Unusual hearing follows traffic stop

Laura West claims the Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who stopped her “vessel” on the night of June 11 west of Lawrence had no right to arrest her.

She’s never had a driver’s license and doesn’t need one, West said as she represented herself Friday in Douglas County District Court.

“I was not operating a vehicle; I was exercising my right to travel,” West, 21, told Judge Robert Fairchild. “I was in a private vessel on a religious mission.”

West also said her vessel is her private dwelling.

West is charged with not having a driver’s license, improper vehicle registration, failure to dim headlights and obstructing the legal process, all misdemeanors. West was arrested and taken to the Douglas County Jail after it took 45 minutes to get her to step out of the van she was driving, Trooper Brady Flannigan said.

West was traveling with her partner, J.M. Sovereign: Godsent, and her 2-year-old daughter. West and Godsent, who testified as her only witness, said they were afraid of the trooper and his supervisor, who was called to the scene of the car stop at U.S. Highway 40 and the South Lawrence Trafficway. They made calls to 911 and claimed West was being kidnapped as she was arrested.

The couple, who were on their way to visit a friend in Lawrence when they were stopped, recorded the encounter with the troopers and submitted a CD of the recording to the judge.

According to Godsent and information he presented to reporters outside court, the couple belong to a group that claims the U.S. is not a country but a foreign corporation that has invaded America. They are concerned about implanted identification chips and say sovereign Americans are being forced to choose between God’s law and man’s law.

Godsent said the trooper was presented with a card after he stopped them. The card was labeled “Sovereign Civilian Police Observation Task Force.” By the trooper accepting the card he was accepting a contract to pay a $15,000 gold fee for each question he asked. Godsent said they will take the matter to court to get paid.

Meanwhile, West, who is free on $1,500 bond, will return to court Oct. 1, when Fairchild will announce his verdicts in the case. If found guilty, West could face fines and jail sentences. Fairchild wanted to make a decision on the case next week, but West wasn’t available then.