contingent of officers, he said, was necessary
because of the group’s history.
In 1997, the group’s leader at the time, Richard L. McLaren, and his
supporters abducted a West Texas couple and held them hostage, leading to
the standoff. A member of the group was shot and killed in the gun battle. Mr.
McLaren surrendered and remains in state prison. Other members have been
charged over the years with assault, forgery, the impersonation of an officer
and, in a 1998 federal case, threats to use a weapon of mass destruction.
“I don’t have a problem with this group, but when they do things that
violate the laws of this state, then I have to take action,” Sheriff Hierholzer
said. “If I had just sent one officer to this meeting, to execute that warrant, I
have a serious concern as to how safe my officer would’ve been.
“You look at Waco, Timothy McVeigh, some of this ‘sovereign citizen’
stuff,” he added, referring to the 1993 F.B.I. assault on the Branch Davidian
compound in Waco and the terrorist who was executed for detonating a truck
bomb in Oklahoma City in 1995. “There’s radicals in everything we do. It’s the
radicals that I’m concerned about.”
The Republic of Texas leaders say they have no ties to Mr. McLaren, and
some have apparently joined in recent years as the Texas secession movement
has grown. In last year’s Republican primary for governor, a secessionist who
changed his middle name to reflect his cause, Larry Secede Kilgore, received
The Republic’s president, Mr. Jarnecke, who runs a construction business
in Fredericksburg, said it was inaccurate to call the members secessionists.
“We in the Republic do not need to secede, because we never ceded it to them
to start with.”
The raid had one other effect: generating more letters.
Paul Robert Andrus, who was among those detained, filed documents
accusing the sheriff’s lead investigator of “trespass upon liberty.” He
demanded $3 million in gold, money order “or any combination necessary