- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - A Coquille preacher and his wife were arraigned on newly filed, expanded charges that accuse them of filing bogus and vindictive liens against several federal officials who handled aspects of a separate criminal tax case involving the couple.

Ronald and Dorothea Joling appeared in U.S. District Court in Eugene after a federal grand jury last week returned a five-count indictment accusing them of filing false, retaliatory liens against District Judge Ann Aiken, Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin, Clerk of the Court Mary Moran and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Bradford.

All four of those federal officials played roles in a tax evasion case that resulted in the couple - who are in their early 70s - being convicted of crimes last year.

The Jolings failed to appear in April for a scheduled sentencing hearing in the tax case and remained fugitives until U.S. marshals arrested them in Arizona in early October. They subsequently were returned to Oregon and have been held in the Lane County Jail since late last month. Their new sentencing date is Dec. 10.

Meanwhile, a grand jury in March returned a two-count indictment in the false liens case, alleging that the Jolings illegally filed public documents that wrongly accused the four federal officials of owing them more than $100 million.

Prosecutors evidently had the grand jury review the case again earlier this fall, resulting in the five-count indictment that led to the Jolings’ arraignment on Monday.

The Jolings have long been associated with an anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement that does not recognize federal authority. In court Monday, the couple both made somewhat nonsensical statements that appeared to puzzle Judge Michael McShane, who at one point suggested Ronald Joling “may need an interpreter” to communicate with court officials.

Ronald Joling asked McShane if he was “calling the man or the person” when his name was mentioned in court, and then questioned the court’s jurisdiction over him. His wife, meanwhile, asserted that she is “a noncitizen American national” who could not accept the help of a court-appointed lawyer because of that status.

Prosecutor Jen Ihlo characterized the couple’s statements as “classic sovereign citizen rhetoric.”

Despite Dorothea Joling’s initial refusal of a public defender, McShane ruled that attorneys previously assigned to the couple in the tax case may continue to represent them in court for the time being.

McShane rejected a request from Dorothea Joling’s lawyer, Emilio Bandiero, to allow the 72-year-old woman to be released from jail for a few days this week in order to spend Thanksgiving with her four children and 16 grandchildren. McShane said keeping the couple incarcerated will ensure their appearance at future court hearings.

Before the couple fled Oregon, prosecutors indicated they would seek a 10-year prison sentence for Ronald Joling and a 5-year sentence for his wife. Government officials have not said if they will ask a judge to impose lengthier sentences to punish the Jolings for absconding.

Until recently, Ronald Joling served for decades as pastor of Hope Covenant Reformed Church in Coquille. He testified at his tax evasion trial that he quit paying income taxes in the early 1990s after years of self-guided study led him to conclude that the nation’s tax laws do not apply to him, and that he’s sure his actions have put him on “biblical safe ground.”

Dorothea Joling’s trial defense was that she had no say in her husband’s decision to stop paying taxes. Bandiero told the jury that his client is an “obedient wife” whose God “speaks to her through her husband.”

Federal officials say the Jolings kept their money in order to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on various property purchases and other expenses, and then tried a number of schemes to hide assets from the government. Federal officials are using a civil process to seize the couple’s property to help satisfy the unpaid tax debt.


Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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