Donna and Joel Brinkle used to own 5 acres in Geneva. That's where they raised their family. Joel was a manager at Florida Power & Light Co. Donna was a deputy court clerk.
Then, in the 1990s, they stopped paying taxes and declared themselves independent of all government authority. They have been battling government ever since.
Joel, 76, went to jail. The IRS went after their money, and Seminole County sold their home because of unpaid taxes.
Now, they face a new battle: Florida's attorney general is suing them, accusing them of fraud and harassment for filing a lien naming four Seminole County officials: Sheriff Don Eslinger; State Attorney Norm Wolfinger; Clerk of Courts Maryanne Morse; and Clayton Simmons, chief judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit.
The couple recorded the lien in April, claiming ownership of every piece of property held by those officials.
The lawsuit asks a judge to throw out the claim and to ban the Brinkles from filing any more liens against public officials, unless it is done by an attorney or with a court order.
The Brinkles have filed more than two dozen liens in the past six years, according to government records. They file those liens, Donna Brinkle said, to fight back against people who have done them wrong.
Simmons discovered the lien when he tried to refinance some property, he said. A month before they recorded the lien, Joel Brinkle appeared before him, accused of driving without a license.
Simmons reviewed the evidence and concluded there was probable cause for the arrest.
The Brinkles contend they have committed no crime. They have not been arrested in connection with the liens. That's the way it should be, said Donna Brinkle, 72, because the government has no authority over them. "We put ourselves outside the jurisdiction of the state," she said.
But Joel Brinkle keeps getting arrested for driving without a license. He doesn't need a license, he said, because, just like his wife, he has proclaimed himself a sovereign nation.
When the Brinkles declared their tax independence, they owned those 5 acres in Geneva.
Now they rent an apartment in a low-income section of Sanford and scrape by on $1,300 in monthly Social Security benefits.