By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Contacted by phone, Kirk apparently had no interest in discussing his legal research on sovereignty. He reacted brusquely to the mention of Melchizedek, saying, "I really don't have any comment on that, but I appreciate your calling," and then hung up the phone.
Reynolds' insistence that Melchizedek is real proved troublesome for prosecutor Clardy. While any rational person might conclude the country is fake, Clardy realized he might actually have to prove it in a court of law. In preparation for bringing Reynolds to trial, Clardy says, he had lined up a geographer from the U.S. State Department to attest to the country's nonexistence.
It was trickier to prove that the island of Malpelo--which Melchizedek still claimed when Reynolds launched his scheme--really belonged to Colombia.
Clardy says he had to ask the U.S. State Department to ask the Colombian Embassy to ask the government in Colombia for a document proving that the island belonged to that country. The process took months, and Clardy got his document, in Spanish, just days before Reynolds was supposed to go to trial.
"It sounds ridiculous, but it's a chore trying to prove it," Clardy says.
Mickelsen, Reynolds' public defender, says Clardy may have engaged in a little overkill. Mickelsen and another attorney who helped him prepare for the trial eventually switched courses and argued that the issue of Melchizedek should be kept out of Reynolds' trial. Since Reynolds had moved his companies to Aruba, they argued, Melchizedek was a red herring.
On April 8, the argument became moot. After several months of fighting, Reynolds threw in the towel and pleaded guilty on two counts. The government agreed to dismiss the other 18. Clardy, naturally, believes Reynolds was finally persuaded to plead because of the strong case marshaled against him.
Mickelsen won't say why his client decided to cop to the charges. He does allow that defending Reynolds was made difficult by his client's unwillingness to turn over information--such as the names of potentially favorable witnesses.
During his dealings with Reynolds, Mickelsen says, his client still maintained that Melchizedek was legitimate, though he wasn't a fanatic about it. "He's not delusional," Mickelsen says. "On a theoretical level, I don't know if anyone is sincere about this thing."
For its part, the government of Melchizedek seems to be publically distancing itself from Jeffrey Reynolds, although it clearly is still in contact with him.
In a faxed response to the Observer, information minister Gholand wrote that Reynolds "has no connection or relation to the dominion other than [as] a 'friend.'" Curiously, Gholand then went on to discuss the charges against Reynolds in detail, and wrote, "I understand Jeff will send you a press release."
Sure enough, Reynolds did fax the Observer a lengthy "Press Release and Public Statement" with no phone number on it that might reveal its place of origin. In the fax, Reynolds maintains that he is innocent, and only pleaded guilty because the deck was stacked against him in Sanders' court.
Reynolds maintains that the government was planning to use documents as evidence against him that he only provided after receiving a narrow promise of immunity from the government. Clardy says the immunity only applied to the act of producing the documents. Sanders apparently felt the same way, and was going to allow the prosecution to use them in Reynolds' trial.
Reynolds says that ruling made it impossible for him to mount a reasonable defense at trial. Sanders had also rejected requests from Reynolds that prosecutors not bring up their evidence suggesting Reynolds had failed to file tax returns for several years.
"The rulings of Judge Sanders were not going to enable me to put on any form of reasonable defense--accordingly I was compelled to seek another avenue," Reynolds wrote in his statement to the Observer. "Please understand that a battle may have been conceded, but the war is far from being over."
Under the terms of his plea bargain, Reynolds retained the right to appeal Sanders' ruling on the immunity issue.
In his 11-page statement, Reynolds himself never mentions or alludes to the Dominion of Melchizedek. Instead, he maintains that his insurance companies were legitimate, and that it is the U.S. government that is out to get him.
"Mr. Reynolds has been subjected to multiple investigations by agencies of the United States government for more than 10 years with such inquiries and investigations bordering upon, if not outright becoming, a matter of harassment, forcing Mr. Reynolds to incur significant legal cost and emotional duress which contributed significantly towards the destruction and end of his marriage," the statement reads.
Reynolds' ability to turn a phrase seems to trickle down from the very seat of the Melchizedekian government. His rhetoric springs from the same vein as that of information minister Gholand.
Asked, by fax, why his country seems to spawn so many scams, Gholand responded with all the indignation one could possibly muster in a fax.
"Any USA federal or state official that claims [Melchizedek] is fictional also says in his heart that the kingdom of heaven is fictional," Gholand says. "Nevertheless, we have the right to believe in both the kingdom and its dominion as it has unfolded on earth.