Rocky Hutson was found guilty last week on multiple counts of fraud. The Colorado man had tried to get the government to pay off his personal debts, he wrote fake checks worth lots of money, and a federal jury felt there was enough evidence to convict him of the crimes. He now faces up to 30 years behind bars.
What’s relevant here is the argument he used in his defense: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
He basically claimed the U.S. government was so corrupt, he had to circumvent the financial system, and this was all part of his religious beliefs. For some reason, the judge wasn’t buying it.
… Hutson’s conviction on all counts followed a midtrial ruling by U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger that he could not use as a shield the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Carbondale-based defense attorney Ashley Petrey said in an interview Friday her client’s beliefs are sincere, if “odd and unpopular.”“He truly believes these theories about the United States government, and he does treat it like his religion,” Petrey said. “It’s very intertwined with God and who created man. … He should be entitled to practice those beliefs.”
Krieger ruled that Hutson’s beliefs about the corruption of the U.S. government — while sincere — weren’t religious.
So there you go. You can’t blame the government for crimes you commit against the government, then say what you did was warranted because your faith demanded it. (Sorry to dash your hopes.)
It seems obvious that the judge was right to reject his claims as not reasonably “religious,” but it also makes you wonder why certain irrational beliefs are allowed as part of a legal defense. What’s the line between a reasonable religion and an unreasonable one?