A St. Joseph man who claimed he was exempt from Missouri law because he is a “sovereign citizen” was sentenced Thursday for assaulting a police officer. During his nearly 90 minute sentencing hearing, Marcus Paden represented himself, and did most of the talking. But in the end he did not persuade the judge to let him walk free.
As we reported, Paden, 28, was found guilty after a bench trial in November before Circuit Judge Daniel Kellogg.
He initially challenged the jurisdiction of the court, saying he should be tried under maritime law. He also complained about the fringe on the American flag in the courtroom. Last year, a judge ruled that Paden was not mentally competent to stand trial, but a subsequent examination report cleared the way for court proceedings.
At sentencing Paden said the case had nothing to do with “sovereignty,” but was instead about self defense. He also said he was sorry.
Paden was arrested after a traffic stop last May near Gene Field Road and Ashmat Lane in which officials say he refused to cooperate with officers. St Joseph Police Officer Steve Smith suffered severe injuries as he was pulling Paden out of the vehicle. Smith said in a written statement to the court that he still suffers from short-term memory loss from the concussion he suffered trying to arrest Paden. He also has limited use of his right thumb, also injured during the arrest. Officer Smith asked for the maximum sentence.
“He has no place as a free man in our community or any other community,” Smith wrote in the statement.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ron Holiday also called a witness, a confidential informant who shared a cell in the county jail with the defendant. The informant says Paden threatened to kill the victim. The informant also said Paden asked for the addresses of both the judge and the prosecutor and threatened them, as well as another assistant prosecutor.
Paden interrupted the proceedings several times to protest his innocence and to assert that the informant was lying. He also called the judge a liar. Paden claims that officer Smith “charged” him, opening the door of his vehicle and grabbing Paden by the arm.
“He pulled me out…I was choked, maced and tazed,” Paden said. “He charged me, I didn’t charge him. All I did was record him.”
“What am I supposed to do, become just another black man to die at the hands of a police officer?”
Prosecutor Holiday and Judge Kellogg endured many taunts and pointed questions from the defendant, and both waited patiently for the defendant to finish talking. That was no small feat: at least nine times during the hearing, Paden said he had nothing more to say, only to backtrack and resume his complaints about the police, the informant, the judge, the charges, and the system.
In the end, Judge Kellogg sentenced Paden to seven years in the Department of Corrections, plus a concurrent two-day term for driving 41 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone.
“I don’t know why you didn’t just comply when they asked you for your license,” said Judge Kellogg, “then you would have paid a small fine and we wouldn’t even be here.”
“The bottom line is if we have laws, we have to follow those laws.”