On July 25, a jury in Portage, Wisconsin, found husband and wife tax protesters guilty of criminal slander of title for filing fraudulent property liens against Columbia County officials.
Lester and Lilac Sundsmo, of Wyocena, were arrested in March when Columbia County authorities seized their home in a foreclosure procedure due to $15,000 in unpaid property taxes.
The Sundsmos had sought tax-exempt status for the residence as a place of worship called “Heavenly Mission,” but the request was denied.
Anti-government tax protesters commonly retaliate against government officials, and other individuals they believe wronged them, with bogus liens and various other forms of paper terrorism. The Sundsmos victims are individuals involved in the foreclosure of their home, including the Columbia County District Attorney, a former Columbia County Judge, a former Columbia County Sheriff, the President of the Bank of Poynette, and the Bank of Poynette attorney. All five testified against the couple during the two-day trial.
The prosecution presented testimony from a copyright and trademark expert to assert that the liens were invalid. The Sundsmos chose to defend themselves during the trial and refused to recognize the court's authority. They further opted not to cross-examine any of the witnesses against them, and not to address the jury during either opening statements or closing arguments.
After the prosecution rested their case, Lester presented a five-page affidavit proclaiming that the court had no jurisdiction over him or his wife. When the judge found the document irrelevant and refused to have it read into the record in front of the jury, Lester announced that the judge should be removed from office, and declared his ruling null and void.
The jurors deliberated for less than an hour before returning guilty verdicts on all five charges against Lilac and all four charges against Lester.
Lilac faces 30 years in prison and $50,000 in fines. Lester faces 25 years in prison and $40,000 in fines. The Sundsmos are presently in the Columbia County Jail awaiting custody.