In People v Johnson-El, the defendant filed an Affidavit of Allodial Title with the Wayne County Register of Deeds, asserting that as a member of the Washitaw Moors he owned certain property. The Washitaw Moors claim to be citizens of the fictional Nation of Washitaw, and believe that all land in the United States outside of the thirteen colonies and Texas belongs to its members. Based on his affidavit, the defendant was convicted of forgery, uttering and publishing, and encumbering real property without lawful cause. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Despite the defendant’s belief in his claim, the Court held that the prosecution had presented sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant’s Affidavit of Allodial Title was false and the defendant was aware of its falsity.
The defendant decided to assert title to the property and file his affidavit when he noticed that it was abandoned. The affidavit claimed absolute ownership of the property, and stated that the defendant owned the property, that he was a secured party, and that the value of the property was secured by a $100 billion bond. The affidavit clouded the property’s title and prevented the true owner from redeeming the property from foreclosure.
Based on the affidavit, a jury convicted the defendant of forgery, uttering and publishing, and encumbering real property without lawful cause. On appeal, the defendant argued that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence. The Court disagreed. It found that the prosecutor had presented sufficient evidence to establish that the affidavit was false, as the defendant had admitted at trial that interest in the property was never transferred to him. This was sufficient to support the charges of forgery and uttering and publishing. Additionally, the prosecutor produced sufficient evidence that the defendant intended to defraud or harass someone holding an actual interest in the property. Because his only claim to the property was based on his Washitaw Moors membership, he did not have a legitimate right to the real property. This was further supported by the fact that the defendant had previously filed similar affidavits with respect to several other properties in the area. The Court noted that it was irrelevant whether the defendant knew the actual owner at the time he filed the Affidavit, and affirmed the defendant’s convictions.