Free Speech on Trial: IRS v. Hendrickson

By Ford Fischer

Short Documentary Lays Out Controversial Tax Case, Shows How Citizen Documentary Can Create Change

On July 25, 2014, Doreen Hendrickson was convicted of contempt of court. She was recently sentenced to 18 months, and surrendered herself to prison on May 15, 2015. The details of the case were bizarre, to say the least.

Doreen’s husband, Pete Hendrickson, is the author of Cracking the Code: The Fascinating Truth about Taxation in America, a book that encourages an allegedly legal but unconventional way of filing tax returns, which has supposedly helped tens of thousands of readers win their money back from the IRS. While the book and documentary goes into much heavier detail, the compact of his premise is that the income tax was only meant to be applied to government employees, and private citizens can avoid income taxation by referencing this distinction.

Doreen and Pete have been using this method to avoid paying income tax since the release of Pete’s book, and it’s put them at odds with the IRS. In the recent case, Doreen was given a new set of returns filled out by the federal government and ordered to sign them as being her own testimony. Because they were not her own words, she refused, and has now been sentenced to prison.

Whether or not this method of avoiding taxation is valid, the case highlights a fundamental issue of free speech in today’s America. While the First Amendment supposedly validates one’s right to say, or not say, what they want, this case draws that principle into question. Doreen was not charges with tax evasion or falsifying returns; she was only charged with contempt of court for refusing to sign a document swearing something she doesn’t believe to be true.

The Power of Citizen Media

This story has gained minimal media response, and very few people are aware of it. Whether or not someone agrees with the Hendricksons, this is a story worth observing and debating. Shane Trejo, writing for Pontiac Tribune, has covered this story extensively. Knowing that it still wasn’t getting the attention it deserved, he decided to shoot a documentary.

Documentary is a powerful art. While the written word has pushed journalism for decades, documentaries have a unique ability to visualize a story and its raw emotions. With increasingly competitive technology markets, devices with cameras have become so cheap that nearly everyone in a first world country has a phone and a computer capable of making a documentary film.

When one sees breaking news occur right before their eyes, they can film it and share it on social media, submit it directly to a website like News2Share, or even self-publish the content on one’s own website. Virtually everyone has the power to do so. Trejo interviewed all of the available and relevant figures in the Hendrickson case, then found me via Solutions Institute as someone who could professionally edit together his footage. Even in the absence of any high-end camera equipment, I was able to use Trejo’s interviews and my editing to compose a documentary that can, at the very least, provoke sympathy for the Hendricksons and inspire further investigation.

In doing so, the documentary not only brought light to this case, but the ability of documentaries themselves as a powerful tool to create political and social change.

Ford Fischer writes for The Solutions Institute, where this article first appeared.

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7 Comments on "Free Speech on Trial: IRS v. Hendrickson"

  1. For simply refusing to sign a tax return, she is imprisoned. Not for failure to pay taxes, but for saying the tax system is corrupt and I will not sign. Read The Federal Zone. In most instances income taxation is unlawful. The IRS is chartered in Puerto Rico, a remnant of the ATF from prohibition. Are you not concerned that each child born in America is forced to be a citizen and assigned a social security number so their labor is owned by the bankers for the rest of their life to fund their wars to try to control the entire world?

  2. This short but riveting documentary illustrates what true courage is while facing an opponent with virtually unlimited resources. This is the kind of fight the Founding Fathers faced, when they pledged their “lives, fortunes and honor” to establish “a more perfect union”. God bless Doreen Hendrickson and her husband for telling the truth. This is the kind of battle that garners the employment of fearless lawyers like Gerry Spence, who successfully defended Randy Weaver of Ruby Ridge, Idaho after they shot his wife and son in a prolonged standoff. Given the Constitutional tort issues of the Hendrickson case, I would love to see someone of Spence’s stature defend Mrs. Hendrickson. The First Amendment is on the line here!

  3. As I understand the rules of the Federal Court the SEC uses and the Municipal Courts people use are two different Courts but they operate on the same set rules in what testimony can be extracted unless it is a financial crime.

    However, 2 years or 18 months for contempt of court for withholding testimony is extreme. I don’t know what the rules of the Court are in this field of law but the rules should enable the appeal under motions for showing how this is not a contempt charge but a punitive action that the prosecution and court has overstepped.

    One of the rules of these courts is that she is not allowed jury nullification which is a Catch-22 kangaroo court. Therefore, there is no consent of the governed by the court under these circumstances as far as the position of appointment and commission in administrative law goes. The federal judges can make court rules by fiat only in judicial matters.

    However, the federal judges can supposedly act to suspend Constitutional amendment via rules and lie while in session.

  4. Jurisdiction, the defendant, a US citizen I presume, should have challenged the jurisdiction of the judge, the court, the prosecution, the IRS and the matter, the issue. The operation of ‘colorable’ law and jurisdiction is not understood, and if omissions of facts and law are not challenged, the citizen is therefore not informed of all facts and law pertaining to their case and their rights as citizens. The reach and corruption of the monetary financial system upon the courts and law system is the origin of all this. There are only two classes of taxes in the United States. The income tax is an excise tax and Treasury Decision 2313 defines and explains the 1040 tax return form and who is required to file, who realizes a tax return and who is required to pay. In any event this trial and sentencing must be reviewed, as the defendant’s action did not come to the standard of contempt. Forcing someone in court, to sign what may be false testimony or any document under duress, is unlawful. The sentence simply doesn’t comply with the law and the assertion of the citizen’s constitutional rights.

    • Good work Mr. King. This case has nothing to do with the method outlined in the book, or the amount of taxes owed (which is zero by all accounts). This is a case of the idiotic judge compelling the testimony of Mrs. Hendrickson. Now it’s clear that the judge is unhappy about the book, however, this has nothing to do with Mrs. Hendrickson and is reason that the judges demand is unfair and unreasonable. This is like forced confession of the Star Chamber proceedings.

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