By SCOTT NORTH
OLYMPIA — A man who claims to be the sheriff in a new "Freedom County" is promoting the notion that Washington state government does not legally exist.
Robert Victor Bender, who prefers to call himself Fnu Lnu, led a small rally at the state Capitol on Wednesday to call attention to what he and others maintain is a 110-year-old fraud.
Bender told about 25 supporters on the steps of the Capitol Building that Washington is actually governed by a corporation that deprives citizens of their rights. He said a federal lawsuit and other actions taken by like-minded people in recent months, such as publishing notices in newspapers, will soon force an overhaul of state government back to what existed prior to the adoption of the state constitution in 1889.
"You all know the journey starts with one step. This is the first step," Bender said.
Bender, a former FBI agent from King County, made headlines around the state last month when he was publicly sworn in to act as "sheriff" for Freedom County, which proponents say has been carved out of most of Snohomish County’s north end.
Thom Satterlee of Darrington, who claims he is a commissioner in Freedom County, this week said Bender used his Fnu Lnu identity because it would attract attention.
"The reason he chose to use Fnu Lnu was to generate press, and it worked," Satterlee said.
Fnu Lnu is a law enforcement acronym that stands for first name unknown, last name unknown.
It was clear Wednesday that Bender was performing similar duty, calling attention to Freedom County while at the same time raising the profile of those questioning the validity of state government.
He said he hoped people would spread the word, on the Internet and elsewhere.
"Maybe next month we can have a couple of million people here on the steps," he said.
As he spoke, Bender held a Freedom County sign and wore a tattered hat with a Freedom County sheriff logo. He said the hat was in such poor condition because it had been chewed on by his "deputy dog."
Also in Olympia on Wednesday were Satterlee and Duane Felix, a north Snohomish County man who claims to be Freedom County’s coroner.
Felix said he believes that Washington’s original constitution, prepared in 1878 when the area was still a territory, was supplanted by lawyers. He said he believes the original constitution bars lawyers from holding elective office.
Gov. Gary Locke is a lawyer who formerly worked as a deputy prosecutor in King County.
Bender said the time is approaching when Locke will have to "come to the table and negotiate" with people who are now challenging the validity of state government.
"The governor doesn’t have any plans to meet with those folks," said Everett Billingslea, Locke’s general counsel.
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