When Florida resident Michael Sophin set out on a nationwide road trip in the spring of 2014, he planned on visiting friends and expanding his computer repair business.
However, his plans were abruptly ended on the evening of October 3rd, 2014 after an encounter with a U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Texas landed Sophin in an El Paso jail for 18 days on a federal felony charge of “high speed flight from immigration checkpoint.”
Sophin was wrapping up a long day of driving when he drove up on a Border Patrol checkpoint on I-10 near Sierra Blanca, Texas which is stationed nearly 20 miles from the border of Mexico with his camera recording.
“Are you an American citizen?” the Border Patrol Agent asked as you can see in the video below.
Sophin replied with an ironic joke:
“You know, I was going to tell you that I wasn’t going to take any questions today, and then I realized that…as a matter of fact a girlfriend reminded me, that if Obama is letting everybody in the country, what difference does it make?
The Border Patrol Agent didn’t find much humor in the joke and told him that answering his arbitrary citizenship question “makes all the difference.”
So the agent repeated the question a couple more times before Sophin responded.
“I don’t want to answer any questions, O.K.? Thanks. Have a good night” as he drove away from the checkpoint.
The Agent can be heard saying, “Hey, you’re not free to go!”. He then alerted his comrades of Sophin’s early exit from the checkpoint as additional Agents can be seen getting into squad cars to make chase.
Sophin said he remained within the posted speed limit as he drove away. He also explained that he pulled to the side of the road when he saw flashing lights in his rear view mirror.
But the first squad car zoomed past him as if they were after a different vehicle.
According to the criminal complaint, agents Heath and Schroeder admitted there was a “communications error” which had them searching for a Dodge Charger instead of Sophin’s Dodge Magnum. The complaint also explains how Agent Heath was driving at a reckless speed of 130 miles per hour in an attempt to locate the wrong vehicle to stop a man whose only crime was not answering an arbitrary question.
Once the “communication error” was corrected, the Agents slowed their vehicle, so they could pull behind Sophin and initiate a stop.
With guns drawn, the Agents instructed Sophin to exit his vehicle with his hands up. The Agents claim that Sophin was non-compliant to their commands, but nonetheless, he was taken into custody without incident.
Sophin was taken back to the checkpoint holding area in the back of a Border Patrol vehicle and was read his Miranda rights. Meanwhile, one Border Patrol Agent took the liberty to drive Sophin’s vehicle back to the checkpoint so they could execute a full search without a warrant or probable cause that he had anything illegal in his possession.
One picture even shows an agent breaking into a locked case.
Being an avid shooter, Sophin was transporting several weapon systems, ample ammunition and tactical gear, such as body armor and a chest rig. However, the most interesting, and possibly the most telling line item listed on the Tactical Intelligence Summary was the governments categorization the the literature found in Sophin’s vehicle as a “large amount of anti-government propaganda”.
The irony of this situation is almost too much to believe. We reached out to Kokesh and The New American magazine for a comment to find out what they thought about their publications being characterized as “anti-government propaganda,” and they minced no words.
Adam Kokesh on Freedom
“FREEDOM! is only anti-government propaganda if government is anti-freedom, which it is. This is why my book is also banned in US prisons. By banning my book, government has again revealed itself to be intellectually and morally bankrupt, nothing more than an elaborate scheme to steal for the super-rich. Freedom is a good idea, and good ideas don’t require force. Government, on the other hand, uses force to prevent the free flow of ideas because good ideas are a threat to all who profit from bad ideas. Fortunately, the more that agents of government declare themselves so clearly anti-freedom, the more people will hear the message.”
The New American
“Classifying ‘The New American’ magazine as anti-government propaganda demonstrates either ignorance or complicity. ‘The New American’ is published by American Opinion Publishing Inc., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of The John Birch Society.
The mission of The John Birch Society is ‘To bring about less government, more responsibility, and — with God’s help — a better world by providing leadership, education, and organized volunteer action in accordance with moral and Constitutional principles‘…
…Let’s remember that many agencies in the federal government, especially the Department of Homeland Security, and many left-wing advocates, especially the Southern Poverty Law Center, have taken a dangerous tact of classifying law-abiding constitutional advocates (many returning military veterans) as potential domestic terrorists. See ‘Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970-2008’ (2012), ‘Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment’ (2009), and ‘MIAC Strategic Report: The Modern Militia Movement’ (2009) for further details. If an agency of the federal government is claiming ‘The New American’ magazine is ‘anti-government propaganda,’ then this demonstrates it continuing down an unconstitutional and un-American path that tramples the freedom of speech.”
Sophin spent the next eight days in the El Paso jail and was initially charged with “High speed flight from immigration checkpoint” under Title 18 Section 758 of the Federal code, a felony which carries a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
However, the state would have to prove that Sophin was traveling at speeds over the maximum posted speed limit, so the charge was eventually dismissed since the state was the only party to violate the speed limit on that October night.
As Sophin readied for his release, he was blindsided by another charge that the state threw at him at the last minute, “Assault on a Federal Agent,” a misdemeanor and the federal equivalent of “contempt of cop.”
The charge falls under Title 18 Section 111 and makes the most trivial acts of disobedience a crime:
(a) In General.— Whoever—
(1) forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with any person designated in section 1114 of this title while engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties; …
Nonetheless, Sophin spent another ten days in jail until he was finally released on bond until his trial.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wasted no time sending Sophin an asset forfeiture letter, kindly letting him know that they were taking ownership of the firearms they found in his vehicle. The process of reclaiming property that is stolen by government agencies through the asset forfeiture program is onerous to say the least. The game is rigged to where the process of reclaiming property typically costs more than the actual asset(s) in question, so most people will simply concede.
Fast forward three months to January 2015 where Sophin and his public defender fell short of convincing a jury of 12 that the state had not met their burden of proof.
A few months later, Federal Magistrate Robert F. Casteneda sentenced Sophin to eight months in federal prison with credit for time served. Sophin is currently out on bond pending appeal.
When asked why they decided to convict, one juror went on record by saying, “he should have to answer questions just like the rest of us.” A true look into the mind of the average American, who believes that authority is all knowing and all righteous and should be obeyed at all times and never questioned.
Michael Sophin could have easily answered, “yes,” to the Border Patrol Agent who probably asks that question 1,000 times a day and been on his way without incident. However, it’s clear that Sophin was taking a stand on principle, in a “free” country, with the supposed right to travel freely without harassment.
This case validates the question posed on the cover of that “anti-government propaganda” magazine, do we really live in the “Land of the Free?”