Strawman theory

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Strawman theory (also called the Strawman illusion) is a pseudolegal theory prevalent in various movements such as sovereign citizen, tax protester, freeman on the land, and the redemption movement. The theory holds that an individual has two personas, one of flesh and the other a separate legal personality (i.e., the "strawman"). The idea is that an individual’s debts, liabilities, taxes and legal responsibilities belong to the strawman rather than the physical individual.[1] The strawman theory is recognized in law as a scam: the FBI considers anyone promoting it a likely fraudster[2]; the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers it a frivolous argument and fines people that use the theory on their Federal tax returns.[3][4]


Strawman theory traces its origins to the ancient Roman legal practice of capitis deminutio ("decrease of head"), a term used in Roman trials for the extinguishment of a person's former legal capacity. Capitis deminutio minima meant a person ceased to belong to a particular family, without loss of liberty or citizenship. Capitis deminutio media involved loss of citizenship and family, but not liberty. Capitis deminutio maxima involved loss of family, citizenship and liberty (i.e., a slave or a prisoner of war).[5] Strawman theory commonly takes the term capitis deminutio spells it "Capitis Diminutio" and claims capitis diminutio maxima was represented by an individual’s name being written in capital letters. This led to the idea that individuals had a separate legal personality now called a "strawman".[6]

The theory holds that an individual has two personas. One of them is a physical, tangible human being, and the other is the legal person, often referred to as a legal fiction. When a baby is born in the U.S., a birth certificate is issued, and the parents apply for a Social Security number. Sovereigns say the government uses that birth certificate to set up a secret Treasury account which it funds with an amount ranging from $600,000 to $20 million, depending on the particular sovereign belief system. Hence, every newborn's rights are split between those held by the flesh-and-blood baby and the corporate shell account.[1]

Proponents of the theory believe the evidence is found on the birth certificate. Because many certificates show all capitals to spell out a baby's name, JOHN DOE (under the Strawman theory) is the name of the "straw man," and John Doe is the baby's "real" name. As the child grows, most legal documents will contain capital letters, which means that his state-issued driver's license, his marriage license, his car registration, his criminal court records, his cable TV bill, correspondence from the IRS, etc., pertain to his strawman and not his sovereign identity.[1] In reality, the use of all capital letters is typically done to make certain statements clear and conspicuous, although this is not always the case.[7]

The main use of strawman theory is in escaping and denying debts, liabilities and legal responsibility. Tax protesters, "commercial redemption" and "get out of debt free" scams claim that one’s debts and taxes are the responsibility of the strawman and not of the real person. They back this claim by misreading the legal definition of person[8] and a misunderstanding of the distinction between a juridicial person[9] and a natural person.[10] In accepted legal theory there is a difference between what is known as a natural person and that of a corporate person. A corporate personhood applies to business, charities, governments and other recognized organisations. Courts recognize human beings as 'persons', not as a legal fiction joined to a flesh and blood human being but as one and the same.[11] They have never recognized a right to distance oneself from one's person, or the ability to opt out of personhood.[12]

Believers of the theory also extend it to law and legal responsibilities, claiming that only their strawman is required to adhere to statutory laws. They also claim that legal proceedings are taken against strawmen rather than persons and when one appears in court they appear as representing their strawman. The justification for this is the false notion that governments cannot force anybody to do anything. A strawman therefore created which the adherent believes he or she is free to command. Proponents cite a misinterpretation of a passage in chapter 39 of King John's Magna Carta stating in part that, "no freeman will be seized, dispossessed of his property, or harmed except by the law of the land”.[13]

Freemen believe that separating from their strawman or refusing to be identified as such enables escape from their legal liabilities and responsibilities. This is typically attempted by denying they are a 'person' in the same way as their strawman, or by writing their name in non-standard ways, using red ink, and placing finger prints on court documents.[14]

Judge Norman K. Moon found such tactics an unconvincing argument in 2013 when an individual named Brandon Gravatt tried to overturn a drug conviction and get out of prison. The case was summarily dismissed by the court.[15]

It is impossible to dodge the law by insisting that an individual is different from his or her person. If a court can establish a person's identity, regardless of consent or cooperation, the court will engage in proceedings and sanctions against the individual. This is due to the legal principle known as Idem sonans (Latin for "sounding the same") which states that similar sounding names are just as valid in referring to a person.[16] The earliest legal precedent is R v Davis in the United Kingdom in 1851.[17]

Relevant cases[edit]

Case Defendant Case notes Court Ruling
United States v. Washington (1996) Kurt Washington Kurt Washington was charged with two counts of tax evasion. As part of the proceedings, he filed a motion to dismiss the charges on numerous grounds, including that the person charged was a strawman. "...the defendant contends that the Indictment must be dismissed because “KURT WASHINGTON,” spelled out in capital letters, is a fictitious name used by the Government to tax him improperly as a business, and that the correct spelling and presentation of his name is “Kurt Washington.” This contention is baseless."[18]
State of Colorado v. Drew Donald James Drew Donald Drew was previously convicted after pleading guilty to first degree kidnapping and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Drew then filed a motion to vacate that conviction. “The core of defendant’s argument on appeal is that (1) he was born Donald James Drew, and the person charged in this matter was DONALD JAMES DREW; (2) the capitalization of the name created a “Strawman/Stramineous Homo/Ens Legis/ Artificial Person” (artificial person); (3) the artificial person was convicted; (4) he has been incarcerated as surety chattel or security for the artificial person; and (5) he has been denied due process. “Claims so premised are patently frivolous and without merit.”[19]
Jaeger v. Dubuque County Raymond Jaeger (plaintiff) Raymond Jaeger filed a $2M lawsuit against Iowa state law enforcement & Department of Natural Resources, alleging illegal search and seizure. The ruling was made in response to a motion to strike the presented active defense. "The court finds Jaeger’s arguments concerning capitalization otherwise specious. The court routinely capitalizes the names of all parties before this court in all matters, civil and criminal, without any regard to their corporate or individual status...Jaeger’s motions to strike are denied as to improper capitalization."[20]
United States v. Furman William Michael Furman William Furman was charged with two counts of conspiracy related to a scheme to defraud a bank and launder money. After being convicted, Furman filed an appeal based on the strawman theory, alleging both a literal misspelling of his name and the "improper" capitalizations typically seen in such arguments. "Here, the difference between "Micheal" and "Michael" is a mere transposition of letters with presumably little (if any) auditory significance, and the difference between "WILLIAM MICHAEL FURMAN" and "William Michael Furman" is a mere change of case with absolutely no auditory significance."[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "SOVEREIGN CITIZENS MOVEMENT". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Redemption / Strawman / Bond Fraud". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Internal Revenue Bulletin: 2005-14". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  4. ^ "26 U.S. Code § 6702 - Frivolous tax submissions". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  5. ^ Lord Thomas Mackenzie Mackenzie (1862). Studies in Roman Law: With Comparative Views of the Laws of France, England, and Scotland. W. Blackwood. pp. 71–72.
  6. ^ Weill, Kelly. "Republican Lawmaker: Recognize Sovereign Citizens or Pay $10,000 Fine". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  7. ^ "Sovereign Citizens Movement". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  8. ^ "What is PERSON?". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  9. ^ "What is JURIDICAL PERSON?". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  10. ^ "What is NATURAL PERSON?". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  11. ^ Meads v. Meads (ABQB 571 (CanLII) 18 September 2012) ("A strange but common OPCA concept is that an individual can somehow exist in two separate but related states. This confusing concept is expressed in many different ways. The ‘physical person’ is one aspect of the duality, the other is a non-corporeal aspect that has many names, such as a “strawman”..."). Text
  12. ^ Lovejoy, Hans. "Taking on the law as a 'strawman'". Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor". Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  14. ^ Williams, Jennifer. "Why some far-right extremists think red ink can force the government to give them millions". Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  15. ^ United States v. Brandon Gravatt (Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit 26 June 2013) ("Brandon Shane Gravatt appeals the district court’s order denying his 18 U.S.C.§3582(c)(2)(2006) motion for sentence reduction. We have reviewed the record and find no reversible error. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s order. United States v. Gravatt, No. 5:01-cr-00736-CMC-1 (D.S.C. March 27, 2013). We dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before this court and argument would not aid in the decisional process."). Text
  16. ^ "What is IDEM SONANS?". Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  17. ^ John Frederick ARCHBOLD (1867). Archbold's Pleading and Evidence in Criminal Cases ... The twelfth edition, including the practice in criminal proceedings generally. By W. N. Welsby. Henry Sweet. p. 190.
  18. ^ United States v. Washington (1996) (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York 12 November 1996). Text
  19. ^ The People of the State of Colorado, v. Donald James Drew (Colorado Court of Appeals 13 May 2010). Text
  20. ^ Jaeger v. Dubuque County (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa 18 March 1995). Text
  21. ^ United States v. Furman (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana 13 April 2001). Text