SUNBURY — An imprisoned couple claiming to be "sovereign citizens" refused to attend their sentencing hearing in person or by videoconference in Northumberland County Court on Friday.
Nevertheless, President Judge Charles Saylor sentenced John and Jane Doe, who are believed to be Kevin Gilgeours and Kathleen Claxton, both of New York, to an 11-year maximum sentence in state prison. A jury in May found both Does guilty of a felony count of criminal trespass and four misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, resisting arrest, causing a public nuisance and disorderly conduct. The jury selection in March and the trial in May were also held without them due to their disruptive behavior.
John Doe received a sentence of 25 months to 11 years while Jane Doe received a sentence of 21 months to 11 years. Both Does received credit for 283 days of time served and were ordered to pay $250 each in fines, plus court costs and fees.
"The standard range would not be appropriate," said Saylor. "Allowing them their return to the community wouldn't be the appropriate reflection on the seriousness of their offenses."
They are accused of squatting at a home without power or running water at 808 W. Fifth St., Connorsville, with their young daughter and resisting arrest when police came to the house on Aug. 29. The home was "unfit for human habitation," according to police.
Two correctional officers from Northumberland County Jail and Sheriff Deputy Andrew Plank testified that the couple refused to leave the jail for the hearing on Friday.
Saylor said the court was operating as if they have no past criminal history, but the couple refused to cooperate with fingerprinting or providing records for themselves or their daughter.
Police said the man and woman refused to give their identities and claimed to be Moorish Sovereign citizens. The Moorish sovereign citizen movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), is "a collection of independent organizations and lone individuals that emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of the antigovernment sovereign citizens movement, which believes that individual citizens hold sovereignty over, and are independent of, the authority of federal and state governments."
A sovereign citizen, according to U.S. Legal’s website, “is a term used to refer to a political movement which grew out of a belief in government abuses of power. Members often refuse to hold Social Security cards or driver’s licenses and avoid using zip codes. Sovereign citizens believe that U.S. citizens are either ‘Fourteenth Amendment citizens' (who are subject to the federal and state laws and taxes) or ‘sovereign citizens,’ who are subject only to common law or ‘constitutional law' (or both) but are not bound to obey statutory law. No court has ever upheld these claims.”
Assistant District Attorney Michael Finn said previously the girl is living with relatives in New York. He had no comments following Friday's hearing.