Chicago Jury Convicts Woman for Retaliating Against Federal Officials by Filing False Liens
After two days of testimony, a federal jury sitting in Chicago, Illinois has returned a verdict finding Cherron Marie Phillips, who also goes by the name of “River Tali Bey,” 43, guilty of knowingly filing false maritime liens—each in the amount of $100 billion—against the property of current and former federal employees, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today.
Phillips, a Chicago native, had been accused of filing the phony liens in March and April 2011 at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. The liens were placed on the property of two federal prosecutors, including Patrick Fitzgerald, who was then the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, four federal task force officers, a federal agent, a federal court clerk, and four federal judges, including the former Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois—all on account of their role in the investigation and prosecution of her brother, Devon Phillips. The jury reached a guilty verdict on 10 of 12 counts.
During the trial, the government presented evidence that from 2006 to 2011, Devon Phillips had been investigated and prosecuted in the Northern District of Illinois for trafficking cocaine. His sister regularly attended his court proceedings and filed documents in the record objecting to the jurisdiction of the court. She filed the liens several weeks after he was sentenced to serve over six years in prison. The liens were discovered later that summer, when the clerk of court was attempting a real estate transaction. The title search uncovered a maritime lien that named the clerk as a vessel and claimed he owned Devon Phillips $100 billion.
In March 2012, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies executed a search warrant at Phillips’ home and discovered the original liens locked inside a safe in the master bedroom. A fingerprint expert from the FBI’s laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, told the jury he found Cherron Phillips’ fingerprints on nine of the 12 liens. Jurors also were shown letters that Phillips sent to five of the victims, including former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, apologizing for what she termed “a serious mistake.”
To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the trial was presided over by the Honorable Michael J. Reagan, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Illinois. Upon accepting the jury’s verdict, Judge Reagan ordered Phillips detained pending sentencing, calling her “a paper terrorist” and citing his concerns for the safety of the community if she were allowed to remain on bond. Sentencing is scheduled to be held in Chicago on October 14, 2014.
“We take these cases very seriously,” U.S. Attorney Wigginton stated, “and we will continue to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all who seek to intimidate, harass, and retaliate against federal judges and employees by filing false liens against their property. This is the basest form of harassment aimed at folks carrying out their sworn duties. No one should have to contend with this type of attempted intimidation.”
The investigation was conducted by the Chicago Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting in concert with the United States Marshals Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan D. Stump from the Southern District of Illinois.