[Embassy of Heaven does not have any records of Mary Bachtel.]
South Bend Tribune
August 20, 1998
By LINDA MULLEN
Tribune Staff Writer
PLYMOUTH -- Mary Elizabeth Bachtel had a license plate issued to her by the Embassy of Kingdom of Heaven, and she believes that police officers in this state should recognize it as valid.
Instead of "Indiana" across the top of the plate, hers says "Heaven." The jury didn't bite.
Bachtel, 46, was charged in May 1995 for going through a stoplight and failing to register her car properly, according to laws of Indiana and/or the U.S. government.
A member of the Embassy of Heaven Church, apparently with headquarters in Oregon but with area followers, Bachtel has been fighting that ticket for more than three years.
On Wednesday, she got her case heard in court, although it wasn't a court that she recognizes as having power to enforce her chosen laws. It was in Marshall Superior II, with Judge Dean Colvin in charge.
The seven-member jury found Bachtel guilty of three misdemeanor charges of operating a vehicle without insurance, possession of a false certificate of registration and failing to appear at an earlier court appearance.
The jury also found her liable of failing to register her Oldsmobile, disregarding an automatic signal, and improperly displaying her license plate.
Bachtel's teen-age daughter was wearing a T-shirt that echoed the opinions aired Wednesday by Bachtel: "It's Time for Another Tea Party," with an image referring to the Boston Tea Party and the colonists' revolt from England.
Bachtel, who said she often resides around the Lakeville area but denies being a resident of Indiana, was appointed a lawyer, Tom Black, but declined to have him represent her. Instead, she represented herself.
Often, Deputy Prosecutor Marc Morrison, Colvin and witnesses said they didn't understand Bachtel's questions.
The defense that Bachtel was offering was that her church owned the car, and that she was not responsible for making sure it was insured, registered or had proper license plates.
She suggested that the state should honor her license plate, issued and certified by her church, like it would a license plate from Canada, Mexico, or any other government.
After the hearing, Colvin fined Bachtel $3,250 and put her on one year of non-reporting probation. The fine will be collected from the bail she posted earlier, to get out of jail after failing to appear, and the balance will be returned to Bachtel.
Colvin asked Bachtel if she understood everything and she replied, "I don't give consent for sentencing. The defendant isn't here to answer."