LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 68-year-old former paralegal who had been accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Las Vegas police officers to advance an anti-government sovereign citizen philosophy pleaded guilty Thursday to a greatly reduced misdemeanor charge, and a judge set her free.
The quiet end to Devon Campbell Newman's prosecution reflected a steady erosion of a case that police touted as a domestic terrorism plot when she and David Allen Brutsche were arrested in August. Newman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, a charge that in Nevada carries the possibility of a year in county jail.
Prosecutor Thomas Carroll noted that Newman had no prior criminal record, and Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish sentenced her to one year of probation. The judge also prohibited Newman from any contact with Brutsche.
Newman's attorney, Carl Arnold, said she doesn't adhere to any organized sovereign citizen belief. Newman was being processed for release from the Clark County jail and wasn't immediately available for comment.
Arnold previously said he reviewed about 180 hours of recordings in the case, and he didn't believe they showed that Newman and Brutsche conspired to commit a crime. Newman and Brutsche initially pleaded not guilty to felony conspiracy to commit murder, attempted kidnapping with a weapon and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. But only the kidnap conspiracy charge remained after prosecutors in September abandoned the two most serious charges.
According to police, Brutsche, 42, is a six-time convicted felon and child sex offender from California. He remains at the Clark County jail on a reduced $200,000 bail. He is due for trial March 10 on the remaining charge, which carries a possible sentence of six years in prison.
Records show Brutsche served three stints in California prisons before being released in Sept. 2011. Carroll said outside court that he planned to meet before trial to try to settle the case with Brutsche, who is serving as his own lawyer.
At recent court hearings, Brutsche has appeared to soften the anti-authority declarations he made early in the police plot case. He told a judge who reduced his bail Monday from $600,000 to $200,000 that he isn't involved in any organized sovereign citizen group. But he said he shares the belief that he is endowed with "inalienable rights."
Brutsche, who used to sell and give away bottled water on the Las Vegas Strip, came to the attention of police and judges with pronouncements about personal sovereignty during court appearances on traffic infractions; misdemeanor charges like doing business without a license and blocking the sidewalk; and warrants for failure to appear in court.
Police characterized Newman as an acquaintance and roommate of Brutsche who shared his ideology. Authorities said an undercover officer befriended Brutsche and Newman in April and videotaped and recorded more than 30 meetings at which they plotted to snatch police officers at random off the street, bind them to beams rigged in a Las Vegas-area home, and release videotape of their "trial" and confessions.
Federal authorities regard sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists. The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., estimates there are 300,000 adherents to the sovereign citizen anti-government philosophy around the country.
The center blames seven killings of law enforcement officers on alleged sovereign citizen members in the past 10 years in South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas and California.
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