Money

Bernard von NotHaus of Liberty Dollar Has His Motion for Post-Conviction Relief Denied, Will Face Sentencing

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Back in 2009, after a raid on his businesses in 2007, Bernard von NotHaus, the man behind the Liberty Dollar, was arrested and charged with various crimes connected to counterfeiting. He was convicted in federal court in North Carolina in 2011, but has still not been sentenced. 

Coinweek

As I wrote in 2011:

His conviction was based on the premise that a minted round of nearly pure silver that is neither the same size nor denomination as any existing U.S. coin and does not display identical imagery is nonetheless a counterfeit of U.S. currency. In a press release announcing the conviction, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins described the Liberty Dollar as a form of "domestic terrorism."

Von NotHaus, who once ran an organization called the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Codes, explicitly advertised his silver product as competition to federal fiat money. He called the Liberty Dollar a "voluntary private barter currency," a phrase that appeared on the coins in later mintings.

See this from 2012 for many of the details of the convoluted case, and this on the original raids on Liberty Dollar.

This week, a long-simmering motion to have his conviction overturned was denied by U.S. District Judge Richard Vorhees

Summation and excerpts from Vorhees' order:

these post-conviction filings present a question as to the scope and extent of Congress's constitutional power to coin money and regulate its value whether Congress, under the Constitution and by enactment of 18 U.S.C. § 486 and its prohibition of coins "intended for use as current money," has the power to coin money to the exclusion of all others, including individuals like Defendant von Nothaus…..

After presenting a series of what he sees as precedent decisions in support of his conclusion, Vorhees writes:

the undersigned is of the opinion, and this Court so finds as a matter of law, that Congress indeed possesses the power to criminalize an individual's minting of coinage, whether in resemblance of U.S. coins or of original design, that is intended for use as current money.

Von NotHaus had more arguments:

Defendant contends that in order to be "current," the U.S. money with which the Liberty Dollar is accused of seeking to compete must be genuine items of U.S. currency presently in circulation and of the same denomination…..

According to the defense, because the United States does not mint silver coins in denominations of $5, $10, $20, and $50, the values of the accused Liberty Dollar pieces, the conviction under § 486 must be vacated. The undersigned declines to construe the phrase "intended for use as current money" as narrowly as the defense proposes…..

 the Court construes 18 U.S.C. § 486 such that, regardless of the nature of the subject coin (in resemblance or of original design), if a coin is "intended for use as current money" then there must necessarily be a deceptive quality about its design. In other words, resemblance and original design, while capable of independent existence, are not necessarily mutually exclusive under a plain reading of the statute.

The rest of Vorhees' opinion knocks down von NotHaus' claims of insufficient evidence of criminal intent, that the jury was given improper instructions on the extent of the government's exclusive power to coin money, and that some of the evidence against him given by federal agents should be considered inadmissable hearsay.

As noted in this Coinweek story on the case, von NotHaus is scheduled to finally receive sentencing in this case on December 2, reminding readers that the 70-year-old man has been awaiting sentence for over 3 and a half years now.

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NEXT: Tonight on The Independents: Are There Any Secret Libertarians Running for President? Also: Suderman on Obamacare, Welch on the Collapse of Communism, V.A. Whistleblower Scott Davis, and Let the Damn Turkey Cool!

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  1. “18 U.S.C. ? 48”

    Everywhere I look, I see references to animal cruelty, not currency.

    Such as
    http://circuit3.blogspot.com/2…..sc-48.html

    18 U.S.C. ? 48, a statute which prohibited the creation, possession or sale of depictions of animal cruelty with the intent to place the depiction in interstate commerce for profit.

    1. Later on it says:18 U.S. Code ? 486

      http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/486
      18 U.S. Code ? 486 – Uttering coins of gold, silver or other metal

      Whoever, except as authorized by law, makes or utters or passes, or attempts to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money, whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design, shall be fined under this title [1] or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

      ####

      Of course, it’s obscene for this to be illegal, but it does seem to be the current state of the law.

      1. Much as I’d love to see a commodity (metal) currency in place, and in competition with the fiat cr*p that we are compelled to use, the condition of “intent” certainly applies to the Liberty coinage.

        He’s morally right, but legally wrong; at least it looks that way from my chair.

        1. I don’t see where in the Constitution where the Federal Government has a right to either issue fiat currency nor the ability to bestow a right they don’t have, onto a banking cartel.

          1. The Federal Government has no rights at all under the Constitution – only powers.

      2. What’s the loophole that lets casino’s get away with making slot machine tokens?

        1. Not intended for use as currency?

        2. Right.
          Or how Disney World issues Disney Bucks that look a lot more like currency, and is used as currency in WDW, than the liberty rounds.

        3. It’s right there in the FYTW clause.

    2. Yes, the 48 was a typo for 486, it has since been fixed.

  2. this is clearly a violation not only of soverign admiralty law but of the magna carta and english common law which as all freemen know predate ans supersede the so-called “constitution” that the muslim president uses to oppress the white people he hates so much. read my book for $49.99 to find out more.

    1. The Constitution is useful to statists precisely because it functions as a detour from English common law.

    2. Flaming Ballsack|11.14.14 @ 8:39PM|#
      “this is clearly a violation…”

      Eat shit and fuck off.

    3. One law can’t predate and supersede another.

  3. Meanwhile in the Mideast, ISIS is apparently putting out hard currency – gold, silver, and copper coins.

    1. Get with the program, JeremyR. Backing paper currency with precious metals or using precious metals as currency is terrorism.

      It is known.

  4. Why did he need to call it a “dollar”? There are all kinds of although coins and chips used as currency.

    He meant to counterfeit.

    1. Palin’s Buttplug|11.14.14 @ 8:42PM|#
      “Why did he need to call it a “dollar”? There are all kinds of although coins and chips used as currency.”

      Hey, turd! Tell us about how O-care isn’t going to have any effect on the elections!
      I like that story!

    2. Why call it a dollar? Because Pounds have a strong association with monarchy.

    3. Because if he called it a thaler, the Prussians would be after him?

    4. A $20 Liberty Dollar coin is worth far more than a $20 bill printed by the US Treasury. If anyone’s guilty of counterfeiting it’s the latter.

      He was stupid to have used the term “dollar”, I’ll grant that. It provided an opening for the statists to warp the intent of the law to go after him.

      1. Worst. Countefeiter. Ever.

        1. My uncle got busted counterfeiting pennies, he was putting the heads and tails on the wrong sides.

          /Steven Wright

          1. FUNNY!
            I read a book long ago that said a counterfeiter was stupid enough to counterfeit $1 bills. And he was hen-pecked enough that he put his wife’s image on them.
            And SHE WAS UGLY ENOUGH THAT IT WORKED!
            I have to find that book again…

    5. Like those filthy Candian, Australian, and New Zealand counterfeiters!

    6. Why did he need to call it a “dollar”?

      Because the feds don’t own a historical term that refers to a specific amount of silver, even with their illegal banking cartel.

      1. The dollar is named not for an amount of the silver but for a place where it was minted!

        1. That’s an interesting etymology (the second-best use of the internet being to search for weird etymologies), but from the earliest days of the American Republic, a dollar referred to a particular weight of silver.

          Borrowing the term for his currency might not have been the wisest idea legally, but BVN presumably enjoyed tweaking the state over the corrupted meaning of the term, his Liberty Dollar being much closer to the historical nature of the dollar than the fiat currency of FRNs.

          As in the case of Irving Schiff and Adam Kokesh, the courage of this breed of libertarian is much more admirable than their strategy of daring the state to hurt them. Unless those people enjoy widespread popular support a la Gandhi, state actors don’t mind hurting people who thumb their nose at the politically powerful. If they have to use ridiculous legal arguments to do so, as in this case, they’ll still sleep like babies.

        2. It was minted in a forest?

  5. And after this, he has an automatic appeal. He could be in court for several more years if it isn’t summarily dismissed by the 4th Circuit.

    No wonder Satoshi decided to stay anonymous . . . .

    1. Satoshi would be fine. Bitcoins aren’t made of metal or any alloy of metals, which is necessary for an 18 U.S. Code ? 486 violation.

      1. They would take it down if they could regardless of what the law says.

      2. True, though any physical manifestation of a bitcoin probably runs afoul of 18 U.S. Code ? 491 (a):

        Whoever, being 18 years of age or over, not lawfully authorized, makes, issues, or passes any coin, card, token, or device in metal, or its compounds, intended to be used as money… shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

  6. Con Nothous? Wasn’t that one of Kramer’s alter egos?

  7. Why did he need to call it a “dollar”?

    “Thaler” is too easily mispronounced?

    1. Grrrrrr…

      1. “Thaler? I haven’t even met her!”

  8. U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins described the Liberty Dollar as a form of “domestic terrorism.”

    A statement so idiotic and torturous of the English language that only a lawyer could have made it.

    1. If you liked that, here’s some more:

      “[The Liberty Dollar] represent[s] a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country.”

      1. Is there something they’d like to share with the class about the stability of this country?

      2. Cats and dogs, living together….

        1. Choose the form of the destructor!

      3. “[The Liberty Dollar] represent[s] a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country.”

        Almost spit my bourbon onto the keyboard!
        WHAT?
        And helicopter Ben gets a retirement?

    2. Not really.

      I’m sure that the idea of losing control of the money used by the proles terrifies the shit out of the government.

  9. Thank God for Bitcoin. Go to hell feds.

  10. By the gates of Obamaland, there we sat down; yea, we wept when we remembered America.

  11. I’m sort of outraged that the Feds have enough time and energy to go after a guy minting fake coins in his basement that don’t even resemble American currency.

    It’s even funnier to me that one of the trolls can call him a counterfeiter.

  12. If creating a private barter token that bears no resemblance to US currency aside from being made from metal and being round is counterfeiting, then any business that produces a gift certificate or coupon is also guilty of counterfeiting.

    Credit card companies are counterfeiting too, since they produce an item useable as money that bears no resemblance to actual currency.

    Madness!

    1. You’re being hyperbolic on the 18 U.S. Code ? 485 part, and dead wrong on the 18 U.S. Code ? 486 bit.

      The first was that the coins had sufficient “resemblance or similitude” to US coins to count as counterfeit under 18 U.S. Code ? 485. Granted there was no effort to be identical, but this coin sure seems to have a resemblance to this one. Enough to count? Well, a jury thought so. I guess some juries might rule the same of some gift certificates, coupons, and credit cards, but I wouldn’t bet very much on it.

      And the second part was that it violated 18 U.S. Code ? 486. To do that, the prongs are it must be metal and must be intended to circulate. Gift certificates, coupons, and credit cards all fail both prongs.

      1. Indeed. You’d really like to pull for the guy, but he sort of handed the feds a case on a platter.
        Coins? No, officer, we operate a web site with digits; neither metal nor discs.

      2. Well, the resemblance actually doesn’t seem to matter at all:
        “…whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design…”

        Basically, if you make your own coin and intend it as a form of currency, you are guilty by the letter of this law.

        One hyperbolic comparison that may be reasonable – Chucky Cheese coins technically violate this statute.

        My main point is basically that this is extremely petty for the Feds, but I guess that’s not a surprise.

        I am wondering when they aren’t just going to outright ban and attempt to shut down bit coins, though.

        1. Yeah, the resemblance to the old Peace Dollar obverse didn’t matter for the section 486 charges, it only mattered for the section 485 ones. He was convicted on both sections.

          On the Chuck E. Cheese tokens, see my replay to Paul., below. It’s hard to make tokens without getting a little bit into a legally gray area, but the statements made around Liberty Dollars cartwheeled over into the easy-case zone.

          1. The tokens aren’t made to be used as currency anymore than paper tickets are. It’s not a medium of exchange, but a way of pre-paying for games and prizes.

    2. The credit card is a bad analogy. The credit card merely represents an instrument of debt. Debt payable in US currency. The card itself isn’t “money” any more than a check is “money”.

      1. Or any more than an IOU like a Federal Reserve Note is money.

        1. Federal Reserve Notes are intended to be traded between people, while credit cards are expressly forbidden from being passed around. Those prepaid debit cards are getting more towards possible current money, but they’re not coins and don’t resemble US currency.

  13. As a public service, the actress in the “Amazon Fire Phone Commercial” is Kate Maher.

  14. Congress indeed possesses the power to criminalize an individual’s minting of coinage, whether in resemblance of U.S. coins or of original design, that is intended for use as current money.

    So… those tokens you get at the arcade… how are those not running afoul of Congress’ exclusive domain over the minting of coinage?

    1. The intent to be “current money” bit of 18 U.S. Code ? 486 is how arcade tokens escape. The makers and distributors of the tokens don’t intend for people to use them as money to settle debts or buy things from the corner store or the like. The Liberty Dollar, on the other hand, was explicitly intended to circulate in competition with Federal Reserve fiat money. There are potential gray areas between those two areas, of course, but von NotHaus’s own statements did a pretty thorough job of making sure he was way on the “current money” side of the law.

      I would also note that von NotHaus was not charged with anything regarding his silver-redeemable Liberty Dollar paper notes, even though the government had previously made some noise about them. The government case there would have been much weaker, since they weren’t coins and didn’t look anywhere near as much like US paper currency as the coins’ obverse looked like those of Peace Dollars.

  15. Thats messed up man, give the old dude a break!

    http://www.anon-way.tk

  16. I always get angry when someone passes off a Canadian penny on me as a US penny. Does this make the Canadian government a counterfeiter? Or is it the US? Who came up with the design first?
    I’m sure it’s just plain old fraud if someone knowingly tries to pass off foreign coinage. Maybe the police can start stopping and frisking people near borders and airports for foreign money. Enforce it like drug possession.
    I guess I’m agreeing with reasonable people posting here that this guy was hardly trying to pull a fast one on anybody other than trying to get them to buy silver.
    I don’t know why no one has thought of resurrecting pieced of eight. That’d get folks to buy silver.

    1. If that makes you angry you really need to relax.

  17. What if they were square?

    1. I’m all for triangle shaped coins. But the sissies would claim kids would lose an eye.

  18. In a press release announcing the conviction, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins described the Liberty Dollar as a form of “domestic terrorism.”

    Terrorism is the new HERESY.

    1. He’s a witch terrorist!

      1. We all know who the real terrorist are in this story and the real counterfeiters for that matter.

  19. He could probably have gotten away with it had they been minted outside the US. There’s no law against circulating coins as currency, only minting them, and no laws against importation as far as I know.

    1. Sorry, on second reading that wouldn’t work due to the “passes” reference. What a horribly-written law — it even bans using foreign coins as currency.

      1. ^^^ This. The basic point of the law is that the government will not tolerate intentional monetary competition. It’s their way or the highway, and woe be unto any poor citizen who thinks or acts otherwise. Ron Paul introduced (and another congressman has reintroduced, after Paul’s retirement) the “Free Competition in Currency” Act in the House. We really need to pass this legislation and a companion bill in the Senate, so the government will no longer have an excuse to perpetrate miscarriages of justice as in this case.

  20. That title of law is a mess of horribleness. For instance, 18 U.S. Code ? 512 would allow the US govt to seize your vehicle without compensation if someone breaks into it and defaces the VIN without your knowledge. No way that could ever be abused.

  21. Why do I think of John Wycliffe when I read this story?

  22. my buddy’s mother-in-law makes $79 every hour on the laptop . She has been fired for seven months but last month her paycheck was $13625 just working on the laptop for a few hours. try this out……

    ?????? http://www.payinsider.com

  23. Is there really an doubt as to who the real criminals are? It’s surely wasn’t Bernard. Can you imagine if we taught kids the truth in high school and showed them real life cases like Bernards or Richard Simpkinins.

    Please find the article on improving honest money@ http://betweentheheadlines.net/authors-2/

    Just got an email from Atty Larry Becraft that he thought it was a good idea. For those that do not know he was the Atty. that represented John Cheeks in his famous case for willfull failure to file and got the conviction overturned.

    This method of improving honest money could actually work or at the very least bring massive levels of attention to this very important abrogation of our Constitution.

  24. Something not being covered by the media is the fact that sentencing is the trigger, by which a currently postponed asset forfeiture action may be concluded. You may have thought that the Feds got all the silver when they raided the Liberty Dollar mint vaults long ago, but, according to information provided to me through my congressman, all that silver — apparently, millions of dollars worth, if BvNH’s Liberty Dollar-era “audits” were honest — is just parked, waiting for Bernard von Nothaus to receive his formal sentence. As far as I know, nobody who wrote to the court, asserting ownership of some of that silver (through paper or electronic warehouse receipts), was ever acknowledged as a claimant or given any information that might have been useful in challenging the forfeiture. The theft of their property is scheduled to be complete today, but nobody is talking about this, concentrating on the circus side-show that this case has become, while the real theft occurs behind the curtain.

  25. There are two general errors that have given rise to the miscarriage of justice in this case. There was no fraud and no basis for the premise that money is not private property and not an integral part of individual rights.
    The marketing of the Liberty Dollar depicted it as an alternative to the government money. The specific information on the Liberty Dollar includes the phone number and email address of the issuer of the Liberty Dollar. There was no question that the Liberty Dollar was the weight and fineness it purported to be.
    Money is private property. “Money is always an economic good.” von Mises, Ludwig (2010-12-16). The Theory of Money and Credit (LvMI) (p. 34). Ludwig von Mises Institute. Kindle Edition. This essential market function of money whether it is issued by a private or a public issuer is an integral part of the individual’s liberty interests, including the right to own property. “The phenomenon of money presupposes an economic order in which production is based on division of labour and in which private property consists not only in goods of the first order (consumption goods), but also in goods of higher orders (production goods). In such a society, there is no systematic centralized control of production, for this is inconceivable without centralized disposal over the means of production.” von Mises, Ludwig (2010-12-16). The Theory of Money and Credit (LvMI) (p. 1). Ludwig von Mises Institute. Kindle Edition.

    1. I agree with what you wrote, but the main driver for the conviction seems to have been federal law that makes it a crime to go into competition with the US Government in terms of currency. The law explicitly says, for example, that it is illegal to use foreign coin as currency in the US, even though the currency would be genuine and would bear no resemblance to US currency. The government tried to make the case that there was were similarities between Liberty Dollars and US currency, the better to convince the jury to convict, but the real question at issue was whether Bernard von Nothaus was, in the words of one prosecutor, an “economic terrorist,” trying to attack the dollar economy by going into competition with it. Of course, the actual effects of the LD on the US dollar were negligible, but the government needed to make an example. The law under which von Nothaus was convicted abridges the freedom of Americans to look out for their own financial interests, and it needs to be rewritten to provide for competition in currency; a bill was introduced in the House this past term to provide for that. (In prior terms, Ron Paul introduced the bill with every new Congress, but others have taken on that task since his departure.) Go to thomas.loc.gov and check out H.R.77 – Free Competition in Currency Act of 2013.

  26. I was surprised today, not to see any “front page” link here at Reason, following up on this article, as Bernard von Nothaus did indeed get his long-awaited sentence: three years of probation, as opposed to the 20+ years of jail time that the prosecution had demanded for the man they called an “economic terrorist.” My sources did not speak of the disposition of all the rounds of silver and other metals that were seized by the Feds as “evidence,” and subsequently claimed by them via asset forfeiture. My guess is that all the poor suckers who had paper or electronic Liberty Dollars just suffered an unexpected penalty … er … “tax.” On the other hand, if von Nothaus appeals and wins, or if the “Free Competition in Currency Act” passes Congress, perhaps the forfeiture can be undone? I realize that is grasping at straws at this point. At least septuagenarian von Nothaus is a free man today, providing some reason for thinking that the justice system is not entirely corrupt or insane.

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