State News

'Constitutional sheriffs' seek alliances with anti-government extremists, including in Michigan

July 29, 2021, 8:53 AM

If rural Michigan gets any weirder, it'll become unwise to stop for gas between Detroit and Mackinaw City. 

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf

Vice News does a deep dive on so-called "constitutional sheriffs," heirs to the Posse Comitatus movement of the 1970s and '80s, including several in Michigan. 

The highest-profile is Dar Leaf of Barry County, who has made news in recent days, after revelations that he wanted to seize voting machines to examine them for evidence of voter fraud, and that he has hired a private investigator to interrogate township clerks about their administration of the 2020 election. Last fall, after a number of men were arrested and charged with conspiring to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Leaf suggested they merely wanted to "arrest" her for unspecified offenses. 

Essentially, constitutional sheriffs believe they are the final authority on matters of law, and have power to decide which laws they will enforce, Vice reports. What's more, they are forging alliances with various anti-government extremists, including the Oath Keepers. 

Vice reports on the ringleader of the movement, Richard Mack of Arizona, "a 69-year-old, several-times-failed political candidate and one-time reality TV star who goes by 'Sheriff' despite having not held that office since the early 1990s," the leader of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA):

Mack and his flock of “Constitutional Sheriffs'' tout themselves as the ultimate defenders of liberty and the only thing standing between freedom and tyranny. “You’re going to watch your country die if you do not get your sheriffs on board with this holy cause,” he said at an event promoting his book back in 2009. "The president of the United States can't tell your sheriff what to do.”

... Mack doesn’t really mind being labeled an extremist. “In some circles, I take it as a badge of honor,” Mack told VICE News, before quoting former Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater’s infamous rebuttal to being called an extremist. “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice,” Mack said. “I’m very passionate that we should be running our own lives, and that we should be enjoying individual liberty across the board.”

Mack and CSPOA are closely intertwined with the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia that’s currently under intense scrutiny after at least 17 of its members were charged with federal crimes for their alleged role in the violent Capitol insurrection (four of those have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the feds). Mack was a founding board member of the Oath Keepers. Mack, members of CSPOA, and Oath Keepers were also part of the 2014 standoff between the federal government and the Bundy family in Nevada. (Mack claims he left his position with the Oath Keepers six years ago).

In Michigan, at least three or four sheriffs, most in the northwest lower peninsula, either call themselves constitutional sheriffs or appear to be constitutional-curious. In a Bridge Michigan story last fall, before the election, some commented on the then-hypothetical question of possible voter intimidation. Since then, Leaf's "investigations" of still-unfound voter fraud have made him a focus of attention.

The Posse Comitatus movement of far-right extremists has splintered somewhat, with "sovereign citizens" and various anti-government groups having roots there. 

Read more:  Vice News

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