Bernard von NotHaus, into his second day of testimony Tuesday during his federal counterfeit trial, said that his Liberty Dollar is not a counterfeit nor a secret.
Von NotHaus told jurors that newscasters discussed his Liberty Dollar in major television markets in the country. He showed jurors video clips of those broadcasts.
He also displayed a feature story on the Liberty Dollar published in the Florida “Bonita Daily News” in May of 1999 and pointed out that the reporter got comments from a U.S. government official.
“There is nothing illegal about this [dollar],” von NotHaus said, reading a quote in the story from Claudia Dickens, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing. “As long as it doesn’t say ‘legal tender,’ there’s nothing wrong with it,” she said.
Von NotHaus added, “We knew we were already legal, but that gave us confirmation that they knew about us.”
He also talked briefly about a government “warning” in another article that he called “the first rumblings of discord.” He said he wrote to the government and an attorney, Charles McCarthy, who “gave us a clean bill of health.”
Von NotHaus, wearing a blue button-down shirt and off-white slacks, spent much of the day explaining how his Liberty Dollar business worked. Jurors saw more than a dozen pictures showing how the Liberty Dollar changed from when it was first created in 1998.
He said investors volunteered to be regional currency officers (RCOs) who would locate merchants and others who would circulate the Liberty Dollars. RCOs invested $1,000 in the company, NORFED, which NORFED used for the general fund, posters and more. Von NotHaus said his company had 80 RCOs across the country in its heyday even though he could not afford to pay them.
He said RCOs were willing to take on the responsibility: “They could get together and share notes. They were idealistic. They knew these coins weren’t counterfeit.”
All Liberty Dollars carried the NORFED phone number, he said, so that buyers could get a refund, with no questions asked.
NORFED also published a list of merchants who liked the Liberty Dollars and would “create more buzz,” von NotHaus added.
But “currency like this was head-turning,” he said, and the Liberty Dollar raised alarms in Washington, D.C. In 2006, a Washington, D.C., attorney sent a letter warning von NotHaus about them. Von NotHaus realized that “I needed to do a lot to explain that the currency was safe to acquire and use.”
He decided to incorporate, and to do that, he hired an attorney, Marion Edwyn Harrison, of Washington, D.C. He found Harrison to be “very astute in this field.”
He said Harrison “always” had the final word.
“I got his advice before the first printing” and on all major decisions thereafter, von NotHaus added. Harrison also reviewed all issues of the NORFED newsletter.
Earlier in the day, the jury saw pictures and some samples of many versions of von NotHaus’s Liberty Dollar, which was first produced in 1998. It is round like standard U.S. coins, but larger.
Von NotHaus said his Liberty Dollar “was not intended to be confused with U.S. money. It was designed different on purpose.”
He acknowledged that the motto on the Liberty Dollar, TRUST IN GOD, is similar to the IN GOD WE TRUST motto on U.S. legal money but was rephrased to avoid confusion.
He said he knew that for the Liberty Dollar to succeed, “it had to be used and it had to be circulated between consenting adults who were aware of the monetary system.”
Von NotHaus said Liberty Dollar remained alive because “we encouraged people that they didn’t have to be ripped off by spending government fiat money.”
He said NORFED put its phone number and Web site on all its currency.
His testimony resumed at 9:30 a.m. today and is expected to end in the early afternoon. ■