Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Case for Dismissal of the Conviction of Gold Dealer Bernard von NotHaus

It's a tense time for Bernard von NotHaus. The 67-year old is waiting to be sentenced for his conviction relating to his selling of what he calls Liberty Dollars.

He says that he had generated revenue of approximately $65 million from the gold and silver coins he sold over the years. In total, von NotHaus estimates there are around 2 million pieces of various size Liberty Dollars out in public. During an interview with him, he proudly told me that he has no unhappy customers since gold continues to climb in price, while the U.S. dollar continues to sink in value.

His sentence could result in anywhere from probation to 15 years. The betting is he will get 3 to 5. That is if the judge in the case does not make history and dismiss the case. It is very much a long shot, but the case could be dismissed.

An Amicus Brief  was filed by the Gold Anti-Trust Committee and was then joined by major league Washington D.C. lawyers at William J. Olson PC, who believe strongly that the case should be dismissed.

The briefs are fascinating reading and quote the writing of such scholars as Robert Higgs, William Anderson and Murray Rothbard, in defense of the argument that the case against von NotHaus should be dismissed. The briefs make the correct argument that the Constitution does not limit an individual citizen from coining gold and silver. And as for the counterfeiting charges, von NotHaus has a letter from the chief counsel of the U.S. Secret Service stating that what von NotHaus was doing was not counterfeiting.

There is no time period during which United States District Court Judge Richard Voorhees has to rule on the motion to dismiss. Von NotHaus tells me that in one North Carolina case the Judge took 10 years to rule.

But whenever von NotHaus' fate is determined, it will be completion of a circle, in a way, for him. Von NotHaus tells me that he first became interested in gold in the early 1970's when he began reading about gold while living a survivalist lifestyle on the islands of Hawaii. He says it was the book How You Can Profit From the Coming Devaluation by Harry Browne that finally convinced him about the value of gold and silver. When Browne first wrote his book, gold sold for $35.00 an ounce and was illegal for Americans to own, and silver was selling for approximately $1.30 an ounce. The anti-gold fetish of government was beat back somewhat by President Gerald Ford who signed the legislation that made it legal to own gold again.

Now a judge may dismiss the case against von NotHaus, which would in a way continue the advancement of gold freedom for Americans started by Ford. Or, von NotHaus will be sentenced, which will likely mean the return to the isolation of the survivalist for him, but this time with cement walls and prison bars courtesy of the United States government---all because of his attempts to provide Americans with gold and silver in any damn shape or form they want. To call it what they want, and exchange it for whatever purpose they choose.

It is now in the hands of Judge Voorhees to take an historic step in advancing the rights of gold holders, or sentence von NotHaus and send a chilling signal to all Americans that as U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins said following the conviction that what von NotHaus did was "a unique form of domestic terrorism." She bizarrely continued,  “We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government.” And, it would most certainly energize the governments attempts to seize the millions of Liberty Dollars held by the general public. Clearly, dismissal is called for.

The original GATA amicus  brief is here.

The GATA/Olson amicus brief is here.

The DOJ response is here.

The second GATA/Olson amicus brief is here.


  1. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I hope Judge Voorhees rightfully dismisses this case.

    And what's up with U.S. attorney Tompkins when she made her statements? Was she channeling the spirit of every tyrant who's ever lived? People who think and speak like that give me the creeps.

  2. Olson/Gata are responding on the basis of enumerated powers (versus a broad power to regulate) and on the distinction between competition and counterfeiting.

    Also to be considered is the objective for which those enumerated powers were given to Congress to issue and regulate money.

    They were given to

    1. achieve the public good
    2. prevent the debasing of coin

    Even if Bernanke and co. can make some claim that they are pursuing the public good (hard to believe when you see all the banksters getting their pockets stuffed with free money), there is no way for anyone to say that the dollar has not been debased.

    In fact, B& Co. seem to have made that official policy.

    On that alone, they have lost their constitutional argument.

    The PRIMARY (some would say ONLY) reason for government to have a power to regulate money would be to prevent debasement (that is implied in the reference to weights and measures).

    And if the government were honestly concerned with protecting "weights and measures" (ie PREVENTING COUNTERFEITING AND DEBASING), and if there was a widespread belief, as there is now, that legal tender was being debased, then the government should NOT JUST REFRAIN from standing in the way of competition that would keep the money honest, it is OBLIGATED UNDER LAW TO WELCOME and ENCOURAGE it.

    Any other action would constitute the most flagrant abandonment of its constitutional duty.

    I hope someone will pass that argument on, for what its worth.

  3. The idea that gold coins that "resemble" US coins made from copper is fraud or potentially fraudulent is preposterous. Read the government's brief. That's the narrative all good careerist law students have learned for 65 years. In a system where your final grade might be dropped one-half grade for being unprepared once in class, there aren't going to be many with the guts to challenge it.

  4. I've never seen a Liberty Dollar.But if I had one I'd lay it on an anvil and pound it into an unrecognizable disc of gold .The value would still be there.

  5. Off topic, but I like the site's new favicon. Better color coordination.

  6. I would feel safer if he stayed behind bars.
    What if I had exchanged one of my legitimate Federal Reserve Notes for one of his 'Liberty Dollars'??
    I shudder at the thought. I have children to support. Think of the CHILDREN!!!
    A Good Citizen

  7. For what its worth, LRC posted a dissenting view on this case:


    To quote the article,

    "The Liberty Dollar case was about fraud. It was not about using gold or silver in commerce, it wasn’t about protecting government power, or even about using private money. There are all kinds of alternate currencies in circulation in the US. Ithaca Hours, Potomacs, gift certificates, and Chuck E. Cheese tokens can all be used to barter and transact instead of legal tender coins and bills. It is not illegal for a dentist to take payment in chickens or in sacks of potatoes. Liberty Dollar was investigated and indicted because it could, and did, fool some people into thinking it was something that it was not."

  8. @Ben Kennedy

    Rounds make some interesting claims, how factual they are, I have no idea, but a careful reading of the amicus briefs and the DOJ response indicate that the case was nothing about what Rounds suggests it was about.

  9. The truth is that he is getting off lightly with jail time.

    They would much rather put a bullet through his head or lop it off in the public square. He challenged the government. Can't have that. Don't want the peons thinking too much about the bus tokens and green paper they've so carefully foisted on us.

    They always rule with fear - until it doesn't work anymore. The real show is about to start...

  10. Yes, indeed. Let sanity return to the American criminal justice system.

  11. Thanks for this article and the links to the papers.

    I read the DOJ rebuttal of the GATA amicus.

    DOJ says that von NotHaus was making a coin in competition with the government and that would injure the government and its monetary system.

    Except that the coin supposedly copied was the Peace Dollar, a non-current/uncurrent coin. Uncurrent coins are not money. They are "valuables" according to some parts of the US Code. Exchanges of uncurrent coins can be taxed which is not the case for money. So if a uncurrent coin is not money, how did he infringe?

    The other weakness is that DOJ claims competition. Competition with what? The US has no current monetary coins. For there to be competition, the US would have to be making a monetary silver coin.

    Just some thoughts. Hope he gets the case dismissed.