Driver who challenged authority of state found guilty

A woman who challenged the authority of the state of Kansas to require her to have a driver’s license was found guilty on traffic charges Monday in Douglas County District Court.

Laura M. West, 21, was ordered to serve 12 months of unsupervised probation and pay $220 in fines. Meanwhile, Judge Robert Fairchild ordered her to serve two concurrent six-month jail sentences, but then suspended those.

Fairchild said West must get a driver’s license to drive in Kansas.

During an Aug. 31 trial, West said the Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who stopped her west of Lawrence on June 11 had no right to arrest her. She said she was driving her private “vessel” on a religious mission.

But Fairchild ruled West was guilty of not having a driver’s license, obstructing the legal process, failure to dim her headlights and having improper vehicle registration.

West and her partner, J.M. Sovereign Godsent, said they would appeal the judge’s decision. West, who has represented herself during the court hearings, said she wasn’t surprised at Fairchild’s decision.

“I assumed they were going to push (the case) forward,” she said. “I still thought they might be smart enough to stop.”

Godsent and West say they are members of a group that believes the U.S. is not a country but a foreign corporation that has invaded America.

During West’s trial, a trooper testified it took 45 minutes to get her to step out of the van after he stopped it. She was taken to the Douglas County Jail and then freed on $1,500 bond.

West and Godsent said they were traveling to Lawrence to visit a friend. They said their “vessel” is their home. West gave the court a Satsop, Wash., post office box number to contact her.

During her trial West gave Fairchild a CD recording of her encounter with the trooper. Fairchild took the case under advisement to listen to the CD. On Monday he said what he heard on the CD didn’t constitute a defense.