Oliver Hudson didn't stop objecting.
From the moment the federal judge took the bench yesterday to the moment Hudson was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs, the 50-year-old convicted drug dealer protested, as he has done at virtually every stage of the case.
Hudson boycotted his trial in November and interrupted final proceedings he was forced to attend yesterday as the judge imposed a 30-year prison sentence.
Hudson's radical, as-yet-unsubstantiated legal theory -- that the nation's federal courts had no jurisdiction over his "flesh and blood" -- has been embraced by a small but rising number of federal defendants in Maryland, flummoxing lawyers and judges who call the defense ridiculous.
Twelve minutes after Hudson's sentencing started, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz said he was forced to ask federal marshals to remove Hudson from Courtroom 5A.
"Your honor, I object," Hudson said yesterday, his voice calm but insistent. "Do you have territorial jurisdiction to try me in this court?"
The judge didn't answer.
"I want him here. Everyone wants him here," Motz told the lawyers in the case. "But now that he's here, he's disrupting the proceeding."
The extreme measure of removing a defendant from his own sentencing points to the difficulties federal judges encounter with those who claim the courts are illegitimate.
In Alexandria, Va., this week, Zacarias Moussaoui, charged with assisting in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, acted out so much during the jury selection for his federal trial that he was removed several times.
Judges sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that those charged with crimes have their day in court. In the past, disruptive defendants on trial have even been outfitted with stun belts to keep them in line. The goal is to ensure every defendant's right to a fair trial and to confront his or her accuser.
In a death-penalty case pending in federal court in Baltimore, U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis recently mused about creating a video link between the courtroom and unruly defendants, who would be kept in a detention cell. Davis pleaded with one man to abandon his jurisdictional objections, calling his legal strategy "suicide."
After arguments by the prosecutor and defense attorney in the case yesterday, Motz allowed Hudson to return to the courtroom to address the judge and hear his sentence.
Hudson and his half-brother, Gregory Wayne Banks, 53, were found guilty in absentia of running a large OxyContin ring that defrauded pharmacies, cheated Medicare and profited by selling the addictive painkiller in Baltimore and its surrounding counties.
Banks will return for sentencing today.
During their monthlong trial, Motz agreed to keep the brothers in custody -- and out of the courtroom -- but he would not let them fire their attorneys.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Clarke told the judge that Hudson should be present for his sentencing as a sign to other defendants who might consider adopting his line of defense. "It's an important ritual we go through," he said.
Court-appointed defense attorney William B. Purpura lamented his client's fate yesterday. Hudson had been offered a plea deal with prosecutors for between 15 to 17 years in prison, Purpura said. Instead, Hudson will likely spend almost three decades behind bars.
The defendant, who has spent more than 20 years in prison on other charges, gave Purpura a final instruction before leaving the courthouse yesterday:
"Don't make no appeal for me."