Sheriff showdown

Bart warns ‘Freedom County’ official not to play lawman

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

The man who claims he is the sheriff in a new "Freedom County" was warned Tuesday he risks arrest if he tries to supplant the authority of Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart.

Fnu Lnu, 57, met briefly with Bart at Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Everett.

Bart said he looked Lnu in the eye, told him there is only one sheriff here, and then gave the man a written warning against trying to take any action as a law officer.

"I made it very clear to him that I’m the elected sheriff, and I will arrest him" if he tries to act as a law officer, Bart said.

Lnu said he’s ready to go to jail if necessary to help prove that Freedom County legally exists.

"Sheriff Bart just needs to lighten up a little," Lnu said later.

Lnu and two other men took oaths of service to Freedom County Monday evening while at a public gathering at an Arlington restaurant.

Lnu said that on Tuesday he gave Bart written notice, informing the sheriff that he and his deputies have his permission to enforce most laws in the territory he and others insist is now Freedom County. The area is roughly northern Snohomish County.

Lnu said the only thing Snohomish County deputies are no longer allowed to do is assist the federal Internal Revenue Service, or other agencies, in seizing property for payment of back taxes.

Fnu Lnu (pronounced Fuh-NEW Luh-NEW) is a law enforcement acronym for "first name unknown, last name unknown." Lnu said he had his name legally changed within the last several years because it "seemed appropriate at the time."

He refused Tuesday to reveal his birth name, birth date or other details, saying, "I’m going to leave that up for discovery."

Lnu said he served as an FBI agent in the 1970s, resigning in 1978 after serving in New York, the Midwest and Seattle. He also claims to have operated restaurants, a tavern, a limousine service and a private security company.

Sources familiar with Lnu said his true name is Robert V. Bender.

FBI spokesman Ray Lauer confirmed that there was an agent based in Seattle with that name who resigned in 1978, but he said policies precluded him from saying much else.

"The only thing I can say is we have never had an agent in this office named Fnu Lnu," Lauer said.

Court records and other documents show there is a King County man who is named Bender and also uses the identity Fnu Lnu.

Bender has filed numerous lawsuits against various government agencies, including the FBI, frequently acting as his own attorney.

Lnu on Tuesday said that he has until recently been living in Tukwila and only moved into a home near Lake Goodwin a few weeks ago.

Lnu said he does not have a state driver’s license because he maintains they aren’t legally necessary to operate a car. He also said that until recently the only identification he carried in his wallet was a membership card for a discount warehouse store.

On Tuesday, however, Lnu flashed identification as Freedom County sheriff, but he said he doesn’t have a badge and has no plans to carry a gun.

"I wouldn’t want any misunderstanding that there is a crazy guy running around" who is going to shoot somebody, he said.

Freedom County’s purported boundaries encompass about 1,000 square miles, nearly half of Snohomish County. Some believe the new county has existed since April 1995, when backers presented the Legislature with more than 12,000 signatures calling for its creation.

The state Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court have repeatedly ruled that Freedom County does not exist. A federal lawsuit brought by Freedom County proponents also was tossed out of court.

Lnu came to Bart’s office on Monday accompanied by Thom Satterlee and David Guadalupe, who contend they were elected as Freedom County commissioners while on the bus ride to Olympia. Neither were allowed into the meeting with Bart.

Satterlee said he knows some people are concerned and afraid by the recent actions by Freedom County supporters, but he insisted backers intend to act peacefully and lawfully.

He flatly rejects court rulings on the nonexistence of Freedom County. They are meaningless because the people living in the area have withdrawn their consent to be governed by Snohomish County, he said.

"If you are dealing with a corrupt system, are you surprised when you get a corrupt ruling?" he asked.

Bart said he told Lnu that Freedom County backers can say whatever they want, but they can’t overcome the reality that an election was held in 1999 and a majority of voters — including people living within Freedom County — voted to elect him to a second four-year term.

"I am the elected sheriff, not him (Lnu)," Bart said.

Bart said he’s spoken with county prosecutors and has been assured that charges will be filed against anyone who claims to be a Freedom County sheriff or deputy and engages in an "overt act" that purports to be law enforcement.

That could include attempting to pull over a car or serving legal paperwork, Bart said.

Impersonating a law officer is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, said Jim Townsend, Snohomish County’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor.

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