Rep. of Texas Men Facing Impersonation Charge

By ZEKE MACCORMACK
|  Friday, May 21, 2010  |  Updated 3:15 PM CDT
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Rep. of Texas Men Facing Impersonation Charge

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The Texas state flag.

A local father and son facing criminal charges related to their status as Republic of Texas officials contend they're being illegally persecuted for their politics.

Prosecutors say they're merely upholding the laws of the state of Texas.

Charles Tiller IV, 41, is accused of falsely identifying himself as a peace officer for having an emblem on his vehicle that featured a star and the words "Bexar County Sheriff's Department" and "Republic of Texas."

Tiller said there's nothing illegal about the emblem or his role as deputy with the group that asserts Texas is an independent nation whose government was reactivated in 2005 after 163 years of dormancy.

"If it said 'Sheriff's Department of Never Never Land' would they have arrested me?" he asked. "Probably not."

His father, Charles Tiller III, faces a felony charge of impersonating a public servant for identifying himself as a constable when trying to order a badge last September from a firm that supplies peace officers, according to the Feb. 12 indictment.

A motion filed by defense attorney Jerry Phillips says the elder Tiller, 65, "believes this is a political persecution rather than a legitimate prosecution," and that his rights of free speech and assembly are being abridged.

A trial setting this week was canceled after both sides agreed to seek a ruling by state District Judge Keith Williams on whether the allegation, if true, meets the statutory requirement that the alleged impersonator tried "to induce another to submit to his pretended official authority."

"There's not any law against purchasing a badge," Phillips said. "They may not like his politics, but they can't just bend the law to slap him."

District Attorney Bruce Curry said the charge would be dropped if Williams, at a hearing set for June 17, concludes Tiller didn't try to induce the badge-vendor to submit to his pretended authority.

The cases are being followed by fellow "Texians," said Ed Brannum, who calls himself a senator for the Republic of Texas.

"They really don't have a case (against the Tillers) unless they recognize the Republic of Texas," he said Thursday. "I'd love to see them do that."

The group lacks formal membership, and Brannum couldn't estimate the number of its "citizens."

"We're trying to have a free country," he said. "We're against property taxes, toll roads, putting meters on farmers' and ranchers' wells, and tagging everybody's animals."

The younger Tiller's trial, set for Sept. 15, may include as a witness state District Judge Rex Emerson.

Emerson this week confirmed he alerted authorities Dec. 18 about the odd emblem he spotted on a car parked at a local shop.

There's no allegation that Tiller, who identified himself to officers as a deputy for the republic, tried to take any actions such as issuing tickets.

Tiller says his right to free speech has been violated because of society's view of the once-radical political group that he now likens to a club.

"I don't even have a gun, but because the name 'Republic of Texas' is there, everyone gets upset," he said.

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