Church burglar trial scheduled to start today

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Huntington, W.Va., man accused of breaking into 18 area churches and one residence is scheduled to stand trial today in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Robert Crum, 26, is charged with 19 counts of burglary. Crum was arrested in December 2004 after authorities in Lawrence County and Cabell County, W.Va., followed the trail of stolen goods that led from the burglarized churches to regional pawn shops and allegedly to Crum and his girlfriend, Misty Dawn Curtis, 21, of South Point.

Curtis was indicted on one count of second-degree felony complicity to burglary and 18 counts of fifth-degree felony breaking and entering.

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Two weeks ago, Crum sought to have his trial delayed or the charges dismissed altogether.

Through his court-appointed attorney, David Reid Dillon, Crum contended, among other things, the ownership of some of the goods in question could not be proven since it was stolen from churches and that Ohio courts have no jurisdiction over him.

&#8220The court is attempting to exercise undue jurisdiction,” Dillon contended during a pretrial conference before Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton.

&#8220He is not a citizen of the United States. He is a citizen of the state of West Virginia. He wants to exercise his rights under the Uniform Commercial Code.”

The code is a uniform law governing commercial transactions in the U.S.

But Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Mack Anderson argued that the 14th amendment also makes him a U.S. citizen if he is a natural born citizen of one of the 50 states, including West Virginia.

Walton agreed and denied Crum's request to delay the trial or dismiss the charges.

&#8220The lack of ownership is a matter for trial,” Walton said. As for the matter of his citizenship and his acknowledgement of the UCC as his sole rule of law, Walton said &#8220This is not admiralty court. The UCC doesn't have a thing to do with the criminal system.”

This was not the first time Crum asked the court to give him a break, so to speak.

In September, he asked for a new court-appointed attorney after Derick Fisher refused to sign a contract with him.

The break-ins occurred between Nov. 16 and Dec. 5, 2004. In the case of the churches, electronic equipment was stolen.

Most of the victimized churches were rural congregations. Some of this equipment was later discovered at pawn shops in Ashland, Ky., and Charleston, W.Va.