markeith loyd
Orlando Police escort Markeith Loyd (centre) out of OPD headquarters in Orlando, Florida, Jan. 17, 2017. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala has refused to seek the death penalty for Loyd after he was accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend and a Orlando police officer. Orlando Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Markeith Loyd appeared in court Wednesday and was asked to enter a plea in response to charges that he killed his pregnant girlfriend as well as an Orlando police officer. Loyd refused to enter a plea, however, telling the judge "y'all can't do nothing to me" and declaring himself a "human being" and not a "fictitious person" or "corporation." He also said he would use the Uniform Commercial Code to "write the charges off."

All of that might sound like gibberish, but Chief Judge Frederick Lauten immediately recognized it for what it was — the ideology of the sovereign citizens movement, which the FBI has labeled as "domestic terrorism." The movement is popular enough that Lauten had seen it in his court room before.

"For the record, Mr. Loyd wants to talk about the UCC and corporate status, which is a position that certain citizens that are sometimes called sovereign citizens take in courts of law, oftentimes misguided,” Lauten said, according to the Washington Post. “But it is not the first time the court has heard that position.”

The sovereign citizens movement is based on a rather bizarre set of anti-government beliefs and positions. Sovereign citizens declare themselves exempt from laws and free of the jurisdiction of any government, which, naturally means they don't think they should have to pay taxes.

In 2010, the FBI labeled the group a strain of domestic terrorism.

"[Sovereign citizens] clog up the court system with frivolous lawsuits and liens against public officials to harass them," the FBI said. "And they use fake money orders, personal checks, and the like at government agencies, banks, and businesses."

But while a general anti-government stance is not that unusual for a fringe group, sovereign citizens don't just oppose the government, they seem to sincerely believe that they can legally free themselves from the government's jurisdiction using a complicated set of declarations and paperwork, all based on a truly outlandish conspiracy theory.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate and extremist groups, the sovereign citizens movement was started in the 1980s by white supremacists and anti-Semites in response to perceived international Jewish conspiracies. (The SPLC notes that many sovereign citizens are African-Americans seemingly unaware of the movement's origins).

The movement adheres to the belief that the U.S. government had to put up collateral when it stopped backing dollars with gold in 1933. To do this, the theory goes, the government had to pledge its citizenry as collateral to an international cabal of foreign investors. Sovereign citizens believe, effectively, that the U.S. sells its babies off at birth.

"When a baby is born in the U.S., a birth certificate is issued, and the hospital usually requires that the parents apply for a Social Security number at that time," the SPLC explained. "Sovereigns say that the government then uses that birth certificate to set up a kind of corporate trust in the baby's name — a secret Treasury account — which it funds with an amount ranging from $600,000 to $20 million."

The movement's ideology holds that names on birth certificates are issued with capital letters because the capitalized version of a person's name references a corporate shell entity, not the actual human with that name. All legal documents then become applicable only to the corporate shell entity, not the person, who is free from the government's clutches, and therefore a sovereign citizen, unbeholden to any nation.

So when Lauten heard Loyd declare himself a "human being" and not a "fictitious person" or "corporation" he immediately recognized Loyd as an adherent of the sovereign citizen belief system. Unfortunately for Floyd, Lauten and the state of Florida are adherents of a different system — the legal one.